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Rise of the Titans, Timing and the Perfect Storm: LivWell

Rise of the Titans, Timing and the Perfect Storm: LivWell

CBE has been trying to get an interview with LivWell for the better part of six months, and we recently had the good fortune of speaking with the executive director/owner and transplanted Kiwi, John Lord.

John Lord
John Lord

He tells us that LivWell has been laying low and staying under the radar intentionally to focus on the business fundamentals. Almost six years out of the gate, John thought it was finally time to unveil more about the business, and his entry into the media’s eye is anything but quiet. Frankly it’s quite stunning and we are happy to share the LivWell story.

LivWell’s entry into the Cannabis Industry started innocently enough in 2009 after John sold his manufacturing and distribution business, Basic Comfort, Inc., a manufacturer of baby and toddler products that was regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other organizations.

Pushing 50 and with a lot of experience operating in a regulated environment, he owned some commercial real estate in the Denver area and leased some of his property to a group of cannabis entrepreneurs who were serving medical marijuana patients.

John Seckman
John Seckman

He took a stake in Beyond Broadway LLC, which had a license to run the medical dispensary, Broadway Wellness, and mentored the group on running a legitimate, compliant business before growing frustrated with the lack of progress and buying his partner out. He has been the sole, 100 percent owner of LivWell ever since.

John and his management team represent the new wave of ownership and management in the Cannabis Industry, folks who believe in the industry but do not have an advocate/activist or illicit background in marijuana, but instead have vast business experience and discipline from both industry and the regulatory side.

For example, John Seckman, his Chief Operating Officer, is a 66-year-old law enforcement professional who headed up Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) effort before joining the team. As a matter of fact, John still employs members of his staff going all the way back to 1998.

Martin Palmer
Martin Palmer

Others have similar business backgrounds. Since the early days of running bags of cash from bank to bank, Martin Palmer, Sr. Director/Financial Controller, has helped to turn this small startup into an industry-leading organization with banking capabilities, POS and accounting software and holiday pay, and has developed and oversees the fast-growing, ever-changing corporate accounting department.

John believes the strength of the brand is critical to the continued growth and success of LivWell so he tapped seasoned marketing executive Kristin Potts. John and Kristin had worked together previously in the baby products industry.

John charged Kristin with creating LivWell’s brand strategy and differentiating it from the competition in a very crowded marketplace. In this role, Kristin is responsible for driving consistent brand messaging for LivWell across all media platforms and product lines.

After representing John Lord for nearly a decade, Dean Heizer joined LivWell’s executive team as Chief Legal Strategist, energized by the opportunity to navigate the unique challenges of a new Cannabis Industry. Dean also plays an active role in LivWell’s acquisitions.

Mary Potts
Kristin Potts

One of the impressive things about LivWell is the fact that the management team has stuck to its knitting learned from previous jobs. They pay an honest wage (above the industry average) for an honest day’s work, provide a full suite of benefits including health plans, a 401(k) and paid vacations, and communicate and share corporate goals so everyone is working toward the same objective with a sense of ownership in the roles they play in achieving those goals. This may explain why some of LivWell’s 500 plus employees have worked for John as far back as 1998.

Dean Heizer
Dean Heizer

LivWell also invests heavily in training employees. All staffers go through rigorous training and education at LivWell University, a nearly two week-long course designed to teach everything from the science behind the strains to customer service and every single compliance requirement. Before beginning work in a dispensary, all employees must pass tests on every product carried in the stores, as well as customer service standards, security and compliance.

They also follow good marketing and branding practices by carrying a diverse product mix of flower, edibles (they carry six of the brands on their shelves that made the CBE Edibles hot list) infused products, oils, tinctures, accessories and glassware, and sell them at a fair price to value relationship based on basic supply and demand principles.

Like his peers Tim Cullen and Ralph Morgan (Colorado Harvest Company/O.penVAPE), LivWell carries its own wholesale private label line that is distributed through other retail establishments throughout Colorado and that contributes heavily to both the top and bottom-line.

Mary Cotton
Mary Cotton

And, what an impressive top line revenue number! John tells CBE that the company generated between $40-45 million in revenue 2014 and is experiencing explosive growth in 2015. He is currently projecting top line revenues north of $80 million for 2015, a number that dwarfs what Harborside Health Center reported that they generated in 2014. Even more impressive is that this revenue is being generated exclusively in Colorado, making LivWell one of, if not the, largest cannabis chain in the U.S. (and arguably in the world!).

He attributes the explosive growth to strategic acquisitions last year, and two acquisitions made in early 2015 – southern Colorado retail stores branded The Beacon by LivWell, as well as the diversification into infused, edible and accessory products. LivWell expects to make additional acquisitions in the state and plans to be a part of the lucrative Nevada market (and other licensed states in the future) and seems to have a great opportunity to capitalize on their sturdy standard operating procedure handbook and revenue strength to eventually be a national brand to contend with.

And with the private label Infusiasm and glassware brands under the hood, access to retailers nationwide is a good bet as well. Livwell Glass

The owner of a typical company of LivWell’s size, John says, would generally mean that he would be having breakfast with the governor and mayors of some of Colorado’s major cities if not for the stigma attached to what is becoming a mainstay of revenue for state and local Colorado government. With a highly trained, engaged, loyal, and well compensated workforce leading the way under the leadership and mentorship of an extremely experienced group of managers, LivWell has certainly emerged and is well positioned to expand its business and influence in the industry into other legal and regulated markets in the not too distant future. And, they have truly become an industry titan and are a model for their competitors and peers to emulate for years to come.

Don’t be surprised if the invites start pouring in!


Background Information

Company Name: LivWell

Year Founded: 2009

Ownership Structure: Beyond Broadway LLC, Private Company Incorporated in Colorado

Management Team: John Lord, Executive Director/Owner; John Seckman, COO; Martin Palmer, CFO; Dean Heizer, Chief Legal Strategist; Mary Cotton, Sr. HR Manager; Kristin Potts, Sr. Director of Marketing; Shawn Steigner, Director of Cultivation

Headquarters: Denver, Colorado


Industry Segment/Category: Producer, Processor and Retailer (Rec and Medical)

Current Markets/States served: Colorado

Current Number of employees: 500 plus

Market Strategy/Goal: Build a strong brand and customer and brand loyalty based on a solid value proposition

2014 Revenues: $40 million plus

2015 Projected Revenues: $80-85 million

Current Product Mix: LivWell’s team of innovative farmers and scientists are continually developing and experimenting with new ideas, approaches and solutions to bring new strains to the market. Currently, LivWell has over 40 strains of cannabis in production, many of which are proprietary

LivWell carries a variety of products including:

  • Accessories
  • Flower
  • Apparel
  • Glass
  • Concentrates
  • Topicals
  • Edibles
  • Transdermal Patches
  • Tinctures

Wholesale private label lines: Infusiasm line of e-cigs, cartridges and chocolates, Faded line of glassware and apparel, etc.

Current Asset Mix:

  • 140,000 sf of Production, Processing, Manufacturing and warehouse space in Denver area;
  • Nine (9) LivWell Branded Retail Outlets, four (4) Med and Rec, five (5) Med only;
  • Two (2) The Beacon by LivWell retail shops;
  • Faded line of apparel and glassware;
  • Infusiasm line of edibles;
  • More than 100 state and local grow, processing and retail licenses.

Expansion plans: Plan to further expand in Colorado and eventually other states

Financing strategy: Self-funded

Rob MeagherRob Meagher

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]

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