Curio Wellness announced its innovative franchise program in 2020, and today it’s bringing the program across the United States. The company is now accepting franchise applications in 10 states, including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois.
The program is designed to lower barriers to opening a dispensary. Anyone can apply to secure a franchise license, and diverse founders can seek capital through the Curio Wellness Fund. Curio Wellness expects to be able to sponsor 40 to 50 retail stores. The company is also rebranding its retail operations to Far & Dotter.
TechCrunch spoke to Jerel Registre, managing director at Curio WMBE Fund, who says the fund raised $20 million to date and expects to close the fundraising on October 31. He’s proud of the fund’s investor base, pointing to the diverse investor base representing 40% of the fund.
“My focus on the fund is driving diverse entrepreneurship,” Registre said. “The reason cannabis is such a great industry to do that in is that it’s a growing opportunity. It’s just a great ocean to put the boat on in terms of increasing diversity among entrepreneurs. It’s an area of the economy, and it’s a hot industry where there’s an understanding of the need for diversity.”
Registre points out that while the cannabis industry’s customer and employee base are often diverse, there’s often a lack of diversity in the executive and business ownership group. That’s what Curio Wellness is trying to address.
The fund provides selected franchisees with up to 93% of the capital needed to open a location. But it’s more than capital. It’s clear while speaking to Registre that his team is dedicated to formulating a proven strategy for their franchises. He points to Chick-fil-Aa as an example, saying, while he doesn’t like the company’s relationship with its franchisees, it provides a market-leading cohesive brand statement. Through Curio's program, franchisees are provided with two phases of support. The first provides capital to franchisees to open their Curio Wellness Center and assist them in obtaining licenses, selecting a location and hiring and training employees. Once the location is operational, the fund intends to provide ongoing support around managing, sales and marketing, store operations, and ensuring employees stay updated on product information.
“After more than two years of effort to design an effective method of providing capital to diverse entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, it is a personal honor to officially begin the application process and to truly expand diversity and enable economic empowerment in the industry,” said Registre. “The Fund is a true testament to Curio’s goal to address systemic barriers and create generational wealth among aspiring women, BIPOC, and disabled veteran entrepreneurs.”
This program is spinning up at the right time. Cannabis was one of the winners of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in record sales and consumer acceptance. As a result, the time is right for dispensary ownership to better reflect their local neighborhoods.