Opening a business at the beginning of a pandemic is likely far from any entrepreneur’s business plan. But for this brick-and-mortar cannabis store in Chilliwack, despite some initial hurdles, it couldn’t have been a better time for business.
Vikram Sachdeva moved to Canada in 1999 and in 2001 he finished his hotel management certificate. At the time he was working at Pizza Hut as a manager but his entrepreneurial spirit led him to look into franchise opportunities. This is when he bought his first Subway store in Chilliwack.
“I was 21 at the time. I took a loan from one of my aunts who was a dentist in Kelowna and the rest was from the bank,” says Sachdeva.
The business-owner ended up turning the Subway branch into the top ten stores in the province. From this, he went on to own other stores. Sancheva says that from his experience he learnt not only how to run a business, but also all about the franchise model, branding, and marketing.
A seed was planted
It was in 2015 that Sachdeva found the opportunity to take his entrepreneurial experience and open a store in an industry that he was passionate about—cannabis.
“When I discovered cannabis, it made me a better person,” says Sachdeva. “As soon as it was legal, I decided to put in an application for Chilliwack.”
But while Sachdeva was excited about the prospects of opening a new store, he wanted to be thorough with his market research first.
“I would stand outside my business and at a gas station and talk to people and ask them what their thoughts were on cannabis and if they would you be interested in signing a petition [for a local store],” says Sachdeva.
After he received 500 signatures, Sachdeva knew he was on the right track. But finding the perfect location wasn’t without its hurdles. The businessman says there were 11 offers on the site he wished to acquire.
“I wanted it to be industrial, not exposed to kids, no pushback from the community,” says Sancheva, about his ideal retail location.
Growth of a vision
In 2018, Sancheva applied for a licence, but in what he calls a “challenging emotional time” he faced even more obstacles with the council, over spot zoning and boundary lines.
Finally, after the council handed him a licence, Seed and Stone could finally come to life. Sachdeva had a very specific vision in mind for the store. Despite people telling the entrepreneur that a “fancy cannabis store was a crazy idea”, he says he stuck to his creative vision of creating a high-end cannabis space.
Inspired by the strong branding of Subway and Tim Hortons, Sancheva set out to create Seed and Stone. “I wanted to create the best customer experience and ambiance, and a unique interaction with the product,” says Sachdeva.
Under interior design company Barbel, Sachdeva was able to showcase over 100 strains of cannabis. “I wanted it to be as visual as possible. When you enter there’s a back bar. People can see the indica or sativa. Then there’s a fridge for edibles at the front,” says Sachdeva.
Sachdeva says he also wanted the customer experience to be as seamless as possible. While he wants customers to be able to receive the proper education on his products and spend time with their budtender, he wants customers to be able to “come in and grab something—it needs to be quick.”
In terms of aesthetic design, Sachdeva says that while everyone was “going for bright and white like Apple” he went for a warmer library vibe, complete with a chic sliding ladder.
The entrepreneur also said that inspiration for the store is derived mainly from nature. “BC is so beautiful. I’m a very outdoorsy person. I spend a lot of time camping in the woods. I wanted to bring that element into my brand. And also an element of spirituality and meditation,” he says.
Sachdeva designed the store’s logo and branding to depict “a flame burning inside”, with seed as a symbol for life, inspired by the forests of BC, and stone representing strength, inspired by the Chillwack mountains.
Future not set in stone
Although opening at the beginning of a pandemic was likely furthest from his business plan, Sachdeva says that when Seed and Stone finally opened on February 20, 2020, COVID likely boosted sales.
“I feel it did help us. I don’t know if that was normal traffic, but people said they got the cheque from the government, there were surges, people were stocking up on cannabis,” says Sachdeva.
And although business is now booming, since marketing marijuana is illegal, Sachdeva says it was initially a struggle to get the word out. He says he would stand and dance outside the store every day with a sign directing potential customers to his store.
Inspired by his father’s time spent in the Indian army, Sachdeva says that one of his main goals of his store is to inspire people to figure out who they are as well as get rid of the stigma that often comes with marijuana.
“It’s about the journey within. You have to figure out who you are before you judge others.”