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Wendy Bronfein, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer of Curio Wellness- Interview Series

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Curio Wellness, a leading wellness brand in Maryland, is making waves in the cannabis industry with its visionary approach and commitment to quality. In this interview with MyCannabis, Wendy Bronfein, Co-Founder of Curio Wellness, discusses her journey in the dynamic landscape of cannabis.

With Maryland's adult-use market opening up, Curio Wellness embraces new challenges and opportunities. Wendy elaborates on how their top-tier products are now accessible to a wider audience while addressing changes in advertising regulations and product offerings. The conversation also delves into Curio's expansion plans in Missouri, their franchising initiative for social equity, and the pivotal role their cGMP certification plays in ensuring consumer safety and satisfaction. Wendy shares insights into the evolution of the cannabis industry, their steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion, and their strategies for continuous innovation in a rapidly changing market.

Congratulations on being recognized as the leading wellness brand in Maryland! Can you tell us about the unique challenges and opportunities you see in the newly opened adult-use market in Maryland and how Curio Wellness plans to position itself in this evolving landscape?

As a wellness company, accessibility has always been important to us; we want to be able to provide top-quality products to anyone who needs them, but until very recently our house of brands has only been available to those with medical cards. When we learned that Maryland was opening its market to general consumers who are aged 21 and over, we immediately began our demand and production planning to ensure sufficient supply for existing medical patients and to the droves of new legal consumers who would soon patronize dispensaries across Maryland. A unique challenge to Maryland is ensuring that the greater public is aware of both the medical and adult use programs.  With the onset of adult use, laws were changed impacting advertising and product mix.  For the past five years, we had a respectable execution of advertising complemented by sound policy.  These regulations have changed and the industry has become constrained with regards to promoting the legal program, products and brands at large. Additionally, the product mix for adult use consumers left out certain dosage forms, keeping them medical only. While available in our medical program since day one, these dosage forms, like concentrates and infused pre-rolls, have shown to be more popular in mature adult use markets. Finally, with the expansion of legal access brings job creation and cannabis is not immune to the workforce pressures we’ve been hearing about post-pandemic. The industry can’t hire people fast enough and is looking for qualified, committed, mature adults to join our organizations and build careers with us.”

As you expand to the Missouri market in 2023, what strategies does Curio Wellness have in place to ensure a successful transition from a Single-State Operator (SSO) to a Multi-State Operator (MSO)? How do you plan to replicate the success you've achieved in Maryland in this new market?

From day one we have built our business for scale and focused on establishing systems and processes to ensure consistency and repeatability.  We believe this approach will streamline a moment like this as we expand to our first cultivation/processing location outside of Maryland.  When entering a new market, especially one as robust as Missouri, our primary focus is living up to our standards and the stellar reputation we’ve built over the last five years. As a producer of safe, effective and reliable cannabis products and partner to our dispensary customers, we work to ensure continuous supply of award-winning inventory and customer delight. For Missouri’s patients and adult use consumers, we want them to be excited, eagerly anticipating our launch.  We have already begun to introduce ourselves to the market and look forward to bringing our first products to dispensaries later this year.  We bring a unique portfolio to MO with our high testing, terpene rich flower, market-leading chews, and condition specific products.

Curio Wellness has expressed interest in using franchising as a means to advance social equity, with a preference for women, veterans, and BIPOC individuals. Could you elaborate on how you envision franchising contributing to social equity goals in the cannabis industry, and what kind of support and opportunities you plan to provide to potential franchisees?

Yes, absolutely. I’m always happy to talk about our franchise program. Back in December of 2020, Curio Wellness announced our investment fund (the Fund) which provides  eligible women, BIPOC and veterans with the start-up capital required to launch a Far & Dotter wellness center. We created the Fund because access to capital is a primary hurdle within the cannabis industry, as well as it created investment opportunities for diverse individuals with The Fund achieving 40% diversity. As a licensee operating on the wholesale and retail sides of the business, we understand what makes a dispensary successful and how difficult it can be for small business owners to crack this formula. Franchising offered a way to expand our retail vision while increasing independent dispensary ownership and entrepreneurial success.  We have two franchisees in the start-up phase in New Jersey and Mississippi and are excited to share that we helped pass a law in NJ so we can support more franchisees in NJ through The Fund.

Being cGMP-certified sets Curio Wellness apart in the cannabis space. Could you explain how this certification is achieved and what it means for the company's products and operations? How does it contribute to ensuring the safety and quality of your cannabis products for consumers?

As the first certified cannabis company in Maryland, we’re extremely proud of our cGMP certification and have successfully maintained this status for four years. The overall process for cGMP-certification involves multiple steps and takes about a year to complete, culminating in an extensive audit by a third party certifying agency. For those who aren’t aware, cGMP certification stands for “current Good Manufacturing Practices”. What our certification means is that we assure proper design, monitoring, and control of our manufacturing processes and facilities. This includes quality assurance, safety measures, supply chain, training, and SOPs. As a wellness company, it’s imperative that our customers know that they can count us for safe, effective, and reliable cannabis products.

Curio Wellness was founded in 2014, making you one of the early entrants in the Maryland Medical Cannabis market. How has the industry evolved since then, and what key lessons have you learned along the way that have helped shape Curio's success and growth?

Yes, and we hit the ground running in December of 2017 by supplying the first medical dispensaries with products and followed soon after with the opening of our very own wellness center. Our success has come from an unwavering focus on differentiated products and customer delight. In our due diligence, we also determined that consistent supply for dispensary partners is key and built for scale from  day one.  As seasoned members of the Maryland business community, we also feel strongly about giving back and have been a consistent supporter of local causes and organizations.  This is also another way to break down the stigmas and myths about our industry, further normalizing our products and existence.  We just concluded the first month of recreational cannabis sales reported to be over $87M USD.  We’re expecting this to grow as awareness builds of both medical and adult use programs, and are excited to continue to introduce ourselves to Maryland and Missouri.

The leadership team at Curio Wellness is predominantly female. Can you speak to the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion and how it has positively influenced the company's culture and decision-making processes?

Since inception, we have strived to have as many perspectives as possible. We have over 44% women and 25% BIPOC individuals in management roles and 50% diversity overall. Our team is a reflection of the community we live in and the populations we serve. This allows us to harness unique viewpoints and has undoubtedly contributed to the success of our team. We’re currently hiring and are committed to continuing these efforts.

With plans to reach the cap for Maryland dispensaries in the near future, how does Curio Wellness plan to continue innovating and differentiating itself in the market to maintain its position as a leading wellness brand? Are there any new product lines or initiatives on the horizon that you can share with us?

We’re very excited because we have plans to move our operations into the Missouri market this year, and will also be expanding our retail footprint through franchisees in Mississippi and New Jersey. Our product development team, in concert with our Scientific Advisory Board, is constantly working to create new and innovative wellness products.  We are eagerly anticipating the release of our patented Good Night cannabis sleep aid and patent-pending GI and Terp chew products to the Missouri market – in addition to our full suite of products. Maryland will continue to be our proving ground with active R&D happening here.

It was a great pleasure to have this conversation with  Wendy Bronfein, Co-Founder of Curio Wellness. Readers who wish to keep up with what the company is doing are invited to do so through the company’s website.

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.


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