How a father and son team started a successful cannabis business

An interview with Joi Botanicals

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello!  My name is Jeff Karren.  In 2016, I founded Joi Botanicals (in concept) with my father in January 2016 and I am also currently the President.  We started Joi Botanicals to provide high quality cannabis products for a reasonable price to Canadian consumers.  I am happy to say that we have been doing just that since late 2020.  

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

After purchasing medical cannabis from several of the (very few) LPs who were operating in 2015, I was left disappointed with the quality of most products.  I had been intimate with cannabis for well over a decade, so I knew that it could be done better as it was already being done better all over the country, but - it was being done illegally.  Then, in late 2015 Canada elected a new Prime Minister, and one who had promised to legalise and regulate adult-use (recreational) cannabis.  It seemed that Canada was in for a monumental shift of policy which would open an entirely new (legal) industry.  An industry that I was passionate about and driven to be a part of, and an industry in which  I believed that I could have a meaningful impact.    

Prior to starting Joi Botanicals, I worked in the Oil & Gas industry in various Supply Chain positions, and I also completed a brief stint in the Quality department.  Supply chain has plenty of carry over to running almost any business, and especially manufacturing business like Joi Botanicals.  And though my time in the Quality department was short, I did learn the basis of how a proper quality system is meant to operate.  While there was limited carryover from my previous career, I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me for the rollercoaster known as the Canadian cannabis industry.  

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching Joi Botanicals’ first product in late 2020 required over four years of preparation, starting in early 2016.  

The first thing any business needs is usually a bank account.  To make a long story short, we were forced to utilise a credit union for our banking needs as all the banks refused to provide us with basic services such as a chequing account.  Finding and securing adequate land to purchase was much the same, with several real estate agents refusing to work with us due to our affiliation with cannabis.  The general theme was nobody wanted to work with cannabis until it was legal (never mind medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001…).  Fortunately, preparing/submitting our application and securing key personnel went a bit smoother.  By the end of 2016 we had closed on our land purchase, secured a Master Grower and a Quality Assurance Person, submitted the LP application to Health Canada, and submitted a development permit application to our local county.  

Detailed design of our purpose-built facility began after receiving our development permit in early 2017.  Countless hours were spent discussing seemingly minute details such as the desired flow rate of the drip irrigation system, the desired width of grow benches, and the ideal lighting fixture height for our rooms.  Design was completed in late 2017 and five local construction companies bid to complete the contract.  

In 2018 construction of the Joi Botanicals facility commenced.  Managing construction of a commercial facility was a huge learning experience, and it was much like a full-time job but without the full-time pay.  It became apparent quite soon that contractors may not truly consider the client’s best interests as a priority, and the contractor we had chosen was certainly no different.  However, with careful oversight and constant monitoring construction of our facility was completed in early 2019.    

On April 26, 2019, Joi Botanicals was issued the following from Health Canada: Standard Cultivation Licence, Standard Processing License, and Licence for Medical Sales.  Cultivation started shortly after, and our first harvests were completed late the same year.  Product from these harvests was used to obtain the sales amendment to our licence, which we were required to do before conducting sales of packaged dried cannabis products (this has since changed).  

The application to amend our licence for sales was submitted in March 2020.  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic beginning around this time stoking fears of a long wait, Joi Botanicals received an amended licence (to include sales) on July 3, 2020.  

Now it was finally time to launch a Joi Botanicals product.  This began with preparations like sourcing suitable containers with proper child-resistant certifications, registering to use Global Trade Identification Numbers (GTINs), and learning the fine details of the packaging and labelling requirements from the Cannabis Regulations.  Next, we had to secure potential buyers (applying to sell in provinces/territories), list products for sale, and lastly procure and fulfil purchase orders.  After receiving a purchase order there are many rules and requirements when selling to a province/territory, with each having slightly different rules and regulations.  Ensuring that every aspect of an outgoing shipment is compliant is very time consuming, but critical since the Alberta regulated distributor (AGLC) levies $1000 fines for any error with regards to an incoming shipment.  

Our first product launched in Alberta in late 2020.  

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Because the regulations are quite strict with regards to promotional activities, we implement marketing and promotional activities catered to a particular purpose.  For example, since retailers and consumers effectively cannot see our cannabis before purchase, we publish a lot of visual content on our social media pages to show off our products.  And since we’re not able to sell directly to stores in Alberta, reducing our opportunities to build relationships with retailers, a handwritten note is added inside every case box that we ship.  Our case label has also been carefully designed to include the Joi Botanicals logo front and centre while maintaining compliance.  Anything we can do to stand apart from the wall of cardboard boxes and generic case labels a budtender sees in their vault is a good thing.  

Another thing that we do is try and separate Joi Botanicals culturally from the large pubco LPs.  While we do possess standard licences (vs. micro), we have much more in common with micro-cultivators than we do with most standard-cultivators.  We have said before that we are the Mom & Pop Shop of LPs, or even the anti-LP.  We don’t pay data fees for shelf space.  We don’t sponsor lavish events.  We don’t have extravagant spending accounts.  We don’t disparage our competitors.  We don’t hire marketing agencies or consultants.  We don’t buy anyone else’s weed and then put our logo on the label.  We simply grow great weed, put it in a Joi Botanicals package, and sell it.  

Company culture is incredibly important at Joi Botanicals.  We do not accept treating each other poorly, regardless of the situation.  Many of our employees have been with Joi Botanicals for over 2 years, with some over 3 and 4 years.  Until very recently, we could proudly state that we still employed the original Master Grower and Quality Assurance person from the licence application we submitted in 2016.  Thanks Jonas Jespersen (Master Grower) for sticking with us all this time.  And thanks Anthony Ogunwusi (former Quality Assurance Person) for years of exemplary service.  

We still believe that the best way to attract and retain customers is to sell products that customers want to buy again.  It’s simple in concept, yet incredibly hard to implement.  It takes approximately 5-6 months to grow a crop of cannabis, and then harvest, dry, cure, trim, package, and distribute before it is finally consumed.  And a breakdown at any one step in the process can significantly diminish product quality.  We have spent countless hours developing our processes, and we continue to devote considerable resources to process improvement.  Everyone at Joi Botanicals is encouraged to speak openly, ask questions, and suggest potential improvements.  With solid procedures in place, and a workforce that is engaged, we can produce dried cannabis products of a significantly higher quality than most LPs.  With each retail unit of pre-rolls and/or dried flower that leaves our facility, the goal is to never disappoint the end user.  Again, simple in concept, but very difficult to do.  

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Considering how much our operations have changed, it is hard to believe that it has only been two years since launching the first Joi Botanicals product.  Our sales volume continues to trend upwards, and we have gone from being completely unknown to being a trusted producer of quality cannabis.  It feels great to frequently receive unsolicited, positive feedback with regards to the quality of our products and how much consumers en-joi-ed them.  And while we are proud of every product that bears the Joi Botanicals logo, we know that this is just the beginning of the story for legal, regulated cannabis in Canada.  

In the future expect Joi Botanicals to continue releasing products worthy of ultra-premium acclaim, without an ultra-premium price.  We are continually improving our processes and pheno-hunting new cultivars (strains) of cannabis, so we are still getting better batch to batch and there will also be new releases throughout 2023, including a 3 pack of 0.5g Joi-nts starting with two new cultivars.  

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Up until now, the cannabis industry has been built-up on a lot of hype.  Hype for new brands, hype for new products, hype for new product formats, etc.  Staying true to our vision to focus on dried cannabis products, and in particular provinces/territories, was at times difficult, but completely worth it.  With every new product format, customer, process change, etc., there is more potential for error and added variable costs due to the increased complexity of operations.  

One helpful habit that was learned in my previous career is organisation of electronic documents.  Implementing a reliable and fail-safe method of retaining digital copies of important documents such as emails, contracts, and invoices is necessary and should be done immediately.  It is also very beneficial to utilise a clear and concise digital filing method, so retrieving past documentation is an easy task.  This will save a company considerable time (i.e. money) as the years progress.  

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our industry is heavily reliant on 3rd party analytical testing, and Joi Botanicals is no different.  While testing our flower for potency, heavy metals, pesticides, and microbials/aflatoxins is a regulatory requirement before we can sell a product, labs provide other services which are less-often spoken about, and which are potentially more critical to a cultivator’s success.  A couple examples include plant viroid tests to detect any viruses and plant and/or soil/medium nutrient tests to determine if we’re using the ideal nutrient ratios.  These ancillary tests help us tailor our processes and they also help us find potential issues before they become real issues.  Other laboratories, ones that do not test cannabis, assist by providing water quality analysis and surface swab testing which we perform at specified intervals.  

One piece of equipment that has proven to be invaluable is our moisture analyzer.  It’s essentially a large cannabis vaporizer, without a method of taking a puff!  And while vaporizing the cannabis it determines the moisture content in both relative humidity (%) and also in water activity.  The old break a branch and if it snaps then the weed is dry method works fine at home, but we require more accuracy and certainty.  

Where can we go to learn more?

The best way to keep up to date with Joi Botanicals by following our social media pages.  We’re on Facebook (@joibotanicals), Twitter (@joibotanicals), Instagram (@joi_botanicals), LinkedIn (Joi Botanicals), and YouTube (@joibotanicals2252).  Visit our website for specific product info, strain cards, and company information:  Joi Botanicals clothing and other branded merchandise can be purchased at  

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