With cannabis legislation changing in Canada later this year, many entrepreneurs are exploring how to cash in on the cash crop.
A team of Thompson Rivers University tourism students is among those exploring the potential of pot. Competing in the BC championship of go2HR’s Winning Pitch competition, the group finished second of four teams on March 7 in Kelowna with their concept called 42 EAU Wellness Resort and Spa: a high-end business focussing on the plant’s medicinal and healing properties rather than its hallucinogenic ones.
42 EAU consisted of Max Beertema, Erica Johnson, Hafdis Jonsdottir and Kim Smith. Tourism faculty members Judith Chomitz and David Carter served as supervisors and mentors.
“The judges really liked the use of puns and humour throughout the presentation, but at the same time, it was a very serious and professional presentation. They thought the idea was very unique and challenging to people’s views and opinions,” said Beertema.
Chomitz is credited with coming up with the idea of a cannabis resort and spa, which was one of about a dozen ideas the group had considered. In cutting the list to one, the less inspiring ones were discarded as were those not fitting the contest’s criteria of being suitable for all four seasons. Other ideas were technology and app related and others were big adventure tours, events and festivals.
“We wanted to find things the students were passionate about, so it was more of an exercise in the early going of coming up with as many ideas as possible and choosing from there,” said Carter.
Punny but professional
The concept of a cannabis resort and spa isn’t new, though Canada’s law forbids them at this time. In the United States, things are changing after voters in several states voted a few years ago to change their cannabis laws. Camp Bud+Breakfast at Aspen Canyon Ranch in Parshall, Colorado, became the first such business in the US.
In the lead up to presentation day, Inside TRU sat in on a planning meeting to learn what the team had been working on since winning the regional final in November.
Jonsdottir said the regional judges felt the team had held something back; team members agreed with the assessment.
“We weren’t sure how the idea would be received, but we learned the judges wanted to see the idea more in your face. We didn’t want people to think we weren’t professional, because the general image people have of the cannabis industry is that it’s full of hippies and stoners. We need to get across that politicians and venture capitalists are also taking part in the industry as well,” she said.
Leading up to the BC final
To qualify for the BC championship, 42 EAU won the regional competition in Kelowna in November. At the provincial event, BCIT ranked first and received $1,000. TRU placed second, Selkirk College was third and Vancouver Island University was fourth.
“We’ve been nailing down the stuff we’ve been missing and expanding on our plan. Everything needs to make more sense and we have to be able to back things up and get better at selling our idea instead of defending our idea,” added Smith.
As for what’s next, “I think it is retirement for the 42 EAU idea,” said Beertema. “We have spent days and months on the concept and it’s time to take a step back and catch up on all the other school work we have been avoiding. But if we find $8.9 million lying around, we know what it will be going toward.”