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Franchise watch: Embark on a new frontier with Unity Rd.

Franchise watch: Embark on a new frontier with Unity Rd.

Unity Rd. offers the safest way to own a cannabis dispensary.

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Cannabis is a new industry for franchising, but the team paving the way for dispensary franchises is not new to either. Unity Rd.’s seasoned bench of both cannabis and franchise industry veterans offer the most viable route for industry newcomers looking to get a piece of the $14bn U.S. market.

If there was ever a time to invest in the cannabis industry, now is it. With cannabis sales increasing during the pandemic and some states talking about how state tax revenue could help offset the economic damage caused, the industry is poised to take-off.

According to New Frontier Data, the United States saw nearly $14bn in revenue in 2019 and is projected to reach $30bn by 2025. While still in the emerging stage of its lifecycle, the cannabis industry has no household names, fragmented true expertise and very little — if any — consistency of standards, making it an ideal choice for entrepreneurs and investors with eyes on the future.

The U.S. federal government is coming around, too. The SAFE Banking Act, overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House in September 2019, made its way into the latest $3tn coronavirus stimulus bill (at the time of writing, the bill is being reviewed by the U.S. Senate). The highly regulated sector boasts alluring possibilities for those savvy enough to break into the business, but the obstacles between getting started and operating a dispensary are challenging. Even savvy investors need someone with experience to help them enter safely and establish themselves as a market leader. Cannabis, meet franchising.


Unity Rd. entered the enticing marijuana market driven by one simple idea: imagine what a franchise model could do in an industry where a 37-store operation is considered a giant. Bringing the stability and continuity of franchising to the budding and fragmented cannabis world allows industry newcomers to glean institutional knowledge and vetted relationships – putting them far ahead of any competition.

The company’s unprecedented franchise model breaks down the barrier to entry even further – the first instance in which the risk is mitigated to such a degree that prospective franchisees realize it is actually possible. For example, beyond gaining industry experience, standard operating procedures (SOPs), ongoing guidance and countless other resources, Unity Rd. franchisees also benefit from a common pain-point felt by industry newcomers and veterans alike: access to a trusted, premium supply chain.

The company is in the final stages of closing a merger with Item 9 Labs Corp. (OTC: INLB) – a vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis operator with a wide array of best- in-class cannabis products. Since cannabis cannot cross state lines, Item 9 Labs plans to develop or partner with cultivation facilities in states where Unity Rd. franchisees open dispensaries.

“Our systems offer the safest way for newcomers to enter the cannabis industry and set them up for success that can create generational wealth”

Anticipated to close this summer, the merger also adds more depth to the team’s cannabis industry experience with multiple team members with backgrounds in dispensary management and operations as well as application writing. Item 9 Labs also owns the leading online platforms for new cannabis applications and consultation through its websites and, which will support new franchisees in the application process.

With a vertically integrated cannabis company at the helm, Unity Rd. will be able to maintain the level of consistency that is so important in franchising.

“Franchising in cannabis is a new concept,” said Justin Livingston, Unity Rd.’s vice president of franchise development, who has around 15 years of franchise development experience. “We’re going about it the right way; building our teams and franchise system with intention to be the best – setting high standards for those who will surely follow.”

Unity Rd. currently has more than 10 franchisees in various stages of opening more than two dozen dispensaries across seven U.S. states – poising itself to make good on its mission to inspire confidence in the benefits of cannabis for all.


“At its core, good franchisors help prospective entrepreneurs enter a market they otherwise may not be able to enter or set them up to be more successful than if they had gone it alone,” said Livingston. “Though cannabis is more complicated than most industries, those core principals remain the same; building systems and support programs based off experience and the right team.” Unity Rd.’s abilities stem from the comprehensive pool of knowledge it draws from the two previously unmarried worlds of franchising and cannabis. A collection of industry pros developed the robust Unity Rd. franchise system based on the history of Unity Rd.’s CEO, Christian Hageseth, who has been active in the Colorado legal cannabis industry since its inception in 2009 and chronicled his entrepreneurial cannabis journey in his book, Big Weed.

Instead of navigating the complexities alone like Hageseth had done, ambitious entrepreneurs can take advantage of the experienced team and years of success running compliant and profitable businesses within the cannabis space. “You can only get this level of understanding through experience, which means a lot of trial and error,” said Hageseth. “We want to help others succeed by giving them the roadmap we never had.”

The brand’s earliest franchisees said they were able to see the opportunity for what it was — a chance to leverage someone else’s knowledge in order to open their own dispensary doors with confidence. Unity Rd. franchisees are guided through every step of the process, from the dispensary application and store build out to SOPs integration, employee training and beyond.

Hageseth added: “Surviving the challenges of the past has paved the way for systems and processes that we can now translate to a top-tier franchise program and support the next generation of canna-preneurs while building brand presence, industry stability, and pioneering a safe and consistent way forward for the industry as a whole.

The barrier to entry into the cannabis market is perhaps the most substantial of any market – driven by the complexities of the laws and the ever-changing rules that vary from one market to the next. Compliance guidelines rival the weapons and oil industries and far surpass alcohol.

Longtime franchise veteran and Unity Rd. COO, Mike Weinberger, said: “As in any other industry, franchising helps navigate those complications, however, no other industry in the world needs that help, knowledge, and support more than cannabis. Our systems offer the safest way for newcomers to enter the cannabis industry and set them up for success that can create generational wealth.”

When executed properly with careful consideration of all key elements of the business, getting a slice of this massive pie will be enough to elevate any business portfolio and lead the way for a new era in franchising.


Established: 2018

Number of franchised outlets: Two, company-owned

Locations of units: United States

Investment range: $1m-$2.5m

Minimum required capital: $1m


Image: Photo by Brookklyn Huberty

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