Darren Bondar is president and CEO of Inner Spirit Holdings Ltd.
Calgary’s Business: What is Inner Spirit Holdings?
Bondar: Inner Spirit is a specialty retailer and franchisor that is based in Calgary and applying its successful, award-winning franchise and retail models to the recreational cannabis industry. It has developed the Spiritleaf, brand which will offer a curated collection of leading cannabis brands, and its own proprietary products. Led by an experienced board of directors and management team, the company has its sights on being the country’s top recreational cannabis retail brand.
CB: Can you tell me who you have partnered with and why?
Bondar: We’ve been fortunate to partner with two of the top Canadian cannabis companies and one budding Alberta LP. Our first partnership and investment came from Auxly (formerly Cannabis Wheaton), who believed in our vision and are shareholders and strategic partners. We’ve also recently partnered with Newstrike, a major cannabis producer, to become a prominent retailer of their Up Cannabis products. Those watching the Canadian cannabis business landscape will recognize Up Cannabis as the brand supported by Canadian legends The Tragically Hip. We’re very excited to partner with them as they have also become shareholders and strategic partners.
CB: Explain your support to the Downie Wenjack Fund. What is the fund and how will you support it? And what is the Legacy Room?
Bondar: It’s very important to us that we build social responsibility into everything we do at Spiritleaf. As a result of our partnership with Newstrike and Up Cannabis, we began digging deeper into what was important to these companies and together we found a natural fit with each other in wanting to support social progress.
As many people may remember, Gord Downie challenged people to “Do Something” to better Indigenous-settler relations before his untimely passing. His something was establishing the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. By sharing the story of Chanie Wenjack, Gord Downie showed us just one example of the harsh realities of the historical experiences of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.
We need to have more awareness and education about this part of our history in order to move towards true reconciliation. Personally, I feel very strongly about the cause of reconciliation, and so does our team. Therefore, we have committed to supporting the Downie Wenjack Fund for the next five years. As part of our support we will not only be providing education in our stores, but will establish a DWF Legacy Room here in Calgary – a space created to help educate Canadians about the history of residential schools and the story of Chanie Wenjack. We want to share this space with other like-minded individuals and groups who need space and want to encourage others to participate in reconciliation efforts – or as Gord said, to “Do Something.”
CB: What are the Experiential Hubs at your stores and how will they benefit customers?
Bondar: Spiritleaf stores will be featuring Up Cannabis Experiential Hubs as part of our partnership with New Strike. These are meant to be welcoming spaces for people to gather, learn and share experiences. We want it to be a spot where people can enjoy and appreciate the power of cannabis, music and art.
CB: How many stores do you see the Spiritleaf brand growing to and where will they be located?
Bondar: Our Spiritleaf stores will be found across British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan – provinces currently open to the private sector. We also support local entrepreneurs, and we already have granted over 100 franchise locations. We’re the first and only cannabis retailer to become a member of the Canadian Franchise Association, which is also something that we are proud of and working with our partners through their various phases of store development so Spiritleaf stores will start opening once legalization happens. We’re very passionate about becoming a brand that can be trusted as an educational resource about responsible cannabis consumption and a respected company in the industry and the communities that we operate.
– Mario Toneguzzi
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