In early 2020, when Zoned Properties was looking to expand its business model to see the cannabis industry’s growing needs, Bryan McLaren was busy working with the co-founders of a new national cannabis retail franchise concept, The Open Dør, which was a concept he believed would become one of the most important, value-driven catalysts for his company’s growth. As Chairman and CEO of Zoned Properties, and one of the strategic advisors of The Open Dør, McLaren is poised to help drive franchise opportunities via years of real estate experience and best practices.
Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Open Dør is available in states across the country with legal medical and adult-use marijuana programs. Via Zoned Properties, McLaren’s strategic real estate development firm is dedicated to providing real estate and sustainability services for emerging and highly regulated industries, specifically legalized cannabis.
As a strategic partner with The Open Dør, Zoned Properties intends to play a significant role related to the intricacies of capital investment and commercial real estate development in the regulated cannabis industry. Along with McLaren, The Open Dør leadership team includes co-founder and CEO Kathryn Blackwell, and co-founder and COO Chelsea Mulligan.
Pioneered by proven business professionals and led by strong female visionaries, The Open Dør is poised to be a modern cannabis retail model with a turnkey approach, giving cannabis stakeholders and dispensary license holders the opportunity to invest in a franchise brand built on compliant operations with an elevated consumer retail experience.
We sat down with McLaren to get his thoughts on the Zoned Properties brand and where the cannabis market is heading moving forward.
Tell us a little about Zoned Properties.
Zoned Properties Inc. (OTCQB: ZDPY) is a strategic real estate development firm whose primary mission is to provide real estate and sustainability services for clients in the regulated cannabis industry, positioning the company for real estate investments and revenue growth. We intend to pioneer sustainable development for emerging industries, including the regulated cannabis industry. We are an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, the US Green Building Council, and the Forbes Real Estate Council.
We focus on investing capital to acquire and develop commercial properties to be leased on a triple-net basis, and engaging clients that face zoning, permitting, development and operational challenges. We provide development strategies and advisory services that could potentially have a major impact on cash flow and property value. We do not grow, harvest, sell or distribute cannabis or any substances regulated under US law such as the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, as amended (the “CSA”).
What are your clients looking for?
Most of our clients are initially looking for zoning and commercial real estate consulting services. When they begin working with us, they soon realize the complexity of these projects and the additional flywheel of services that we can offer. We have strategically built a business out of necessity for niche needs that offers several services for emerging and highly regulated industries.
For the past eight years, we have been perfecting our best practices for clients in the regulated cannabis industry specifically for emerging and highly regulated industries. Additional services include a brokerage team, capital resources and franchising capabilities.
Talk about sustainability in the marketplace today?
The regulated cannabis industry definitely cares about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and community prosperity. When we talk about sustainability, it is about trying to maximize the benefit for people, profit and planet within any given project or program. The challenge comes with including reasonable regulations that motivate operators to move forward on sustainability initiatives proactively rather than simply as a requirement of regulations. When we can achieve this, the cannabis industry will make sustainability inherit to its own operations rather than a result of regulations.
The biggest sustainability trends we are seeing needed within a company are water recycle, and reuse or shift of energy efficient light fixtures.
What type of sustainability issues are cannabis retailers looking for?
According to Fobes.com, a full 70% of millennials will pay more for products made sustainably, while 83% consider a product’s environmental or social impact before making a purchase. With this in mind, cannabis retailers are trying to balance out the consumer’s position of being pro-sustainability and how the retailer can actually deliver sustainability to that consumer without overpromising. A lot of the times they try to deliver this through the way the product is grown, and also the packaging.
What are some of the biggest issues facing cannabis companies today?
The main implication that we see for cannabis license holders is the missing experience or expertise from leadership teams in important aspects of the business. Many times they do not know what they actually need help with or what is missing from the project. Zoned Properties’ job is to join the clients brain trust as an expert advisor to help them navigate without losing time or capital.
Organizations with both long-term vision and short-term service expertise will be best positioned to meet the needs of their stakeholders.
What trends are driving today’s cannabis market on the real estate and facility side?
We are in such a growth stage of the emerging industry, and real estate positioning is critical to both short- and long-term goals. Zoned Properties is seeing a major land grab across most of the state markets. Both brand new state markets and evolving state markets for legalized cannabis. On the facility side, we’re seeing innovation around design, and development of both equipment and structure.
What are consumers looking for and how can cannabis companies help them?
We believe consumers are looking for a safe and sustainable way to begin or continue consuming cannabis products. This includes the built environment, where regulated cannabis facilities interact with the local community, from both a retail and production aspect. We believe innovative companies that are franchising the cannabis retail experience, such as our partner, The Open Dør, will significantly contribute to these consumer needs.
How does the overall design of cannabis shops cater to demand and needs?
As experts in development of cannabis real estate, we get the opportunity to work with some amazing specialists in the design and consumer behavior professions. These are two of the most important elements for delivering a successful cannabis project to the marketplace.
What are some of the biggest issues today related to the construction side of the business?
The construction side of delivering a successful cannabis project lives at the nexus of both regulatory compliance and cost effective design. The ability to successfully navigate this process can often be the difference between efficiently deploying investment capital or having to write off large sunk costs.
What’s the biggest issue today related to the cannabis market?
Education, and correcting decades and decades of false propaganda and prohibition related to the “War on Drugs,” especially as it relates to the impact on our local communities. Once we successfully make this paradigm shift, our belief is that all the relating goals and objectives for the marketplace and within the regulated cannabis movement will hopefully fall in place.
What type of opportunities do you see moving ahead?
The cannabis industry is an emerging marketplace that is constantly evolving. As a business that provides an essential service for the marketplace, we must continue to go where others won’t or can’t to best serve our clients, our stakeholders and our shareholders. This is how we have created value and will continue to create value. For example, we established our licensed real estate brokerage team in the past few years simply because our clients were unable to find experienced and capable brokers to assist with their transactional work in acquisitions, leasing, listings, etc.
While the larger brokerage houses are finally starting to enter the space, there is a huge learning curve to actually being able to navigate the intricacies within a regulated cannabis transaction. Moving forward, we are working toward new company divisions and services that can cross-pollinate with our current market services. These include our Franchise Project, and various software and data platform development. All these services have been born out of market need, and Zoned Properties is always pivoting toward areas that can help support our clients with missing pieces of their business needs.
According to Fobes.com, a full 70% of millennials will pay more for products made sustainably, while 83% consider a product’s environmental or social impact before making a purchase.
What trends are you seeing/expecting?
We are starting to see some very sophisticated, non-cannabis business operators considering entrance into the regulated cannabis industry. Some of these groups we’ve been speaking to are working to find the best opportunity to enter the space. Our team members within both Zoned Properties and our partner organizations, such as The Open Dør, have been presenting valuable opportunities for these new groups to consider entrance into the space.
We are certainly not the only organizations that are fielding these inquiries and exploring these collaborative opportunities. I think this trend will continue throughout 2021 and into 2022, and not just through financial investments via public transactions and M&A transactions, but through true collaborative and operational approaches that can solve pressing market needs.
What’s the secret to succeeding in the market today?
Organizations with both long-term vision and short-term service expertise will be best positioned to meet the needs of their stakeholders—that is at the core of our company mission and growth strategy at Zoned Properties.
How has the last year changed the game?
The vast expansion of state-by-state legalization and implementation of regulated cannabis marketplaces has been a game-changer for the industry. More importantly is the source of this change, which is the biggest indicator of the strength of the overall regulated cannabis movement.
In many ways, we haven’t just passed the tipping point, but now we have crossed the chasm (so to speak) when it comes to early innovators versus mainstream adopters in the movement. One of the phenomenal elements of the cannabis movement, very similar to the sustainable development movement, is that it has been born and propelled as a grassroots movement from within our local communities. It is that community strength that has now established the foundation from which to evolve and hopefully continue to serve our local communities. The source of change now includes clear bi-partisan support for legislative program changes; from the inside out and from the top down, to now meet the bottom-up support of the grassroots movements.
For me, this is one of the most important indicators that the history books will look back and point to 2021 as a game-changer for regulated cannabis. But we must not forget the origin of the movement and those upon whose shoulders we now stand. We must hold fast and strong in our commitments to community-based cannabis and in correcting the horrors of decades upon decades of failed policies. The opportunities are massive for not just business profits, but also for community prosperity and sustainable development. It is truly an amazing time.
Describe a typical day.
These days, the alarm goes off metaphorically inside my head, which is both a blessing and a curse, related to all the important projects we have going on. For the most part, it’s a great way to jump out of bed when you love what you do. A few cups of coffee and some morning reading is the standard jump-start. One of my goals this year has been to add some meditation to the morning routine.
Then, it’s all about focusing my attention on the most important tasks of the day and making sure our team members are doing the same, while maintaining a focus on big picture business goals. Essentially, I try to keep working until my brain tells me it’s time to regenerate and get some mental rest from the days’ efforts. But all work and no play isn’t great for long-term value and health, so I try my best to keep things balanced personally and professionally, and to give myself at least one day a week with some separation from screen-time so I can focus on family and wellbeing.
What’s the biggest thing on your to-do list?
Organizational expansion. Our team at Zoned Properties has proven an internal business growth thesis that has formed what we’re calling “Zoned 2.0,” which is essentially our flywheel growth model. We’ve been testing and building this business growth strategy over the past few years, along with short and long term areas we need to adapt and pivot toward in order to best accomplish the goals and objectives to create true value for our shareholders and stakeholders. Completing the final puzzle pieces for Zoned 2.0 is far and above my top priority right now. We’ve created most of these pieces from scratch, as they haven’t existed in the marketplace.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing real change in our local communities. Over the past eight years, as part of the evolution of Zoned Properties, I’ve traveled across this entire continent visiting and speaking with local project teams and community representatives. The change in regulated cannabis is real and meaningful. It may be the most important paradigm shift of our generation that can create purposeful and sustainable community prosperity across our society.
What was the best advice you ever received?
“If you want something done, give it to the busiest person in the room.” Momentum is extremely important, especially when we’re working toward such significant and difficult change. Once I realized the true meaning behind this quote, I also realized in order to be the most valuable version of myself and to best serve our team, our stakeholders and our shareholders, I needed to increase my momentum.
But the key to unlocking this lesson, this kind of “Atomic Habit,” is to make sure your busyness is meaningful. Being busy for the sake of being busy accomplishes nothing. Also by adopting this advice I’ve noticed that the value is infectious and you will naturally attract other people with the same mindset. That’s when all of the hard work becomes really exciting.
What’s the best thing a client ever said to you?
“Thank you for walking me back from that cliff, I was ready to just throw it all away.” The cannabis industry can be very unforgiving at times. It can also be incredibly challenging and crushing. Surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you and share your values is priceless. One thing I try to always communicate to clients and partners is to “be kind.” That may be the most important aspect of this industry. Not only to be kind to others, but to be kind to yourself. Patience and persistence will win the day.
How do you like to spend your down time?
Either curled up with my girlfriend and our animals in front of the fireplace or trail running through the mountains.
Story by Michael J. Pallerino, editor of Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. Over the past 30-plus years, he has won numerous awards, including the “Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award,” recognized as the Pulitzer Prize for business-to-business magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.