A safe haven, vibey atmosphere, great food and of course awesome edibles and cannabis products.
Smokers is the all-in-one destination to enjoy, socialise and indulge in everything that cannabis has to offer.
Can you tell us about yourself and how your business originated?
I’ve lived and grown in Johannesburg South my entire life, so I have a lot of friends in the area, initially I was never really involved in cannabis. My father was a policeman and my mother a pharmacist, so I grew up in a strict and conservative household.
In terms of how the cannabis club was created, it came about when it was getting too much to have a group of friends over daily to enjoy cannabis at my house. It became difficult to manage and entertain them at the same time, so it was more of “getting them into a space away from my home” that was safe and conducive to their needs as well.
All my friends are either professionals and business owners who are always out and about throughout the day so I wanted to create a hub where they can safely enjoy cannabis and be entertained as well.
So, I then went in search for an office space that would suit this and not have 16 or more people on my couch, “so to say”, and this is when Smokers Club was born and it just grew from there.
The Vibe and “Safe Haven” you have created here, not to mention the friendly and welcoming staff, is immediately apparent as soon as you walk in. Tell us a bit more about what the club has to offer?
The entertainment section boasts both PS5 and Xbox gaming, a pin ball machine and pool table. We will be hosting team gaming events where groups will go up against each other. There are several different cannabis items available including our very own special strain grown specifically for us as well as some exciting extras.
Then there’s the food! Everyone compliments us and our chef Benet, who we are very lucky to have with us, on his culinary creations. How we came to have Benet a part of the team is quite an interesting story. We were looking for kitchen equipment where we responded to his ad to purchase his equipment.
Benet went on to tell me his story; the reason for him selling his kitchen equipment is that, due to Covid-19, there was no more business opportunity or employment for him which led him having to sell his equipment and move back to family in Cape Town. I was touched by his story and after tasting his food and the creations he made it was evident that we had found a super talented gem. Not only could he literally make anything we asked for but he made it exquisitely. That is when we offered him the opportunity to join the team.
What has this business taught you about being an entrepreneur?
There are a lot of aspects within this business from end-to-end; from wholesale to retail, advertising and marketing. What people do not understand is that as “closed up” or “backdoor” or “black market” the cannabis industry may seem to be perceived, it has the same challenges as every other industry. From the marketing of products and branding, to determining your target market and understanding that everyone has different spend rates, the challenges are consistent with traditional business. People would like to smoke cannabis but can’t necessarily afford to smoke the best cannabis, so you need to market yourself in different ways that caters to your differing target audiences.
In terms of general entrepreneurial skills this industry teaches you how to run a proper successful business the only difference is you get better at it, in my opinion, because its not something that can be done openly as yet due to public perceptions. It’s a business that you need to run professionally but underground, for now. This is what I would like to expose in the market that through entrepreneurs like myself, have food businesses and entertainment businesses and promote other business ventures with cannabis and not be judged on it. People do not want to do business with us because of the stigma, they call us “dagga-rookers” or dagga-kops” in South Africa and it’s not fair on the business owners in this industry, we do good business, we are open to creativity. There are a lot of different lines of businesses being opened in this industry, there are rolling papers, there are apparels, in the hemp industry there is a huge market for textiles, oils and medicines. In my opinion, there is a lot of opportunities available to entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and people should be taking advantage of it.
What are the cons in the industry for you?
Most importantly, there is always a consistent problem with the law. Trying to make people understand the many benefits while trying to remove the stigma behind it is a massive hurdle. For example, people look at you with disdain if you are in a restaurant smelling of weed. I have been arrested several times in the past, but that is something we are willing to overcome to remove the stigma behind cannabis.
There are many obstacles in history that people have had to face in the past, for instance Jack Daniels during the time of prohibition in America. They were arresting everyone who had distilleries, but he found a way to stick it out. He got arrested, he had a mountain of obstacles and at the end of the day he is one of the world’s biggest whisky suppliers.
Other cons are literally just market related problems, general retail consumers have requests that you cannot fulfil in terms of the cannabis being supplied. We don’t have legitimate systems within South Africa where we can control the perfect environment to grow the cannabis that consumers want. As a result, the quality varies all the time and yet the prices seem to keep escalating.
Additionally, there are medicines that can be made from the products that we can not market or sell to people because it is against the law and yet there is proof of these medicines being effective against numerous ailments. It is up to the country and the community to decide on how the cannabis industry is benefiting people within the community in all aspects.
What are your visions for yourself and the industry in the future?
As a person who has been through a variety of experiences, some being medically orientated and others being recreationally orientated, but the most significant experience is my mother. She is a breast cancer survivor who had to go through chemo and everything else associated with beating cancer. At the time I was experimenting with hemp oils, cannabis oils and CBDs. But to get her to understand the medicinal benefits of cannabis was impossible as she is a pharmacist who only believes in medicines and not the alternatives. So, I would like the perception of the medicinal aspects of cannabis to be changed.
In terms of the recreational side of things, and with my club, I would like to create a place where people feel comfortable and in their own home where they can just enjoy themselves and get the information that they need.
There are 3 businesses within the club, the club essentially is just the housing facility for our consumers who are interested in cannabis as a whole (be it for medicinal or recreational purposes) and these businesses, there is the food and restaurant business, an entertainment business and there is a beverage and consumables counter. Each of these businesses run as their own entities to showcase the entrepreneurial skills within the industry.
The best thing about cannabis is that it is easily grown in our country’s climate so I would like for people to be provided with the medicinal affects and provide community development programmes around cannabis in its entirety. We need to keep our club running and to do that we need product and to get product we need land and a labour force. This is the development program that we would like to establish. Cannabis is reusable, recyclable, energy efficient (in that you largely just need the sun to grow) and that it can ultimately be done with truly little cost or even free.
At the Smokers Club we want to show the public that we are good people and great contributors to the community. Do not shove us away because of the stigma that has surrounded the cannabis community for such a long time, invite us in and we will showcase the many benefits of the cannabis industry that you could learn about and learn from and enjoy with friends, family and strangers alike.