Meet Laurie Weitzel, Earth’s Own Naturals – BC Marketplace

Earth’s Own Naturals Get Directions

Our modern and extensive list of products are carefully curated whether you are a seasoned cannabis enthusiast or newly curious. The store is laid out in an educational format starting with the menu. To further assist, we have information cards which identify the attributes of the products you are interested in. So if you prefer […]

Community: Fernie Region: Kootenay District: East Kootenay

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Across Canada, thousands of entrepreneurs have entered the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Since recreational cannabis was legalized in October 2018, interest in the industry has exploded and opportunities abound on the supply, retail and distribution side.

Laurie Weitzel, the founder and proprietor of Kimberley and Fernie’s Earth’s Own Naturals has been an interested observer of the process. Her store initially started out serving her community’s need for medical cannabis, before growing to include the recreational side of things.

With the industry at an interesting and rapidly growing point, we caught up with Laurie to get the story of her community-focused cannabis store that’s working hard to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the industry.

Laurie Weitzel

If I was to pick one unique aspect for us, it’s that we’re trying to remove the stigma surrounding cannabis. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pre-conceived notions out there about what a cannabis store would look like, and the type of clientele it serves.

What’s the story behind Earth’s Own Naturals?

My impetus for getting into the cannabis industry was the cancer diagnosis of my late husband. Unfortunately, he passed away in late 2015, but as we were going through his journey, we witnessed first-hand the wonderful effects the cannabis plant had to offer and we wanted others to have the same opportunity.

That year, we went to the City of Kimberley and we asked for a business license to open up a cannabis store. We made clear our intention was to pay it forward and to educate people who really needed something to help them through their medical challenges. We were business owners already in the city, so they knew who we were and they knew our intentions. Thankfully, they unanimously voted for us to move ahead with the store.

It took me a year or so to pull everything together, and in late 2017 I opened the store in Kimberley. Initially, we were medical intake only, so you needed to have a doctor’s recommendation and we weren’t open to the public. I would say that 70 per cent of our clientele were 60 years or older, and I soon found a passion for helping them find the relief and benefit they needed.

Soon after that, Canada legalized recreational cannabis. We were ready and submitted our application. We were the second shop in BC to be fully licensed and we began the process of pivoting towards serving the recreational community, while keeping our mission of educating and helping those seeking improvements to their quality of life through cannabis.

What gap is Earth’s Own Naturals filling in a competitive marketplace?

If I was to pick one unique aspect for us, it’s that we’re trying to remove the stigma surrounding cannabis. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pre-conceived notions out there about what a cannabis store would look like, and the type of clientele it serves. When we started the store, it was really important to us that our clients didn’t feel like they were in a sterile environment. We wanted them to feel comfortable in the surroundings of the store, to feel welcomed, and be met by staff who greeted them with a smile and a helping hand.

For those who come to our store, you’ll find a warm and rustic mountain feel, with a team who loves what they do. To put some perspective on that, I remember a young lady and her sister came into our Kimberley store for the first time. She commented to me that this wasn’t what she was expecting from a cannabis store at all. She was shocked by how beautiful the interior was, and how it was so far removed from what she was expecting. That’s an example of that stigma in action, and I’m so happy we were able to give her such a positive experience.

What are some of the challenges you face as a cannabis retailer? 

This is an interesting question because we face several challenges in our day-to-day operation that we’re always working on. For starters, a lot of people made up their minds on legalization very early on. They heard that prices were high and quality was inconsistent. Those criticisms definitely had some merit at the time, but the reality is so different now a couple of years into the journey. Prices have come down across the board, and the quality is going up all the time.

If people out there are still using a ‘weed guy’ I would say to them to give your local regulated store a chance. Things have changed massively, and your perception of how things were at the beginning maybe aren’t aligned with where our industry is nowadays.

If people out there are still using a ‘weed guy’ I would say to them to give your local regulated store a chance. Things have changed massively, and your perception of how things were at the beginning maybe aren’t aligned with where our industry is nowadays. 

How did the Women’s Enterprise Centre assist with Earth’s Own Naturals? 

In the last two years I became aware of the Women’s Enterprise Centre and the resources they offer. My only regret is wishing I had found out about them earlier! I now advocate for them regularly when I meet other women already in business, or thinking about starting their own business. I love participating in their webinars, downloading helpful documents and resources from their site – there’s a lot of really excellent content there.

At the start of COVID, I applied for their mentorship program and it’s been such a wonderful experience that’s helped me so much in business. I got to meet a lady who owned a business in my area and she was familiar with common challenges we face. It’s really helpful for me as a business owner to connect with a peer like that, validate the work I’m doing and even identify areas I could maybe improve upon. Getting involved with WEC has been a hugely valuable experience for my business.

What are some of your most popular products at Earth’s Own Naturals?

We’re still selling the usual flower and pre-rolls and they would be our number one sellers for sure. Our customers are really excited for the newer, up and coming products like beverages and edibles and topicals. For that ultimate relaxation, the new bath bombs we’re carrying are becoming really popular. The thing about this industry is that it’s evolving at such a rapid pace. New categories are coming on stream all the time and we’re always getting new categories. This whole industry is going to explode in the next few years.

What are people’s options for buying your products?

Our store is open in Kimberley  and Fernie seven days a week. We’re also online at earthsownnaturals.com. People can opt for click and collect on there, or pick curbside assistance and we’ll be happy to help.

Why do you think it’s so important for folks to support small businesses like yours?

When you support a local small business, you’re supporting your community and putting dollars back into your local economy. This is massively important because we employ local residents, we support our local charities, and so much more. From a tourism standpoint it’s also really important. Tourists are always looking for cool little cafes, artists and shops to get a flavour of the place they’re visiting. Both in Kimberley  and Fernie we’re blessed with so many amazing little businesses, wonderful restaurants and our winter sports, biking and golfing. It’s really what sets us apart from other destinations.

Specifically talking about the cannabis industry, when you support a regulated store like ours you can shop comfortably knowing we’ve gone through a rigorous process to be regulated. You know our products will be thoroughly tested and licensed producers are held to a very high standard for their growing and processing practices. It’s a much safer and pleasant experience.

When you support a local small business, you’re supporting your community and putting dollars back into your local economy. This is massively important because we employ local residents, we support our local charities, and so much more.

Earth’s Own Naturals Get Directions

Our modern and extensive list of products are carefully curated whether you are a seasoned cannabis enthusiast or newly curious. The store is laid out in an educational format starting with the menu. To further assist, we have information cards which identify the attributes of the products you are interested in. So if you prefer […]

City/Region: Fernie Region: Kootenay District: East Kootenay

View on the Marketplace

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We respectfully acknowledge our place of work is within the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ/sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and that we serve the Peoples of the many Nations throughout British Columbia.