Elliot Lewis is the founder Catalyst Cannabis Co.; he currently owns and operates 5 retail storefronts in Southern California including – Long Beach, Bellflower, and Santa Ana which have recently gone through a rebrand of all existing stores as they continue to build the Catalyst name up and down the coast. As a manager of numerous cannabis businesses, Lewis has established himself as one of the top commercial marijuana operators in California as he continues to expand with dreams to bring cannabis to every city state-wide. He’s blazing new paths into places unheard of just ten years ago. Ambition drives Elliot and I’m proud to introduce him to the world. Thank you, WB.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me where you’re from? Now? What was your path to the plant? How were you inspired by the plant?
Elliot Lewis=EL: I was born and raised in Long Beach, California and I am a Long Beach local to this day. I am raising my four kids with my beautiful wife and growing my business in this great city. The bulk of our Catalyst retail shops are located in the Long Beach, Bellflower and Santa Ana areas as we wanted to keep our homebase local. Eager to branch out, we have started our expansion by building in LA and beyond. I was introduced to the plant when I ended up at UC Berkeley for college. I moved there in 1996, which was around the time when the state passed Prop. 215 making Berkeley one of the first places where you could get a medical marijuana card. From there, I put together some small grows in the area as I was going through school, but I eventually faded away from cannabis for a while. Instead, my focus turned to the real estate market for the next decade. I have always cared about the positive effects cannabis can have on people’s everyday life. Once more legislation started opening up, I realized I was able to fuse my knowledge of real estate with the cannabis industry and started to concentrate my efforts on building out cannabis retail locations in Southern California. As I started to go down this path I realized this is what I want to do and have been expanding my business ever since. Personally, I am now a huge fan of microdosing edibles throughout the day. It keeps me focused and allows me to be a more attentive father and husband. Overall, our ethos at Catalyst is very pro-labor and pro-union. We keep all C Suite salaried positions low, so we can continue to re-invest and build out new locations while keeping prices down for our customers. We are in it for the long haul and want to make sure every employee and customer is treated fairly from top to bottom.
WB: What is your six and twelve month goals? What obstacles do you face? How do you foresee removing them?
EL: For the most immediate future, we are rebranding all of our Southern California retail locations to Catalyst Cannabis Co. from the original name of Connect SoCal. This is an exciting step for our company as we continue to build the Catalyst name into what I want to see having the most doors open in California alone. In the next 6 months our main objective is to get another 4 retail locations open with the licenses that we have already won and in twelve months to have 13 total stores open throughout the state. We are always writing ordinances and gathering signatures to push through legislation in all cities statewide as we feel that everyone should have equal access to cannabis products which could both really help the surrounding community as well as the cities themselves being able to benefit from the legal market. The main obstacles are of course the massive red tape we have to cut through including very high taxation of cannabis businesses and political bureaucracy which is hard to fight against and can take an unlimited amount of time. However we set up our business to prepare for these obstacles so we can stick it out in the long run and are continuing to be at the forefront of this machine to continue to push the industry forward. The overall goal is to be the premiere retailer in the state of California as we chip away with each expansion.
WB: What markets do you want to enter? What stands in your way?
EL: Well, I can safely say there is no market we don’t want to enter! Right now we are concentrating on California as we are determined to establish the Catalyst brand as the premiere retailer in the state ensuring top quality and customer service. Right now we are moving away from being multi-state operators to focus on the California market that we are growing before expanding out nationwide. I am proud to say we have a high conversion rate and win 75% of the licences we apply for which I credit to my amazing team and colleagues that I am lucky to have as partners. We don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be a legal retail shop in every city in this state so we are going to continue to push until we get there!
WB: What is your favorite food? Food memory from childhood? Favorite restaurant? Where?
EL: From childhood, I always enjoyed eating strawberries so my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are often made with strawberry jam. I actually don’t ever take a lunch but I do eat at least two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day and eat them between calls to fuel my day so I would say that is my go-to meal on a daily basis. My family and I enjoy dining at a great local Long Beach steakhouse called 555; we go there all the time. I’ve been in Long Beach my whole life and happy that this city is home to some of my favorite restaurants and is the base of our stronghold.
WB: What is your passion?
EL: I do it all for my family and am so grateful for my wife and 4 amazing children, they are my life. When it comes to work, I’m passionate about always instilling Rule #1 in our company culture which is – to keep it fun and light. The game and the hustle are way more fun in my opinion and is my motivation to keep pushing through in this business. I don’t consider what I do on a daily basis, a job. The industry is so dynamic and always changing, we are on the ground floor, in its infancy helping to mold it going into the future. There will always be wins and losses and we work really hard but always refer back to Rule #1 to remind us why we are here in the first place. Cannabis has gotten way too expensive and companies with top heavy salaries are not working. We want to bring value to our workforce and the customers instead of paying ourselves, including myself inflated salaries. At Catalyst, we are passionate about keeping cannabis affordable even if it means smaller margins for us. We strive to build something meaningful to help the legal industry flourish.