Seven of the 51 cannabis retail permits distributed in Saskatchewan in preparation for legalization were given to prospective retailers in Saskatoon. Cierra Sieben-Chuback, entrepreneur and Edwards School of Business graduate, is one of the city’s new shop owners.
At 23, Sieben-Chuback is thought to be the youngest permit holder in the country and was awarded the licence just before convoking this spring. Her store, Living Skies Cannabis, will be located on Third Avenue South.
Sieben-Chuback says she chose the name as a tribute to Saskatchewan’s famous epithet: Land of Living Skies.
“I’m born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My favourite part of living here has always been the sunsets and the sunrises — I think our sky is one the most beautiful things in the world,” Sieben-Chuback said. “I’m the only local person who will be opening up a store in Saskatoon — I felt like it really represents who I am.”
Cierra Sieben-Chuback stands in front of her cannabis store, Living Skies Cannabis, on Oct. 15.
The other six licences were given to businesses and entrepreneurs from Alberta, Regina and British Columbia. Sieben-Chuback believes that her status as the only Saskatoon resident on the list differentiates her shop from the others.
“I’m the local retailer,” Sieben-Chuback said. “I feel like the citizens [of] Saskatoon tend to want to support their local businesses, so I hope that I get to benefit off of that as well.”
The application to enter the permit lottery has been described as “ridiculous to work through,” but Sieben-Chuback says her assignments from courses at the Edwards School of Business, particularly her commerce classes, prepared her for the process.
“I found it pretty easy. I know that not everyone thought that it was that easy, but I had the opportunity to sit down and write a business plan for class,” Sieben-Chuback said. “At the time, I wrote it for a medical marijuana dispensary, but I used a lot of that business plan and just shifted it so it would fit for the application.”
As a recent graduate of the university, Sieben-Chuback hopes to see students come to her store, but she does not plan to make students her only target audience.
“I’m hoping students come out, but I don’t want to limit myself by only tailoring to one kind of customer,” Sieben-Chuback said. “I will have something at every price point for every kind of person’s needs.”
Sieben-Chuback discusses how opening her first business in a new industry is both difficult and exciting.
“It’s definitely scary, but it’s a fun scary,” Sieben-Chuback said. “This is the first round of marijuana dispensaries in the city, and I think that it’s really cool that I get to be a part of that, making history.”
The newness of the cannabis-retail industry comes with new and still developing regulations, but Sieben-Chuback is optimistic about the future of the laws surrounding her business.
“I’m still trying to understand what I can and can’t do,” Sieben-Chuback said. “What I’m predicting is that the regulations and rules that are imposed on me right now are probably the most strict that they’ll ever be. I feel like the way we retailers conduct our business will, in the future, shape those rules and regulations into what they will be.”
Living Skies Cannabis, like the other new stores in Saskatoon, will not open in time for legalization day. Sieben-Chuback attributes this to nationwide supply issues with licensed producers.
“You can’t just have enough product to open your doors. You have to make sure that the licensed producer you are working with will have a steady stream of supply coming in, so you can be confident that your doors will remain open,” Sieben-Chuback said. “Currently, I don’t have any plans for my business for legalization day.”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: Tomas Garchinski