A Sit-Down with James Ouimet, Director of KuZen.ca
There have been monumental shifts in the Canadian cannabis industry recently. Mergers and acquisitions have dominated the bylines, and it is hard to know who is still operating, as what brand, and how much 'true' ownership remains in hands of those operating the business.
Enter JMF Growers, headed by Cynthia Labelle. She is affectionately know by her team and the industry a "Mama". Bringing a family-style approach to the industry, she has begun to assemble a team of All-Stars under the JMF banner.
Interview With James Ouimet
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with the cannabis industry
A: I grew up in Elliot Lake, ON where I spent most of my young life playing hockey and golf. In 2010 I moved to Fernie, BC and I’m very happy to call this place home. As a medical cannabis patient, I spent my days trying to find the right strain to help treat my ongoing struggles living with a Traumatic Brain Injury. The lack of education and support us cannabis patients had forced me to slowly educate myself on the benefits this amazing plant has. From there, I decided to pursue a career in the industry. I started out as a budtender, for almost 2 years, before seeking something bigger. Along the way I took many courses to prepare myself for a career in cannabis.
Q: What lead you to join JMF and Ku.Zen?
A: A good friend of mine Aly K Benson aka The High Giant referred me to JMF when I was actively looking for new opportunities within the industry. My bilingual skills and sales experience lined up perfectly with JMF. Also, having various certificates and qualifications didn’t hurt.
Q: Many of us have heard about Mama. What is it like to work with someone who treats everyone like family?
A: It’s amazing. Mama along with Pop’s built this company based on family. We all have a story and connection with this amazing plant and Cynthia aka “mom” want’s everyone to feel like they’re part of the family. From her employees to our clients. We’re all playing an important role in the fantastic family. It truly is nice to work in the environment she’s created.
Q: When will Ku.Zen launch for Canada? Will it be nation-wide?
A: Kuzen.ca will be launching very soon. We will cover be covering over 90% of the country.
Q: With such rapid changes occurring in the industry, what helps separate the team at JMF and Ku.Zen from other industry entities?
A: Every one of our clients and medical cannabis patients are treated like family. With just the click of a button on our homepage you can connect directly to our cannabis expert as well as an onsite nurse to help answer those more advanced questions. We are curating the menu to help serve the medical side. We’ll also be focusing largely on the education side of things with many programs being worked on. We want everyone to have an opportunity to learn how this plant can help them live a normal life.
Q: Ku.Zen is focused on medical cannabis. With other medical companies having been in the market for longer, what is Ku.Zen doing to attract people to transfer their prescriptions?
A: We have a great marketing program that has us in the face of the public. From weekly live chats on Instagram to educational post on all our platforms. Mom is the brains behind our brand which is in my mind is very unique and engaging.
Q: The Team at JMF & Ku.Zen recently brought on a Mindfulness Guide, Tom Rothmeier, who we both know well. What does Tom bring to the table that helps further differentiate your brands from competition?
A: Again, mom’s vision is shinning. We really focus on mental health, not only for our family but for everyone else as well. Tom has been practicing mindfulness for quite some time and really has a way to set you in the moment to help work through those stress’ the everyday life brings us. We will be going live with Tom weekly so anyone can join in. His contribution to the cannabis industry is next level amazing. We’re lucky to have him.
Q: As experienced and knowledgeable as you and your team are, are there any resources that you recommend for someone looking to learn more about cannabis?
A: First, I would look for some books to get started. “The little book of Cannabis" and "Terpenes for the Well-Being” are my top two choices. Easy to read and very educational. After that, I highly recommend taking the level 1 sommelier course through CannaReps and the interpening course with The Trichome Institute. Those courses can take your knowledge or career to the next level.
Q: As the Canadian Federal review of the Cannabis Act continues, and given the current adjustments (largely beverages), what changes would you like to see Health Canada make to alleviate some of the stresses on the industry?
A: I would like to see a process where it allows producers to get their product to market a lot quicker. There are many obligated steps we must take that are unnecessary in my mind. The consumers want fresh product and under the current regulations that’s not a guaranty.
Q: What are the goals for Ku.Zen in their initial year of operation?
A: We want to build a positive experience and great education for everyone, and the rest will take care of itself. In this industry you got to take it one day at a time.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your first year with the JMF / Ku.Zen brand?
A: We would love to build a great educational program that will change how the medical cannabis industry operates. The consumers need to know how to properly evaluate and understand cannabis for them to select the right product to help treat their day-to-day battles. We are all different and some of us need to be pointed into the right direction. In the end, it’s all about education.