Premium cannabis lifestyle brand from the Napa of the North
DOJA Cannabis Company added to the portfolio of winery owner and SAXX founder Trent Kitsch
By Don Hauka
Trent Kitsch may be the only businessperson in Canada who owns both an award-winning winery and a cannabis production license.
So it’s hardly surprising when, asked to describe his marijuana product line, the DOJA Cannabis Company Limited CEO sounds somewhat like a seasoned sommelier.
“When I look at cannabis flowers, I do the same things people do with wine — I look at them for colour, trichomes (crystallization) and size. I press them to see how moist they are, and I appreciate the aroma and try to detect specific terpenes (scents), such as lemon, pine or chocolate, and finally, I savour the taste,” says Kitsch. “I think the ritual of wine and the ritual of cannabis are similar.”
Kitsch is bringing his experience in building the successful SAXX Underwear and Kitsch Wines brands to DOJA, one of only 52 federally licensed cannabis producers in Canada. And he’s going to do it by shattering the historic stereotype associated with cannabis consumers.
“I think that the perception of a typical cannabis consumer too often is that of a lazy person stuck to a couch that has the munchies all the time,” says Kitsch.
“That is just sad and it’s not accurate. I know so many of my peers and so many people in the industry who are very successful business people, great people and cannabis isn’t what defines their lifestyle — it’s just a part of their lifestyle.”
The DOJA lifestyle Kitsch and his team will promote is a positive, active one that’s in keeping with the Okanagan’s “Napa of the North” way of life that takes full advantage of the region’s world class wineries, lakes, orchards, golf courses and ski hills. And one he believes will also feature lucrative cannabis tourism industry that will one day overtake wine tourism.
“It’s a proud cannabis lifestyle that is active and stigma-killing,” says Kitsch. “It’s very similar to the authentic Okanagan winery lifestyle that’s here. I’m not going to say it’s luxury, but our cannabis is going to be premium, and I think the people who are living the DOJA life are living a premium life. We bridge that gap between medicinal and wellness, which we really feel is lifestyle.”
DOJA’s wholly owned subsidiary Northern Lights Marijuana Company received its license to cultivate under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations in June, one of only 52 licenses in Canada held by 43 separate companies. That major milestone puts the company in good position as the launch date of July 1, 2018 for a legalized recreational cannabis use nears.
“It’s a 10-years-in-the-making overnight success story,” laughs Kitsch. “We’ve been at it since 2013 when we did our application and since that time, methodically, we have made milestones in the business, and I think timing-wise, we’re on pace to be selling our first batches in Q1 or Q2 of next year, which will be lining up perfectly for recreational cannabis.”
That’s a market that Deloitte estimates to be worth between $4.9 billion to $8.7 billion, based on demand of 655,000 kg/year. To tap it, Kitsch and his DOJA team are taking the same approach that made SAXX Underwear one of the fastest growing underwear brands in North America.
“I believe that people love the underdog story, and they like the individuals or brands that are in the subculture,” says Kitsch.
“People always like to think that they’re into something that’s new or the ‘new-new’. SAXX was successful in knowing how to reach people who were interested in being early-adopters to things — being innovators.”
To help establish the DOJA brand, and give consumers a taste of the lifestyle, Kitsch and company are opening a café in the heart of downtown Kelowna.
“The DOJA Cannabis Culture Café is on Bernard Street, which would be like Robson Street or Queen Street West,” he says. “We’re creating a place with a very open vibe, with coffee and food and special events — the things that we naturally do well in regards to Kitsch Wines or how we did with SAXX.”
Customers will learn more about cannabis, talk one-on-one with staff, and be able to meet doctors to find out the health benefits of different cannabis strains. They’ll also be able to purchase branded DOJA clothing and accessories.
“Fashion is part of our background, and we’re going to have a fashion aspect to the brand, which is going to be sold at our cafes and online, and so far, people are really responding well to the events we’ve had, and some of the gear we see people wearing around town,” says Kitsch.
While cafes, clothing and the Napa North lifestyle work up front establishing the DOJA brand, the nuts and bolts of the operation have been quietly and methodically assembled in the background. And as with all his business ventures, Kitsch has every angle covered, from the business plan to the brand new growing facilities in West Kelowna.
“From all reports, when people visit our facility, we have one of the best facilities they’ve seen,” says Kitsch.
At their 7,100-square foot Phase I facility, DOJA will grow a range of curated handcrafted strains ideally suited for Canada’s emerging recreational market. The facility houses three grow rooms with a combined production capacity of 660 kilograms per year. Plans for a much larger Phase II facility are in the works.
Neal Gilmer, an investment analyst with Haywood Securities in Toronto who has followed the cannabis industry since 2014, says Kitsch is making all the right moves to make DOJA a success, and to differentiate the company from other pharma, medi and bio licenced producers by focusing on lifestyle.
“It is a bit of a unique approach, and I think it’s a good one,” says Gilmer.
“I think they’ve done very well with that they’ve accomplished to date. They’ve demonstrated that they can execute on what they say they’re going to go out and do so far.”
Gilmer says while the cannabis industry might at first appear confusing to investors, “it’s no different than any other industry” in North America or elsewhere.
“You look at the management team,” he says. “You want to have a good management team in there, people who you trust when you shake their hand and have a good track record, and DOJA has a good track record.”
Kitsch said the company’s success to date is thanks to a strong team, most of whom he’s worked with in the past building SAXX and Kitsch Wines into winners.
“You can’t do anything without a great management team, and we really do have a great team. We all come from a background of working together at SAXX or playing sports together,” says Kitsch.
“We’ve got the most authentic, youngest, hungriest management team in the industry, who do things a little bit differently with a start-up mentality and a proven track record in building brands and building businesses.”
As DOJA prepares to go public this summer, not only does Kitsch have a great team, a unique marketing approach and one of the finest facilities, he has money in the bank.
“With $4.5 million in the treasury, we’re well capitalized. We have a company that has achieved value faster by completing our facility, getting our licence to produce, and hopefully in the future, getting our licence to sell sooner than many of our peers,” says Kitsch.
“I think we have a great story to tell.”
It’s a story that’s set to open a whole new chapter. On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 DOJA Cannabis Company Limited is scheduled to commence trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the four-letter symbol DOJA, so stay tuned for more news from the Napa of the North.