As dispensary owners struggle with financial services and e-commerce issues, Payteller and Jane founder Jeff Foster is betting that his revolutionary cash management kiosk can boost profits—and confidence.
You’ve been in the e-commerce and retail payment business for over 15 years. You’ve just entered the cannabis industry with your knowledge. What was your thinking here?
We were already in the kiosk business, with Payteller, distributing machines that provide a variety of services to people who need to or prefer to pay their bills with cash. As for entering the cannabis industry, my wife was out of town and I wound up watching five documentaries about the cannabis business in a row. One after the next showed dispensary owners being shut down, raided… even arrested for selling to patients without a recommendation, for underreporting income, for laundering money, etc. And the dispensary owners were complaining about employee theft and security concerns because of the “all cash” nature of the business so I thought, “We can solve all these problems with our kiosks!” The following Monday I started calling anyone I could get in touch with in the marijuana business and our team spent the next several months getting a deep understanding of the challenges dispensary owners face.
Walk us through the kiosks and how they function as opposed to mobile and online transactions?
There are five key things the kiosk does that are incredibly valuable to every dispensary. First, it gives complete control of the business’s cash management to the dispensary owner —eliminating employee theft, human error and the possibility of underreporting income, laundering money, etc.
Second, Jane integrates with the dispensary’s point of sale and seed to sale tracking systems, ensuring every transaction meets the standards of the state and local government. We’re currently integrated with Adilas, Proteus420 and MJ Freeway, and are in talks with most of the other providers, which gives us access to the vast majority of the dispensaries in the U.S.
Third, we provide real-time reporting which gives dispensary owners access to the data and metrics they need to better manage their business—while also promoting responsible banking behavior for when banking and credits cards do enter the market. Fourth, we arrange for cash collection, storage and vendor payment delivery with our armored transport partner, eliminating many of the safety and security issues for the dispensary.
Finally, today’s consumer is demanding not only greater convenience but also more control over their shopping experience and the self-service kiosk provides both. We even provide a mobile app, integrated with the kiosk, which allows on-the-go consumers to reserve products.
What is the current state of cash management in the cannabis industry?
It’s a mess! Employee theft is rampant. Many of the dispensary owners we talk to say it’s as high as 10% of sales. Robberies are a constant threat. The cash reconciliation process is time-consuming and susceptible to human error. But the biggest issue is it’s almost impossible to run a multi-million dollar business with all cash.
What challenges do dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses face when it comes to financial services?
What challenges don’t they have? Very few have access even to depository banking, much less checking. Most cannot process credit or debit cards legitimately so they are on a strictly cash basis. So imagine having to make payroll, pay rent, or buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product, without the ability to write a check or send a wire. Most of the dispensary owners we talk to spend as much as 25% of their time simply managing this process. With full access to banking and financial services those same tasks would take almost no time at all.
Where do the Federally regulated banks stand on working with cannabis businesses at the moment? When/if do you see them working with cannabis businesses?
All of the banks we are in discussions with right now are state-chartered. There is too much heat right now for the federal banks to jump in, given that marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug and selling it is a felony, according to the federal government. The Bank Secrecy Act prevents banks from taking deposits known to be a result of a crime so until marijuana is rescheduled I don’t see much chance of anyone with a federal charter getting involved. I do believe it will happen though. There is too much momentum and popular acceptance to put the genie back in the bottle. So it is important for marijuana retailers to start preparing now for when it does.
If I’m a dispensary owner, why should I use Jane?
Our mission at Jane is to provide dispensary owners with the tools they need to grow their business while meeting the demand of their customers for greater control of their shopping experience. We intimately understand the dispensary owner’s biggest challenges and the Jane kiosk was specifically designed, with their input, to solve those challenges. So if you want to increase sales, enhance customer relationships and convenience, reduce safety and security issues, eliminate employee theft or error, ensure that every transaction in your shop is being processed according to all local and state laws and regulations, and be prepared for when banking and credit cards come to the industry, Jane is here to serve you.
What are my costs?
There is no cost for the equipment. We install at least two kiosks at every location, more if needed due to volume. Once they are installed we charge a percentage of sales for processing the transactions, much the same as Visa and MasterCard. The dispensary also gets its own assigned Jane Brand Ambassador, 24/7 technical and administrative support, our integrated Jane App and all software and platform upgrades at no additional cost.
How has the FinCEN Guidance Document affected how cannabis businesses process money? How has it affected Jane’s business?
The FinCEN guidance, along with Cole Memo 2.0 have been the industry’s playbook for maintaining long-term sustainability in this space. We spent an extraordinary amount of time understanding the concerns and requirements of the regulators and designed Jane to meet or exceed all of them. We have also met with a number of state and federal regulators for their input and approval. We are currently integrated with three of the top four point of sale and seed to sale tracking software companies, MJ Freeway being the largest. So in addition to having a complete solution with 100% substantiated and detailed transaction tracking according to the regulations, we are in a position to deliver a turnkey solution to most dispensaries in the country.
How much money are you currently processing with Jane? How much do you see it growing year-on-year?
We always respect our client’s confidentially so I can’t reveal how much we are currently processing on their behalf. But what I can say is we believe we will be in around 200 dispensaries by the end of the year and in the neighborhood of 600-700 by the end of 2016.
What are the common problems and complaints you hear from dispensary owners when it comes down to them doing business legally, effectively and simply?
The cannabis business has the most complicated legal and regulatory framework in the history of retail and many of the dispensary owners are first time entrepreneurs. The combination of these two things, further complicated by a lack of banking and a business that is bustling seven days a week, and you find in many cases there are all sorts of steps or processes being missed. This is why it’s so important for dispensary owners to choose the right vendor partners who understand the issues they face and have the expertise and solutions to help them better run their business so they have more time to focus on what’s most important—the customer.
What’s your vision for Jane?
Our vision is to have a Jane kiosk in every medical and recreational dispensary in America.
What’s next for Jeff Foster and Jane?
Our focus for the next two years will be expanding our footprint and product offering. Numerous new products and services will be added to both the kiosk and app to expand, extend and enhance the relationship dispensaries have with their patients and recreational customers. We will be greatly expanding the capabilities of our mobile app, for example, to provide the consumer with a near virtual shopping experience in every dispensary in our network. We will also be expanding our data and analytics capabilities so we are able to provide the dispensary owner with a better understanding of their customer’s preferences. There are countless self-service and mobile options available to almost everyone in retail today, retailers and consumers alike, but not in the marijuana segment. We intend to change that.
We also have a passion for giving back; our primary initiative is “RoundUp for Charity” which gives customers the ability, through the kiosk, to donate the change from their purchase to various cannabis related charitable organizations. Jane will handle the processing of the donation with 100% of the100% of the funds going directly to charity.