Cannabis and its medicinal properties have always been debatable. In recent years, the understanding of Cannabis has grown. People have discovered the different beneficial properties of cannabis and how it will benefit the population. However, the legalization and regulation of Cannabis have always been on the top headlines in various nations. With time, we have witnessed that countries are opening up their doors and accepting the importance of Cannabis. Despite the changing regulations, the cannabis industry has managed to grow at a very rapid pace. These regulations also make the market more accessible for the larger companies to step in and offer capital for the industry. The only drawback being the constant changes in different states, thus creating an ever-changing environment for cannabis business owners.
Challenges are part and parcel of any business, but they shape the entrepreneur and his company’s path. Though the beginnings are not always humble, the entrepreneurs lead their way to success. Located in Michigan and Colorado, the journey of Portal42 began in Detroit in 2015 several years before Michigan began to formalize licensing. “Initially, our neighbor opened a provisioning center on the eastside of Detroit. We were drawn to being a part of what cannabis would inevitably become, so we offered our services at his facility. Though we did not know what we were getting into, it has been a thrilling and amazing experience,” expresses Courtney Forgues (President at Portal42)
The early experience in the industry is always beneficial, it provides an upper hand over all the situations and also over the competitors. A similar instance occurred with Portal42, the company gained first-hand insights into the operation of a dispensary from the user’s point of view. Meanwhile, it also began to analyze the collected data to develop informed business decisions. The industry was mostly underserviced at that time because of the lack of legislation and fears of experiencing ‘loss by law enforcement.’
Soon, Portal42 started to build a reputation for being a true partner with its facilities. It was one of the first to provide a simple cloud-based system to use and helped them plan their next moves. The company loves to see its customers grow along with it. Eventually, the company was the largest point of sale provider in the state, with one in every two facilities using Portal42. The company kept its approach simple, it dedicated itself to being the leader in Michigan and focused on building relationships locally while being a resource to everyone it encountered in the industry.
Quite early in the journey, the team of Portal42 understood the relationship between the company and customers. Another advantage that helped the company to grow successfully since its inception was its vision. The Port42 team realized that leveraging a simple portal software can bring a revolutionary change in the industry. With a nod to 420 and a tip of the cap to Douglas Adams, the company assigned a name for that destination, and Portal42 was born. It also adopted the ‘answer to life, the universe, and everything’ approach to its customers and internally implemented the ‘Don’t Panic’ creed.
Other than the visionary approach in the industry, Portal42 has an in-store option that reports to the state in real-time and a delivery & pickup option with online payments is a powerful separating factor in the industry. The company is much more than just a point of sale. It offers numerous services that differentiate it from its competitors in the industry. It helps eliminate the need for additional fees for services like online ordering, delivery, marketing to your customers, and taking payments.
Portal42 comprehended the need to seize the factors which might interrupt the facilities from reaching a wider audience. From internet outages to hardware failures to seizures, their business could be interrupted at any time and for any length of time. Courtney asserts, “We decided to work for our facilities to develop solutions for many of the problems that faced that threatened to stall their businesses. We began offering hardware and networking services to ensure their entire facility’s technology was running as efficiently as possible.”
Similar to any other business, the team of Portal42 encountered several challenges. Throughout the years, the company stood out strong and proved its worth by leading the industry from the front. It began in downtown Detroit before there were any regulations, and several of the roadblocks at that time were tackled by the facilities themselves. There was a constant threat of their product or cash being taken from them including all of their data— whether it was collected on computers or notebooks. The objections it would face would be around the protection of this data because cloud storage was not ideal as they thought the best way to keep their data safe was to run off with it. After overcoming that fear, the next major objection it faced was building a system that would grow at the pace the industry was growing.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused numerous disruptions to the world. Several businesses were closed down due to insufficient resources to deal with the crisis. Business and industries were changed overnight, online and remote working was forced on the companies to survive through the situation. Dispensaries had to close and their lobbies could only service people curbside or delivery. However, Portal42 clients didn’t skip a beat. Before the crisis began, the platform had already added built-in online ordering and delivery to its platform. This advantage helped Portal42 facilities to tackle the wrath of covid while leading the industry into new territory. One of its clients commented, “At the start of COVID we didn’t know how we were going to take orders outside, but with Portal42 it was easy. We are seriously the fastest transaction.”
Portal42 believes in the motto of listening to its customers’ needs. This motto has been and will continue to be its advantage as the company respects the relationships it has with the facilities and their direct needs. “We are not simply a “POS Solution” but rather, we partner with our facilities and spend the time necessary to learn their particular needs and focus intently on delivering those opportunities to ensure that they will maximize their potential when it comes to the vision they have for their single facility or their entire brand and its reach, ” states Courtney.
Courtney as a leader has been playing a vital role in shaping the company’s past, present, and future. In fact, leaders such as Courtney allow the company to explore more horizons utilizing beneficial visionary and unique approaches.
Prior to Portal42, she was working in the Health and Wellness industry where her focus has been building consumer relationships by providing plant-based natural remedies. Courtney’s role includes developing software programs to promote customer service relationships and education, making the health benefits of cannabis more accessible to dispensary customers. As more cannabis businesses realized the need for IT solutions for compliance and customer engagement Portal42 listened and delivered, amassing a customer base that included over 60% of all dispensaries in Michigan. Courtney’s focus has always been on the relationship that Portal42 builds with its customers. This candid relationship allows her to build a software platform that helps her clients run their businesses as efficiently as possible.
With the team increasing in size, she has been able to continue to have questions and concerns from the field directly responded to and addressed. “We have a phenomenal team who understand the industry and where it is at this particular moment. Our approach has always been to inform them of our vision for upcoming opportunities based on where the industry is changing, ” says Courtney. As the company progresses into the future the roles will get more and more focused on the landscape of the entire industry and how it can help the facilities to be their most effective in the ever-changing landscape.
The cannabis industry may have significantly grown but there are still a few loose ends to be mended. Courtney anticipates that even with the acceptance of payments and eventual legalization there will be several challenges to overcome. She adds, “Once it is legalized nationally, there will most likely be some sort of blanket laws that could potentially shake up some of the current state-based regulations.” Digitalization is taking over the industry and soon banking will become mainstream and the population might turn to cashless transactions. The aim of Portal42 will be to help the industry incline more towards cloud and in doing so revolutionize the landscape of cannabis.
“Keep your head down and grind. There will be many challenges between dealing with regulations and other restrictions as well that make it more challenging than a typical industry to be in. Having that hustle mentality is absolutely rewarded in the cannabis space.”