By early 2020, the big players in California's legal cannabis delivery market had given the smaller players a run for their money. Yet for every person who bought regulated cannabis, two people or more were still buying unregulated cannabis via text from their network of contacts and friends.
Community Gardens, an Oakland-based licensed cannabis retailer and delivery service, found themselves in a unique position to go after the unregulated cannabis market. By hosting in-person events that combined the business model of Tupperware parties with the cultural legacy of 1930s Harlem “tea pads,” consumers gained a social connection to the products they purchased.
In February 2020, I created a chatbot—an internal tool, really—for hosts to pull up the menu of products and send in orders for their guests.
As COVID-19 grew into a full-fledged global pandemic, in-person events were off the table for a while. However, the SMS order system I wrote for the company afforded unique benefits: they could meet their market where they're at, they could build a brand with nothing more than a few well-placed words, and they could bypass the rigamarole of an app, typical of our competitors.
With my attention to customer on-boarding and compliance issues, a new landing page, and better tooling to both manage orders and jump into chats for special recommendations, Community Gardens's Mae has been taking orders directly from customers since April 2020. By September 2020, the service gained larger media attention with a review in Playboy, with additional press in Rooster Magazine.
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