Dispensary Store Management for Retail Cannabis
The Indiemag has ran across an amazing and talented person with a groundbreaking entry into both the tech and cannabis world. With Marijuana becoming legal here in the Silver State as of July 1st, the dispensaries have been exceeding all expectations in acceptance and revenue.
So what is a dispensary to do with all of their new clients, orders, inventory, tracking, and the logistics that go along with a business that went from zero to a million overnight. That is where owner and tech genius Jeremy O’Keefe and his company Yobi come in. Foreseeing the emerging market, he put in place a store management platform targeted and designed for the cannabis market. We got an opportunity to sit down with Mr. O’Keefe and do an interview where he can shed some light on how this behind the scenes tech came about, where it is going, and how it benefits you.
IndieMag : Thank you for taking the time out of your day for explaining to us and sharing your passions. I can not image how huge this entire process is for you, from coding and designing to all of the I am assuming legal ramifications that are in place, or still in the process. But let’s start with the basics here. What exactly does Yobi do?
Jeremy O’Keefe : Yobi offers store management tools for the retail cannabis market. We offer a point-of-sale, order fulfillment system similar to a Starbucks ticketing system, inventory management and tracking, as well as integrations with bookkeeping software, Quickbooks. Yobi was built to streamline day-to-day operations for dispensaries. What I mean by that is we take common workflows, say breaking down bulk cannabis into retail packages, into a clear and concise workflow that requires minimal training. Our system does this for all tasks from creating an order for a customer, to reconciling inventory.
IM : With the legalization of Marijuana seemingly set to take over the entire country, it’s an exciting space to be in at the moment. You could have coded anything, but obviously found a need to build something for the cannabis market. Why cannabis?
JO : It’s been an incredible experience so far in this industry. Everyone is trying to hold on and see where this takes us. I’ve been involved with cannabis the majority of my life. My family has been negatively affected by the drug war, so you can say I have a dog in this fight for legalization. I saw an opportunity to use my skillset to help reduce the negative stigma attached to cannabis, and I felt it was something I had to do.
IM : When speaking with you before, I believe you mentioned a little bit about having to learn the legality of all of this, especially with it being different from state to state. Did you have to meet certain regulations, or make changes based on what is going to be in place as far as the transactions that these systems make.
JO : Oh man, it’s still the wild west out here in terms of compliance. Each state has their own set of data retention and tracking requirements making it highly difficult, if not impossible to build a stable solution for the nation until we see some consolidation with requirements between states. So our initial focus has been where we think cannabis will be biggest, which is California and Nevada.
IM : For our tech junkies out there, can you tell me a little bit about how your system was designed? For starters what language and platform did you use, and how you tied it all together.
JO : Oh man, it’s been designed, redesigned, scrapped and built again haha. We have NodeJS APIs being consumed by a React web application and a PostgreSQL database. All applications are deployed in Docker containers. We use AWS (Amazon Web Services) for all of our hosting. As for designing and iterating our application, we do weekly calls with our initial customers to get feedback and to ensure we are making their business run more efficiently. These calls made us realize quickly that we had made some incorrect assumptions and allowed us to correct those assumptions with real world feedback. Their help has been invaluable.
IM : How about encryption and security and how big of a challenge was that ? Given the industry and amount of transactions and money that is taking place, one can only imagine the obstacle or challenge that had to present.
JO : It wasn’t bad. Our engineering team has built store management systems for multi-billion dollar brands before. We just implemented best practices for security of our data. We use two-stage authentication with an RSA encryption key that is tied to each user that has access. All sensitive data is encrypted using 256-bit AES.
IM : Aside from the retail cannabis industry, this technology can virtually be applied to anywhere if I am not mistaken? Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and even marketplaces. Anywhere almost that goods are bought, sold, or exchanged, am I not mistaken?
JO : Not necessarily. We built this solution because the current off-the-shelf solutions simply wouldn’t work for cannabis. There aren’t many retail software tools that allow you to connect to state compliance APIs or break down products by weight. Also with cannabis being a cash only business, many POS systems can’t even be used since their revenues are based on transaction fees from credit cards.
IM : It is beyond apparent how useful and fascinating what you have done is, but a little bit about the man behind the keyboard. You can code your ass off. How did you learn, and what got you into it.
JO : Not wanting to work for someone else is what got me programming haha. I served in the Air Force for 8 years as an Electronic Warfare Technician. After a series of dead-end jobs I got my shit together and went to school. I got my Computer Science degree from UNLV after much longer than it should have been haha! But the degree can only teach you so much. A lot of what I do everyday I learned from reading language specific books and doing countless coding challenges on the internet. It seemed there was a never ending supply of new things to learn and so much open sharing of information within the community. That is what made me fall in love with the software field. We’re planning on open sourcing some of our custom components in the near future for the development community.
IM : It does take a huge amount of discipline in order to not only learn how to create these things, but to sit down and actually finish a major project. You are such a creative person, how do you keep it all focused. I know with myself that one idea just leads to ten more. Each one seemingly better than the last.
JO : Oh man does it. You get so bored of it after a while. That’s why I don’t believe in motivation. If you wait until you want to do something, it will never get done. I stay focused because I jumped into this with both feet. I quit my job and mooched off my wife while I built the prototype and researched dispensary pain points. I feel with cannabis becoming legal nationwide this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to really make something that could be huge and actually beneficial to a cause I care deeply about.
Oh, and I have tons of ideas stemming from this, I just write them down for later.
IM : Do you have any side projects that you take time with that are not business related and just for enjoyment?
JO : Nope. I have a wife and son and if I took on anything else they would send me to a mental hospital.
IM : When you are not making the cannabis world a better and more efficient place you are . .
JO : Playing video games and building computers with my son, Ayden. He’s getting better than me now and he knows it.
IM : Anything else you would like to add about your business, what you have coming down the pipeline, or information you feel our readers could be inspired about.
JO : I guess that Yobi started off as just an idea after a random conversation at work one day. Now, we have employees and customers only a year and some change later. If you have an idea or passion for something, go for it. It’s going to suck terribly for a while and the night sweats are awful. But when you start to see the progress, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment that no one can take from you.
This interview and article was intended to be out months ago, but due to unforeseen circumstances The Indie Mag was behind schedule and would like to personally apologize to Mr. O’keefe and Get Yobi for the delay and thank them for their time and professionalism. We wish you the best of luck in your adventures and top notch platform.