MI: Hey Chad! Thanks for meeting with me today. To start things off: Where are you from? What do you do?
CE: My name is Chad Everwine. I lived in Pedricktown, New Jersey for the past 18 years, although I’m originally from Bedford, New Jersey. I work for a small medium sized company called WaWa, a chain of convenience stores that sells gas with a full deli service inside. I started as an assistant general manager and worked my way up through store ranks. Eventually I realized that is just wasn’t my niche. I had a great boss and he noticed that I had some other skills. So, I moved over to work in a distribution center as an inbound and outbound analyst.
Eventually we started a forecasting team. For the past 14 years, I’ve done sales forecasting and automated store replenishment. We worked on regional level, so I did inventory management as well.
MI: Tell me about Twisted Hat Cannabis. What makes your company unique?
CE: We’re going to be in the desert of cannabis. That’s the fast and easy answer. Matt Santeniello and I have been friends since we were children. He may dispute this, but he beat me up in the 8th grade...and we’ve been friend ever since! We both always shared a deep love for cannabis. In our early 20’s, somewhere around ‘95 or ‘96, I got pulled over by the police and Matt was in the car with me. Matt ended up getting arrested for having cannabis in the car. It was mine as well, but Matt took the entire blame for it. He ended up getting arrested again for the same thing shortly thereafter.
Jump forward to 2021, and New Jersey starts to release all their regulations and legalize it all with a 66% percent vote. Matt and I always wanted start a business together. We tried doing it together when we were younger but we were dumbasses, you know? We were in our 20’s. Young, dumb and, no money, but never let that get rid of our entrepreneurial spirits.
The years went on. I continued working at Wah Wah, while Matt was with his small extermination company. As New Jersey started to come out with its regulations, the state developed a Social Equity class, which specifically benefitted people who were arrested for cannabis related offenses. Since Matt had been arrested, that was an amazing opportunity for us. We jumped at the possibility of operating a cannabis business together. Everything really seemed to line up. It was like it was meant to be.
As soon as New Jersey legalized cannabis and all the regulations started coming out, we looked at the industry and started trying to figure out how to get into it. It looked like there was so much money in the industry, but we weren’t focused on that. We said “forget about the money. We could go be working in the Cannabis business!”, and that was enough for us. We started and, man let me tell you, it was so much harder than we thought it was going to be.
Eventually we got to the point where we needed a Business Plan. So, I said, “I’ll write the Business Plan! There should be no problem with that.” But the deeper I got into the Business Plan and the more I went back and forth between the regulations, the more my confidence started to dwindle. I realized that it was going to have to be perfect, especially with all the regulations and requirements.
Matt Santeniello and I have always had this loose goal of being the only dispensary in South Jersey, but it seemed so unattainable at this point. We sat down at his kitchen table and argued for over two hours about what we going to do. We went back and forth between how we were going to move forward and write this Business Plan.
Somehow, we ended up on the phone with Matt Khalili from the Plan Writers. And he told us that he had a guy looking to do a Social Equity plan for a cannabis business in New Jersey.
We had about $30,000 or $40,000 in our pockets. So, Matt Khalili pitched the idea about helping us all the way through by making him a partner. A lot of people said this idea was not great. But from my point of view, it has been invaluable. Matt Khalili and Paul have been totally invaluable. I text Paul any time of the week and he is always immediately responsive. He has been such a huge help in tackling the regulations and deciphering the exact requirements of each. Paul has given me the confidence and has helped me prepare to go to a bunch of meetings.
Long story short, Paul helped us throw our Business Plan and license application together, and on the first try, we got it approved. No cure notices. Nothing. We were one of the first 25 companies to be granted a license, so that was amazing.
MI: Are there some challenges you are finding in the Cannabis Industry.
CE: Finding real estate in NJ is proving to be quite the challenge. We wanted to start in Woodbury, and the way Woodbury had written their ordinances, hit those ordinances was going to be an uphill battle. So again, Paul helped me put tougher a Business Plan, a pitch deck, and set up all the paperwork for the meetings. Unfortunately, we got denied for Woodbury, just because they wanted businesses with pharmaceutical experience and we only wanted to be a cannabis dispensary.
Right now, we are in Carney’s point and, lemme tell you, I have gone door to door trying to find a place. I have talked to almost every business owner (and a few of the residents) to just try and find a place for our dispensary.
At the moment, we’ve got a 500 sq ft. space. The rent is $2,500 a month. Needless to say, it’s gonna be a challenge, but there is huge opportunity. Carney’s Point is offering licenses for two dispensaries. So, we have a lot of people who want cannabis, and there’s almost nowhere to get it. We’re near Delaware as well, so hopefully we can get consumers from there. So, within a few miles of us, there’s already a bunch of warehouses full of employees. We’re in the right spot for growth and traffic.
MI: What would you say your mission is in the industry?
CE: I would say that it’s to help remove the negative stigma surrounding the cannabis industry; To show the country and people that it isn’t bad for everyone. Our plan is to see profit from the industry, obviously, but we want to show people that it’s safe and that there are many benefits to cannabis. I’ve been in Pendricktown for a long time and it’s very small. I have two children who are 18 and 19. For the past few years, I’ve coached soccer and baseball etc. I’m a member of that community. So, our goal is to be able to deliver cannabis, not just in a responsible way, but to be an active member of the community by giving back. We have an opportunity to help the kids in the community and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
MI: What advice would you give first-time entrepreneurs?
Answer: I guess the biggest piece of advice I would give is something I got when I was 17 years old. Persistence beats resistance. There’s a hurdle everywhere you look and there’s a bunch that you’ve never seen before. So, if you refuse to give up, then you’ll have to eventually succeed.
MI: Do you have a favorite strain?
CE: OG Kush has been a long time favorite of mine.
MI: What are some of your favorite book/films/ podcasts?
CE: NJ CRC 17:30. It’s the only thing I read these days. 261 of pages of torture. Honestly, the only things I have time to read are business books. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. “Blue Ocean” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne is another business book that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m always a huge Star Wars fan, so I’ve read almost every paperback novel. As far as listening, I’m a big music guy and most of what I listen to is classic rock, 90’s Hip Hop, and the Howard Stern show.
MI: How has a Business Plan written by the Plan Writers, helped you and your business?
CE: It’s been invaluable. It helps keeps the idea alive. Having a plan, something to follow through with, and having something in front of you is the key to persistence. When you get knocked of the trail, you can always come back to it.
Having a good plan has other benefits as well. It helps to keep the vultures away.
Matt Santeniello and I try to go to as many cannabis expos as we can. We were in Atlantic City a month or so ago, and everyone is trying to sell themselves as the “answer to your problems”. They’re all nice people; I’m not trying to talk smack about them. There are other companies who do the same thing you guys do. But when we tell others where we are in the process, other companies seem to turn off and then that’s the end of the conversation. Having a GOOD Business Plan helps you out immensely.
During that same expo, there was an attorney who does similar stuff to the Plan Writers (help with business plans, investors etc.). So, we met with him afterward just to discuss some of his services, and he seemed like a well-informed guy. We spent an hour and a half on the phone with him and during that entire time, he basically showed us that all the things that Matt Khalili and Paul had already done for us. The only thing he could add was to advise us to bring the materials we already had to investors. Even the stuff the lawyer needed; Paul had already taken care of it. Before that, he was asking for $250,000 dollars. After he saw the work Matt Khalili and Paul had done, he started to cut his price back.
Having that support, and knowing that you guys [the Plan Writers] are getting good work done for you, all throughout the process...it makes it easier to turn away the vultures. It’s the “Green Rush”, so it seems like everybody is out to take advantage of you. Everyone wants to charge you 10 times more than what is necessary. Knowing that we have a great support team allows us to focus on what we want to do.
MI: Would you recommend the Plan Writers to other business owners?
CE: Absolutely. In fact, I already have! I suggested the Plan Writers to my friends as well as other business owners at a bunch of the expos, and I gave a testimonial to another one of our customers. I have nothing short of praise for Paul. He’s an amazing guy. I can’t say enough good words about him. It’s been absolutely amazing, working with the Plan Writers all the way through.
MI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CE: Price is what scares people, I’m sure. If you want to be able to execute at such a high level, then you’re going to have to pay the price. That’s the thing; your competition has unlimited pockets, so it doesn’t matter. Price doesn’t matter. Some things require a professional touch, and if you don’t have it, it shows in your output. And if your Business Plan doesn’t scream “success”, you’re probably not gonna make it.
Born in Woodbury, New Jersey, husband, and proud father of two, Chad Everwine, has worked at Wawa Inc. for the past 22 years. Chad attended Gloucester County College in Sewell, New Jersey, and Immaculata University, where he studied organizational dynamics. A large part of Chad’s current role is completed in SAP software, for which he completes regular training programs to stay on the cutting edge of current technology.
Chad’s first five years were spent in retail store management, where he specialized in inventory control, store safety procedures, and team building. Chad eventually left operations to perform project work related to perpetual inventory management, store delivery procedures, cold chain processes, and tobacco chain-of- custody standards, before eventually joining Wawa’s Forecasting and Replenishment team. In his current role, Chad is considered a subject-matter expert in sales forecasting, software configuration, and inventory analysis. Chad manages sales forecasting and store replenishment for 1.8 million product/locations daily, while also creating and executing regional inventory training plans for over 200 stores.
Chad has given back to the community through several charitable works, including 13 years as a weekly financial contributor to the Wawa Associates in Need Fund, providing regular financial donations to JDRF Foundation, financial donations to Logan Lions Youth Football, Logan Basketball, CP-PG-PED Little League, food and clothing donations to Planet Aid and Food is Free, and sports equipment donations to Logan Lions Youth Football and CP-PG-PED Little League. Additionally, Chad has committed time to City Team Ministries in Philadelphia, 5K Tiger Run in Oldmans, New Jersey, 15 years of coaching youth Football, Basketball, Soccer and Baseball/Softball, providing transportation to underprivileged youth to enable them to participate in sports. Chad also provides logistics program consulting at Salem County Vocational Technical High School. When Chad is not working, he enjoys time with family and friends, as well as most outdoor activities, including skiing, water skiing, dirt biking, hiking, paintball, gardening, and of course, a passion for cannabis.