A lifestyle brand with medical and recreational products including flowers, edibles, and concentrates, Sweet Leaf is changing the game with it's plug-and-play retail chain model.

So how did it's trio of founders go from maxing out credit cards to building a $60M empire with 9 retail locations across Colorado and Oregon, with upcoming plans for expansion into Nevada and California?



In 2011 as the country slowly began to rise out of recession, Matt Aiken, Christian Johnson, and Anthony Sauro put all their chips in, bought 40 grow lights and rented an 8,000 square foot warehouse in Denver. Opting against outside capital, they boot strapped to get their business off the ground, $9,000 in cash and two maxed out credit cards, and a whole lotta elbow grease later, they had wings. 80% of profit was invested right back into the business. Expansion was aggressive. As a matter of fact, now that they've reached juggernaut status, they're slowing down to make sure they continue to pay attention to detail. It's one of the things they do best.

So what is it about Sweet Leaf that sets them apart from the sea of other dispensaries, and has allowed them to grow where others have faltered? Lets take a look.



Consistency

Every aspect of Sweet Leaf's branding is so on point. They use the same jars, same displays, same signage across all their platforms. The experience is curated down to the music and the way the buds, concentrates, and edibles are arranged and displayed. All the employees go through the same intensive training program, and provide the highest level of knowledge and customer service. Every store brings their A game daily.

Location, Location, Location

Sweat Leaf VP Nicole West stated "We like to use main thoroughfares...If it's the route you take to work, that's an obvious for us. They have a location around the corner from my apartment, and another near my girlfriend's job, they know what they're doing. And they like to focus on being in working class neighborhoods. Right where the people need it most. Their locations are always inviting, easily accessed, with really easy parking, which they've learned is key. People will drive pass for the place with more convenient parking. They've gotten really good at acquiring businesses from owners who wanted out of the game, and then giving those locations that signature Sweet Leaf feel and experience.

Quality Control

Sweet Leaf has a full on product testing process that keeps the employees involved. Budtenders are selected to test product and fill out a form rating it on everything from aesthetic, taste, effects, and price. This data is passed among all employees so that they are all on the sam page with customers. This data is also used to determine how products get their shelf placement. This also helps vendors, because they get a comprehensive product review for free. Most importantly, customers get they highest quality, and the best bang for their buck.

Never Forgetting Where They Came From

All three of Sweet Leaf's founders come from pretty modest backgrounds, and they don't let the success get to their heads. They don't focus on the boutique high end marijuana market, but rather they aim to be the healing center for the everyman. It's one of the things that makes the Sweet Leaf experience so sweet. You walk in and your greeted and well treated and made to feel at home. There's product of high quality in all price ranges. Their goal is that everyone can walk in and get something - college students, veterans and the elderly, working moms grabbing edibles for a girls night out - they make it so everyone can reap the benefits of that sweet leaf.

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.