Saturday, December 9, 2023

How To Successfully Scale An MSO – Q&A with Stone Road Farm’s COO Sabrina Wheeler


Stone Road Farm expands into New Mexico this month. It marks the 5th marketplace and state for the California-born weed brand. Founded by Lex Corwin in 2016 at the age of 23, Stone Road Farm has gained quick notoriety in the industry as a pioneering queer-led, family-run cannabis brand.

Its floral, whimsical design combined with high-quality weed has opened up Stone Road’s product offerings to appeal to more than one homogenous type of consumer. Stone Road Farm is now available in over 400 retailers across California, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Mexico. 

Sabrina Wheeler, COO of Stone Road Farm.
Sabrina Wheeler, COO of Stone Road Farm.

Hall of Flowers spoke with COO Sabrina Wheeler to learn more about the company’s successful strategy to scale to multi-state operator (MSO) status. Wheeler, who joined the Stone Road Farm team as Director of National Brand Expansion in 2022, rose quickly in the ranks to Chief Operations Officer. Her work has been integral and boosting Stone Road’s standing as a successful MSO and a key member of the brand’s growth in California, Michigan, and New Mexico.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all plan,” says the COO.

Stone Road is known for reimagining what accessible cannabis products can look like for a new generation of smokers. With Wheeler at the helm of expansion, Stone Road is now available in over 350 retail outlets in California, 55 retail outlets in Oklahoma, 25 retail outlets in Massachusetts, and retail outlets across the state of Michigan. Wheeler and Corwin are about to celebrate the launch Stone Road’s 5th state of New Mexico in October of 2023.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Wheeler was raised in homes across the U.S., and would eventually launch her first start-up tech venture by age 20. The business prodigy decided to move across the country to work in the cannabis industry within two weeks of recreational cannabis being legalized in California. Wheeler worked as a budtender, climbing the ranks over time from Sales Trainer and Events Liaison to Territory Manager. In 2019, Wheeler joined the team at Old Pal where she helped propel the brand in its launch.

In 2022, she found a home on the team at Stone Road Farm as the Director of Multi-State Expansion. The role led Wheeler organically into her current role of Chief Operations Officer. Throughout her career, Sabrina has been a key part of building several cannabis brands from their infancy stages to potent, accessible products capable of cultural dominance.

“Since my first day entering the cannabis arena, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to be and strategically worked my way there,” says Wheeler. “I never once steered away from my vision and plan of execution.” Wheeler’s background working across the cannabis supply chain has given her the experience needed to successfully spearhead Stone Road’s expansion across the legal US markets. 

Pre-rolls from Stone Road Farm are hand-rolled.

Here are 3 tips from the COO on scaling responsibly:

  1. Consistency is key
    • Wheeler stresses the importance of keeping brand quality and consistency across all markets. This hyper-focus on consistent production ensures customers have the same Stone Road experience whether they are buying flower in California, Massachusetts, or anywhere in between.
  2. Be strategic with SKUs
    • Sabrina has found it beneficial to tailor Stone Road’s core SKUs to fit where the market lacks – ex. she developed a 10pk of .5g prerolls specifically for MA – whereas in all our other states, our 10pks are .7g each. 
  3. Focus on community
    • Sabrina makes a point to connect with the larger cannabis community—everyone from retail-level decision-makers (found on the floor at Hall of Flowers) to micro-influencers—in each market. This helps the brand grow in an organic + long-lasting way. She has found that customers want to connect + support the people behind a brand, their mission, and ethos. 

The flower from Stone Road is sun-grown and meticulously curated, cultivated on its 57-acre, off-grid, biodynamic farm in Nevada City, California. Stone Road is committed to giving consumers only the best whole-flower bud, never using shake, filler, or distillate-sprayed weed. All Stone Road joints are always potent, hand-rolled, and sold in stunning sustainable packaging that is 99% recyclable. When its founder Corwin is not hand-rolling farm fresh joints in California, he can be found cultivating new connections to partners who share his commitment to high-quality and affordable products in each new market as Stone Road expands across the US. 

Stone Road Farm founder Lex Corwin and COO Sabrina Wheeler.
Stone Road Farm founder Lex Corwin and COO Sabrina Wheeler.

Corwin, alongside his COO Wheeler, has built the brand from the ground up, as a two-person team, to become the leading vertically integrated, multi-state brand it is today. Stone Road’s commitment has enabled them to acheive MoM and YoY growth amidst unprecedented industry challenges.

Success doesn’t come overnight. “It took almost 5 years to meet Lex and find the company and position I had wanted and knew I was ready for,” says Wheeler. “It took endlessly grinding day in and out, taking jobs I was overqualified for, overcoming adversity, and more to get to that point. Now that I am here, I continue to fiercely prove the vision I’ve had and to break glass ceilings that so many people feel confined by in cannabis.” 

Cannabis pre-roll in the garden at Stone Road Farm.
News of Flowers
News of Flowers
The news writers at Hall of Flowers, industry insiders and experts in the field.

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