by Dave Adalian
In the unlikeliest of places--an abandoned citrus packing house nestled among the orange groves on the outskirts of Woodlake in eastern Tulare County--an unlikely pair of business partners is showing the rest of the cannabis industry just how well it can be done.
The unlikely partners--7Points CEO Wayne Bishop and the company’s operations manager Ryan Clark--have turned a disused orange processing plant into what promises to be one of the state’s premiere destinations for cannabis aficionados. Already producing and distributing 100 pounds of high-quality cannabis flowers a week, Bishop and Clark have plans to turn 7Points into an eco-friendly, cannabis-centered meeting space, event forum, entertainment venue and cannabis business incubator.
And it all started with a cup of coffee.
Chemistry that’s hard to beat
While Bishop spent the early years of his career as a project manager working mainly in power generation and agriculture, Clark was busy teaching himself the art of growing cannabis in his mother’s backyard. Both excelled in their fields, with Bishop rising to become president of CH4 Energy while Clark went from being a self-described “black market” grower to an award-winning medical cannabis producer.
Then came the fateful day they both decided they needed a cup of joe. While standing in line at the coffee shop, they struck up a conversation and a dream was born. The chance meeting led to a new chapter in the lives of both men and for the nascent recreational cannabis business.
Armed with a vision of what the cannabis industry should be and a work ethic that could make it work, they set about turning the dream into reality.
“Between him and me, it’s a chemistry that’s hard to beat,” Bishop said. “We just put a lot of horsepower out when we came together.”
The two created a cannabis cultivation company unlike any other, one that has the potential to become the model other entrepreneurs will aim for, what they’ll want their business to become.
“The two of us have been a great match for getting it to where it is now,” Clark said.
Cannabis for adults
What makes 7Points different is Bishop and Clark’s focus not only on cannabis, but on creating an adult experience. 7Points is a major step away from the “stoner” culture, a sophisticated player in an industry that is often times brash and cartoonish.
“We want to be a place you come hang out,” Bishop said. “Like when you go to a winery, that welcoming feeling is what we want in order to keep people coming back.” It also establishes firmly that 7Points is not fly-by-night.
“There’s no bling to this business, no flair,” said Bishop. “It’s just a down-to-Earth business that’s run from the heart.”
For Clark, 7Points is in a way the completion of his journey from the black-market production of his youth, through the graymarket years of medical cannabis cultivation, and into the legitimate recreational cannabis industry. Finally, he can practice his profession openly and proudly.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to share,” Clark said. “I even brought my 82-year-old grandmother here for a tour. That look on her face. She was blown away.” Clark says the 7Points approach to cannabis changed the way his grandmother thinks about the plant. “It’s opened her mind up,” he said. “She’s using CBD.”
Farming to protect the future
Staying grounded, says Bishop, is key to how 7Points intends to present itself.
“We’re a group of farmers. Our investors are farmers,” he said. “We’re in a farming community. We want to keep that near and dear to us.” For seven long years the former Sun Pacific citrus packing facility on Naranjo Boulevard in Woodlake, once a major employer for the town of about 7,600 souls, sat empty. Buildings that once bustled with the business of sorting, juicing and shipping citrus fruit were empty and streaked with rust. Yet where others saw a remnant of an industry that was flagging, 7Points saw opportunity.
The old packing house was about as far from the wineries of Napa Valley or Paso Robles as it’s possible to get. But not for long. Bishop, who also has a background in construction, turned what has become 7Points’ home into a stylish, elegant setting. And he did it by repurposing as much of the packing house’s original building material as possible.
What were once the walls of the juicing room are now part of the executive meeting room. In the conference room, a huge slab of pine has become a custom table, dark and rich, and antique shutters now hide a computerized whiteboard. In the building’s entrance, support members that once stood among the rattling and clanging sorting machines have been refashioned into a beautiful wooden ceiling. The method Bishop chose for the remodeling embodies two of 7Points’ guiding principles: a never-say-die attitude and a strong desire for sustainability.
“I just think it goes to show we didn’t go out and buy more furniture and cut down more trees,” he said. “We did as much as we could with what we had. We made it work.”
The reuse of materials is just one of the ways 7Points is minimizing its environmental footprint. As the business grows, Bishop intends to introduce composting of the biomass the growing process creates. They’ll soon be growing in a “closed loop,” recapturing the nutrients used for their grows, using them again and again as well as keeping them from becoming pollutants.
They’ve also used the building’s original layout as much as possible, turning what were once cold storage areas into grow rooms. The basement is now the fertilizer room, where nutrients are mixed in giant vats then pumped to rooms lit with artificial sunlight and filled to capacity with flowering cannabis plants.
Rising tide to lift all boats
The story of 7Points is also the story of the town of Woodlake, the first city in Tulare County to embrace the recreational cannabis business. The rise of the cannabis business has meant a renaissance, creating jobs and tax revenue, and a new sense of purpose the city fathers have been quick to embrace.
"There’s a potential there, also,” said City Manager Ramon Lara. “We’re big in attracting general traffic to our city, and we’ve seen that with some of our cannabis facilities. They’re eating here, they’re pumping gas here. We believe it’s positive all the way around.”
7Points, in its first three months of operation, have generated about $33,000 in tax revenue and in the first phase of growth added some 15 jobs with as many as 100 by the time the company reaches its full potential. And there’s a sense of renewal as the project grows in scope. “It’s an old business that wasn’t being used. They’re adding curbs, cutters and lights,” Lara said. “That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. We might have had to pay that in the future.” And the appearance of 7Points has literally stretched the city’s boundaries. The land where the 7Points facility sits, once controlled by the county, has been annexed into the city limits. All of this has been accomplished in 17 short months.
Just getting started.
There’s more to come. In the second and third phases of expansion, 7Points will triple its growing capacity and the number of people it employs. The final phase--the one Bishop calls ”a big animal”--will see 40 more hires as 7Points constructs a combined-light greenhouse that will bring its growing space to more than 100,000 square feet. But a big part of 7Points’ plan is to draw people. To that end, Bishop and Clark intend to create an experience that will draw the curious as well as cannabis-lovers. Visitors will be able to see how their cannabis is grown, hand-trimmed and cured. They’ll be able to consume it on-site, and not just by smoking it.
7Points will be making its own edibles and has plans to bring a chocolatiere into the business. “We want to offer a full suite of options,” Bishop said. “That includes using our trim for oil, getting our kitchen up for edibles.” Encouraged by 7Points’ success so far, the city’s leaders have asked the company to purchase 18 additional acres that will become a cannabis business incubator. “We’re really just developing it as a cannabis park with people either developing their own construction, or we’ll do the entire construction for them,” Bishop said. While encouraging others to join the industry and take a cut of the market may seem counterintuitive, Bishop believes it’s key to creating success for everyone.
“I’m not worried about competition,” he said. “I think this industry still has a long way to go. We’re in this for the long-term, and the only way to really do that is develop sites for other folks.”
Clark says Bishop’s attitude about encouraging others, paired with the company’s work ethic, are truly what sets 7Points apart from others in the industry. “Being able to really explore the craft, having tools I never had before, it’s a really big thing,” he said. In the end, Bishop says, creating 7Points is ultimately about building teams, not a single business. “I think the teamwork and the team that we’re building, I hope it all stays together. They love what we’re doing,” he said. “They really are the assets. It’s not the equipment.”
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