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Cannabis Entrepreneur Spotlight: Gates McKnight, Director of Dispensary Operations, Purspirit

Bridge West Consulting had an opportunity to speak with Gates McKnight, Director of Dispensary Operations, Purspirit. Purspirit is a dispensary located in Fayetteville, Arkansas that opened in 2019, serving medical patients. We are proud to spotlight this cannabis entrepreneur!

What was your background before entering the cannabis industry? 

Gates McKnight is the Director of Dispensary Operations at Purspirit, a Medical Marijuana Dispensary located in Northwest Arkansas. Gates opened Purspirit in 2019; however, he began his retail career long before the cannabis industry exploded. With over 25 years of retail experience, Gates understands the importance of customer interactions and the significance of employee-to-patient interactions. He realizes that the key to a successful business and retaining long-lasting customers is to make the interactions memorable and comfortable for their patients. Gates explains, “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s always important to take care of our patients and our goal is that they are happy with their experience at Purspirit.”

How did you get the idea for your dispensary?

Several partners wanted to bring in other investors with management agreements while traveling to other dispensaries throughout the United States. Gates visited the same dispensaries and wanted to see the ideas his partners were getting from these visits. Initially, they tried to make the stores look clean and uniform, but Gates wanted to take a step back. Since they were in a small town in Arkansas, he thought that their dispensary needed to be uniform and fit in with their surroundings. Gates commented on the style they were going for, “We wanted our dispensary to be welcoming so that if your mother visited, it would be a comfortable environment. We wanted bright lights and a good atmosphere.”

What advice would you give to other dispensaries?

Gates discussed a critical point when exploring ideas for opening a dispensary. He said, “It is vital to read the regulations for your state forward and backward. If you think you know it, read it again. If you’re starting a new dispensary in a medical or recreational state, make the regulators your friends from the beginning.”

At the very beginning of their build and branding for Purspirit, Gates had the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control – which controls cannabis regulations in Arkansas) on-site with them. This ensured that the ABC knew everything that was going on throughout the process and there was a lot of transparency. The process of renovating and putting together Purspirit took about four months. During the entire build-out, they invited the ABC several times to check out what was going on during the entire building process. Gates said, “They’re not your enemies. They are just there to enforce the rules.”

During the hiring process, there was, fortunately, no shortage of workers in the cannabis space at that time. Even now, many people still work at Purspirit who have been there since the beginning. Gates explained, “Our patient interactions are positive and we always give our patients as much time as they need.  The customer interaction is very important to us; we want to know our patients—everyone from their budtenders to their receptionists. Everyone is important, but the most important person is the receptionist. It is the first person they speak with when they arrive and the last person they interact with on the way out.”

Can you tell us about the relationship you have with your patients and if you regularly educate them about cannabis? 

Gates explained, “99% of the time, we educate our patients about cannabis on-site. Some patients know exactly what they want, and we also have a lot of patients that are new to cannabis, and apprehensive about it. We usually pair that person with an experienced budtender who is good with that clientele. To make our patients feel more at ease, we will meet with them to discuss their needs and make sure they are comfortable with the process and experience.”

What is the source of your products? 

Gates has had relationships with their cultivators since day one. Purspirit is seed to sale, and all of their products are grown only in the state of Arkansas. “Sometimes it makes this process easier since there is a smaller number of people we deal with and order from. It creates closer relationships with our cultivators too, which is crucial for us.”

Before Purspirit opened, they had the opportunity to visit cultivators throughout Arkansas to decide which products they would carry in their dispensary. Gates said, “It’s essential to know the quality of the products, and it’s important to establish those relationships at the very beginning.” It helped us determine pricing to carry their products in the dispensary because prices vary each time you order new product.

Purspirit set-up estimates to quantify how much product they would need on a monthly basis. They set-up flat rates to consistently have product come in and Gates ensures that they maintain their ongoing relationship with their cultivators. Someone with a smaller vault like Purspirit must reorder products to fill the vault nearly two to three times a month. Having cultivators who can stay on a consistent delivery schedule is key for dispensaries the size of Purspirit.

How did COVID affect your business? 

During the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, business was booming when people thought they would have to stay inside for weeks. People were buying and stocking up a lot which helped businesses immensely. 2022 has been different now because people are back to work and can do more than during the pandemic. Purspirit keeps up with the changes, and ensures they only have the products they need, do not overbuy, and sit on inventory they can’t sell. Since Gates has years of retail experience, he prepares and manages inventory and makes intelligent business decisions to keep the business profitable.

Do you have any hobbies you like to pursue in your free time? 

Gates enjoys running and will run in races and marathons from time to time. He has several running friends who he travels with visiting different parts of the United States and other countries to run marathons. The furthest race he has traveled to was in Barcelona, Spain!

About Purspirit Cannabis Co.

Purspirit Cannabis Co. is Fayetteville’s premier Medical Marijuana Dispensary. Established in 2019, we supply customers in Northwest Arkansas with the area’s largest in-store selection of cannabis products. Our always expanding inventory includes THC and CBD edibles, tinctures, concentrates, flower, and much more!

Our helpful staff is always available to offer expert advice, create tailor-made treatment plans, and provide compassionate care every step of the way! We help our patients understand our products and what to expect so they can make educated decisions before they buy. Learn more and find everything you need at Purspirit Cannabis Co.