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2021 Merchant Growth Small Business of the Year Award

Merchant Growth believes in doing our part to contribute to the success of Canadian small businesses. We understand that being a small business owner comes with its own challenges such as dealing with uncertainty and economic instability, which small business owners can not control. That’s why we feel it is important to take the opportunity to recognize small businesses through our Merchant Growth Small Business of the Year Award. 

This award is presented to the Merchant Growth client that best exemplifies what it means to not only be a Merchant Growth customer using financing to build a stronger business, providing case studies and testimonials and working with our team, but also to small businesses that has not only survived through great uncertainty in the last year but have grown and expanded. 

To that end, we are pleased to present our first annual Small Business of the Year Award to Prairie Cannabis of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

The Challenge for Cannabis

As difficult as it is for any business to access capital, traditional lenders are notorious for automatically rejecting cannabis businesses, even though cannabis has been legal and regulated in Canada since 2018. Existing biases coupled with additional factors such as cannabis not being legal in the United States means that these companies face unnecessary hurdles when trying to get financing and grow their business

As Prairie Cannabis explains, no matter how lucrative the industry is, the stigma still looms: “Basic services that most small businesses expect to be able to access have been denied to businesses in the cannabis space. Insurance, banking, and financial services offered to the industry are few and far between.” 

A Values-First Family Business

Prairie Cannabis is a sibling-run operation overseen by Jim Southam and his sister Janet who have a knack for working together. Believers in cannabis, they wanted to be part of the solution and innovation in this exciting new industry in the country. When the Saskatchewan government held a lottery for 51 licenses in 32 municipalities, they were able to secure a permit in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where they opened the first Prairie Cannabis location in December 2018. 

Since then, they have opened up an additional two stores in Saskatoon, and are in the process of opening their fourth location in Elbow, Saskatchewan. Strong believers in supporting other small businesses, they have also partnered with other independent cannabis retailers in the province, and two other cannabis stores in Ontario.

Across all aspects of their business, Prairie Cannabis highlights that success doesn’t come from working on one’s own but rather comes from connecting with and working with the right partners and people:

“Grassroots is critical in the cannabis industry. We have formed a co-operative buying group with like-minded small business owners in retail cannabis in Saskatchewan. We now plan on taking that model national. There truly is strength in numbers and we are making a name for ourselves in the cannabis world. Weed Pool Cannabis Cooperative has been a coming together of small business owners in the space to solve issues faced by small businesses in this new industry. It has been incredibly successful to date.”

Cannabis can be intimidating, but Prairie Cannabis also prides itself on a supportive environment in their stores. Leading with inclusivity and an informed approach, as they put it whether you’re “new to cannabis or a seasoned veteran we’re here to help you”. 

They also make it clear that their success has come due to the great team of people: 

“We have wonderful employees and a terrific management team who support us daily. Our employees provide an unparalleled experience for our customers and keep them coming back. Customer service is a key component in this highly competitive industry.”

How Access to Financing Without Stigma Led to Growth

As mentioned, for many businesses traditional financing is not readily available to participants in legal cannabis. In contrast, working with cannabis business owners is not a deterrent for Merchant Growth. With their business plans aimed at expansion, access to the financing that they were overlooked for in other avenues helped Prairie Cannabis to grow their business and open additional locations.

“We would not have been able to grow as quickly without this assistance from Merchant Growth. We commend them for taking this bold step and helping us prove that those in the cannabis industry are just as honest and hard-working as any other sector of the economy. 

Merchant Growth has been excellent to work with. Their processes are stream-lined and efficient. It was completely painless and very fast.”

Merchant Growth Case Study with Prairie Cannabis

An Exemplary Customer

Beyond collaborating with other businesses in their industry in order to foster growth, Prairie Cannabis has been a great customer for Merchant Growth as well. In addition to a perfect payment record, as a company that fosters collaboration and community, they’ve helped us out by providing both reviews and sharing their story with our other prospective Merchant Growth customers by participating in a case study where they also shared about their positive experience working with us.

Furthermore we always take it as the greatest compliment when any business is a repeat customer. They understand that reputation and customer service are key to running a successful business and have gone out of their way to help us out.

Hearing how their Merchant Growth financing allowed them to continue with their business expansion and overcome obstacles, in addition to their collaborative nature, makes them the ideal recipient of this year’s award.

What’s Next for Prairie Cannabis

When it comes to their hopes for the future of their business as well as the cannabis industry at large in Canada, Prairie Cannabis is happy with how their business has grown and will continue to advocate for their industry:

“We have an interest in 9 stores now—and that is enough to keep us pleasantly busy. We are enjoying being able to participate in this industry and plan to continue for many years to come. We do hope that the barriers start to come down and that more services are eventually offered to industry participants. We also hope that the stigma that still surrounds this plant starts to dissipate as more research is done and people become more comfortable with the notion of cannabis and actually try it.”

As for their business motto as well as the advice that they would offer to other small business owners, it all comes down to hard work, passion, and perseverance:

“Never give up. There is always more than one way to do something. If you give up easily, this is not the industry for you. Perseverance, dedication, commitment are just a few of the adjectives that describe people in this industry. It is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. Small wins are really important and can make your day. Doing what you love with people you care about is worth it.”


Jim Southam holding award

Jim Southam of Prairie Cannabis

Congratulations to Prairie Cannabis, well-deserved recipient of the 2021 Merchant Growth Small Business of the Year Award!

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