Cierra Sieben-Chuback graduated from the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business in June. (Photo: Tom Waldron)

Edwards Business School graduate granted cannabis retail licence

Cierra Sieben-Chuback was already busy preparing to open her first business before she even began writing her final exams this spring at the University of Saskatchewan.

By James Shewaga

A week before graduating from the Edwards School of Business, the 23-year-old U of S student was awarded one of seven licences in Saskatoon—and one of only 51 permits granted in the province from 1,502 applications—to establish a retail cannabis store. For Sieben-Chuback, it was the culmination of a whirlwind week of completing her business plan and filing her request for proposal (RFP) before the province’s April 10 deadline, all while studying for her final exams.

“The application was due on April 10 right at the beginning of university finals, so I got the application in right before I was writing my first final two days after that,” said Sieben-Chuback. “I actually drove to Regina the day that the RFP was due, just to get it in on time. I don’t know how I got it all done before finals, but I did.”

Now just one month after celebrating convocation, Sieben-Chuback is preparing to put her commerce degree to use by establishing her first business, getting in on the ground floor of the potentially lucrative recreational cannabis market, once legalization goes into effect on October 17. For Sieben-Chuback, it’s not only business, but personal.

“The fact that I got my name selected, I was obviously extremely excited,” she said. “But I also did feel like this was meant to be, to a certain point. I actually began working on this long before the RFP came out. I knew this was an industry that I wanted to be involved in, due to the fact that I have rheumatoid arthritis. I just saw this as an opportunity to provide me with the best quality of life, and other people as well. So that was my inspiration moving forward in this industry.”

Sieben-Chuback said her Edwards business courses well prepared her for this opportunity, particularly the business plan outline that she studied in associate professor Lee Swanson’s class Commerce 447: Entrepreneurship and Venture Development.

“The business plan that I wrote in that class was originally for a medical marijuana dispensary, but once these RFPs came out, I pivoted my original business plan to suit the needs of the recreational dispensary in the application,” she said. “I actually used the financial template that Lee provided us in that class, and I used that to do my financial projections for the RFP, so that in itself was so helpful. So, taking that course and walking me through the steps of what it takes to open a business, really helped me.”

Swanson said it is satisfying to know that the course curriculum has proven real-world application.

“I am very proud of Cierra, and of the excellent business plan she wrote in our Comm 447 class,” Swanson said. “She is the latest in a long line of past students who have developed, or are developing, businesses based on the work they did in that class. I’m confident she too will use her entrepreneurial skills to benefit our society by creating jobs, providing a valued product, and helping make our community an even better place in which to live.”

Sieben-Chuback is now busy turning her plan into action. She has trademarked her business name, Living Skies Cannabis, drawing on the Saskatchewan licence plate slogan, and is now working on opening her store before the end of the year, backed by her father and local business owner Glenn Chuback.

“There are a number of steps, the same as for any new business, from finding a location to getting suppliers,” she said. “There is new information coming out every day and I am just taking it all in and going from there. Growing up with a dad who is an entrepreneur, I have always been like-minded, so I do feel prepared. But that being said, I don’t think anyone is really truly prepared to start their first business, especially in a brand-new industry where a lot of the things that I am doing have never been done before. But it is so exciting.”