Bo Grafsgard had been working on a business plan for a vaping and CBD store for more than two years before a providential conversation with a customer while working at a gas station changed the course of his career. Fast forward to last Friday, Grasfgard’s shop, Stratosphere, was not only real, it celebrated its first year of business.
Grafsgard says that the amount of evolution and growth that the business has had in the first year has exceeded all of their expectations.
“We had plans that were a lot more humble than what they are now. It’s been exciting for sure.” Grafsgard said.
More than just your average smoke shop, Stratosphere has a relaxed, inviting atmosphere, with shelves bursting with vaping products and accessories, a variety of CBD products, topical lotions, Kratom extracts, and the recent addition of glassware and water pipes.
According to statistics published by the Small Business Administration in 2019, 33% of businesses fail in their first year, a milestone that rarely brings profitability. Bo’s wife, Savanah, credits the leaps the business has taken to all the effort spent learning about not only the products on the market, but also the needs of their clients. What has been surprising for the Grafsgards, is the variety of customers walking through their doors.
“Obviously cannabis is a popular thing, but you’d expect that’s mostly with 24- to 35-year-old. What surprised me was to see how big the market was in the other demographics,” Bo said, “We have soccer moms and grandmas coming in. We’ve got people helping their children. It’s a broader spectrum than we thought it was going to be. I think convenience helps a lot”
While North Dakota did legalize medical marijuana in 2016, it has been notoriously difficult for some patients to jump through the hoops with their providers to get prescriptions. As of July 6, there are 8,024 active patient cards in North Dakota, according to the Department of Health.
While hemp derived products like the Delta variants currently on the market are much less potent than actual medical cannabis or legal recreational products, they nonetheless have been popular with Stratosphere’s diverse client base.
“We don’t tell people what they can and can’t do with it. We tell them to use their own better judgment, and we can use our own experience. We do tell them to be mindful about how it affects them to make those good choices. I feel like we’re doing our part by giving them that type of education.” Savanah said. “It’s just helping people have a better quality of life, helping them achieve the result that they want to change their life.”
The Stratosphere team are pleased with the successes of the last year, but for Bo the long-term success of the business will come from cultivating and establishing lasting relationships with every client he serves.
“We had a gentleman come in, he walked through the door and he could barely stand. I pulled one of the drinks we had. He drank that and we were talking, by the time he left, he walked out on his own. Or if a guy comes in and tells me he hasn’t smoked a cigarette in six months. That is what I look for. Everything is just a happy consequence of what I do to get those feelings basically.” Bo said.
The Grafsgard’s aren’t going to rest on their laurels, with a line of Stratosphere-branded products on the horizon, and aspirations of expanding beyond one store, Minot, and even the state.
“I am not here to just own little hole in the wall smoke shop. Stratosphere is going to be more than just a local name. It’s going be a statewide and who knows it might even be in multiple states someday.” Bo said, “It has been the most fulfilling and exciting year in my life, because I’ve been able to share it with her (Savanah) and my family and the people around me. I’m living the dream.”