Prohibition - Christopher Mennillo, CEO


May 16, 2018  Tell us about the PROHIBITION concept.

Christopher Mennillo:  Prohibition is the obvious choice for all smokers in Canada. We take pride in supplying a vast selection of quality smoking accessories. Our boutiques specialize in retailing high quality smoking products, coupled with excellent customer service and an inviting ambiance. How and when did you become involved with PROHIBITION?

Christopher Mennillo:  Prohibition is a company my father started over 30 years ago. What started as a flea market stand has since evolved to the best smoking accessories chain in the world. I have always been involved with the family business, to one extent or another. As I was graduating from John Molson, school of business, I was also running my first corporate location. During this time, the potential of the Cannabis industry fully dawned on me and resulted in an epiphany. Prohibition needed better branding, a proper organizational structure and a franchise model. Luckily, at the time I wasn’t the only person to come to this conclusion. Another corporate storeowner, with a background in franchising, had the same vision. His name is Brian Demers and he is my business partner in the Prohibition franchise. Together, we have completely redefined our company and have reshaped the cannabis industry.  What was your background prior to joining PROHIBITION?

Christopher Mennillo:  Prior to creating the Prohibition franchise and head office, I was a corporate storeowner. Once I realized the potential behind the brand and industry, I pitched the owner the idea of creating a head office and with it, a franchise.  What are some of the advantages in being a PROHIBITION franchisee?

Christopher Mennillo:  There are a multitude of advantages that come with owning a Prohibition franchise, but if I needed to only name a few, I would list the following:

Price protection policy.

Most franchises make money wherever they can. One of those ways is by supplying “product” to their franchisees. Who are bound by their franchise agreements to buy from the franchisor, whom could then charge any amount they wish. In an effort to protect our franchisees, we offer a price protection policy. Which, in brief, states that if a franchisee discovers the same product sold by Prohibition, elsewhere for less, Prohibition must either match the price or allow the franchisee to purchase elsewhere.

Structure of a franchise, with the comfort of a partnership.

Everyone wants a well-established and well-structured franchisor. Franchisees want to feel secure and wish to diminish the level of risk that is normally associated with opening a small business. Hence the basic desire to open a franchise and not start a small business. However, the major draw back that comes with opening a franchise, is that you essentially become a number or a sheep, all depending on your metaphorical preference. Your ideas, concerns, thoughts and questions all fall on deaf ears. Franchisors want you to abide by their structure and keep silent. One of the things that makes Prohibition so great, is we actually treat our franchisees like our business partners. We value everyone’s opinion and pool everyone’s intellect to create an unstoppable team. So, our franchisees get to benefit from the same solid structure and professionalism they could expect from any other franchise, but they can also rest assured knowing they have some pull.

Capitalize on a growing market.

One of the key variables to consider when selecting a franchise is the industry that the franchise operates within. Has the market reached maturity? Has it already entered the stage of decline? In the case of the Cannabis industry, the market is still only in its introductory stage, with growth right around the corner. Making Prohibition one of the few franchise companies with vast reserves of market growth, guaranteed to take effect in the coming months. Deloitte, for example, published a report last year that found 22 per cent of adult Canadians use marijuana at least some of the time. Based on that number, Deloitte estimates the base retail market value of recreational marijuana could be up to $8.7 billion. But in arriving at these estimates, Deloitte included another 17 per cent of respondents who said they “might” try marijuana if legalized, suggesting the total potential marketplace…is close to 40% of the adult population!

Expertise and experience.

This point goes hand in hand with my last. The cannabis industry is vastly appealing and many people will want to get involved. One thing these individuals should consider is the level of knowledge that is needed in order to be success. There is an abundant amount of product knowledge, laws and regulations, market trends and general know-how that is needed to efficiently operate in this space. This is ultimately what Prohibition offers. We have been “Smoking Since 1984” and we intend on remaining industry leaders for years to come.  Who is your ideal franchisee?

Christopher Mennillo: One might think our ideal franchisee would be cannabis smoker, someone who has always been an advocate and who is passionate about the industry. However, this is not the case. Being a cannabis consumer does not better prepare you for being an ideal Prohibition franchisee. That would be the equivalent of saying, I love to drink coffee therefore I am a perfect candidate for a Tim Hortons franchise. In regards to cannabis, all that is needed is a respect for the industry. We have franchisees that do not smoke, but admire the market potential and ease of operating a Prohibition. Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to be a cannabis consumer with enthusiasm for the products we sell. I am simply stating that even a non-smoker can consider our franchise. But I digress; our ideal franchisee is a person with strong motivation and drive. A person who realizes how difficult it is to start, develop and operate a viable business from scratch, and who, therefore, would like a franchisor's support. A person, who is not only good at learning new things, but who is also able to motivate and train others.  Tell us a little about the PROHIBITION Market?

Christopher Mennillo:  Nearly five million Canadians spent money on marijuana last year, spending an average of about $1,200 each, according to new federal data. That's one of the main takeaways of a Statistics Canada report that attempts to quantify the size of the market leading up to legalization in the summer of 2018. A market that currently has an estimated value of over 6 Billion dollars a year.  What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

Christopher Mennillo:

  • Never underestimate yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
  • Consider the market, not just the concept.  Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

Christopher Mennillo:  My father is a successful entrepreneur, who additionally was the founder of Prohibition. His merciless dedication and hard work have always been an inspiration to me. The most valuable lesson he taught me was nothing good comes easily or alternatively good things take time. This is true for all entrepreneurs, franchisors or franchisees. There is no replacement for hard work.  What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

Christopher Mennillo:  There is an expression in venture capital, “Invest in people, not companies”. Now, I feel I should express that this is technically only half true. A company has many assets, both tangible and intangible, that may be worth investing in. So really, this expression is not stating that people are the only variable worth considering, but rather this expression emphasizes just how important people are in relationship to a successful company. All this to say, my advice to anyone looking to acquire a franchise, is evaluate not only the franchise, but also the people behind the brand.  In your opinion, why do you think that PROHIBITION would be a great opportunity for someone?

Christopher Mennillo:  Prohibition, unlike many other franchises, is very easy to operate. Normally, a franchise requires your full and undivided attention in order to function, whereas Prohibition franchisees have the luxury of managing their locations within a brief few hours a week. The fact that the market is about to explode is just a bonus. With or without legalization, Prohibition is a very sound investment. Legalization and the resulting decrease in stigma is just the icing on the cake.

To find learn more about the Prohibition franchise concept, visit them here at