Hybrid Pharm - Dr. Rahim Dhalla
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
My name is Rahim Dhalla and I am the pharmacist and owner of Hybrid Pharm. It all started in North Bay, were my dad started his practice off of Algonquin road. My father was a pharmacist and entrepreneur. His success in North Bay lead to new ventures in Ottawa where he and his partner opened four more pharmacies. This is where I began my journey as a healthcare professional. I started working there during school holidays and summer breaks. After high school, I followed my in father's footsteps and applied to the Doctorate of Pharmacy program in Boston, MA and graduated in 2009. After living in Hawaii for 6 months, getting an MBA in Rhode Island and marrying the girl of my dreams, it was time to take what I learned from from the family business and blaze my own trail.
Hybrid Pharm is a ‘Modern Wellness Pharmacy’. What does that mean for people who come to your pharmacy?
Traditionally, pre-1940s, pharmacies were dispensaries, where the ”druggist" would compound a medicine, specific to the patient's condition. We are taking this patient-centric approach and modernizing it to meet today’s needs. Hybrid Pharm focuses on quality and care. Our customers are looking for holistic approach to wellness, and are looking to take an active role in their personal health. Most are interested in learning about alternative treatments to help with their conditions. Beyond offering informational sessions about natural health products, wellness workshops such as yoga, meditation and accu-bliss or educational seminars to teach lifestyle modifications, the Hybrid Pharm staff is always happy to work on a tailored wellness plan to help individuals achieve their personal health goals.
Owning pharmacies was a sort of family business. Tell us a bit about that and the inspiration for opening your own pharmacy? Why the focus on cannabis?
My father and I always wanted to open a pharmacy together though it was important for me to gain experience outside of the family stores. I worked in many different retail settings such as Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens and Target, learned as much as I could and saw opportunities for improvement. I wanted to do something different, but I did not know what. Then in 2015, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. He sold his shares of the business, allowing me to be able to take a step back and look after the family. I have always been enthralled by the potential healing effects of medical cannabis, and have done a lot of self study and research, which ultimately lead me to start my father on cannabinoid therapy to help ease his symptoms. I became the go-to for family, friends and acquaintances who were looking for medical cannabis advice. My vision became clear at my father's bedside; to create a new generation in pharmacies with a focus on medical cannabis.
How do you differ from a dispensary?
Dispensaries typically dispense cannabis only. This is where we differ. We are a pharmacy. We know medicine. All medicine. We know drug interactions, dosing and safety. At Hybrid Pharm, there is professional medical oversight. Cannabis is a medication and should be treated as such. Dispensaries offer cannabis and cannabis related products. Hybrid Pharm offers a 360 degree approach to a healthier lifestyle. Our cannabis certified healthcare team is always available to help patients from strain selection to dosing to route of administration.
You’re the first and only pharmacy of it’s kind in Canada. Tell us a bit of the business process that goes into breaking those milestones. Did you run into any hurdles?
Being the first means putting yourself out there. It is scary and exciting at the same time. This industry is constantly shifting and changing, so you have to be on your toes and ready to adapt quickly. There are many hurdles, the biggest one being stigma. Cannabis is still thought of as the “devil’s lettuce” or the “counterculture” drug, used for its euphoric high effects. Used correctly, it can be a very powerful tool in the medicine cabinet. A big portion of Hybrid Pharm is education. Our #PharmaSeed campaign on social media aims to destigmatize cannabis by educating patients about other plant-derived medicines and how it can be incorporated into your lifestyle. Check out our website: https://hybridpharm.com/the-buzz/pharmaseed/ to learn more.
What’s something surprising you’ve learned about yourself, entrepreneurship, or running a business through this journey?
I cannot build Rome in a day. This means, as much as I believe in this concept and speak very passionately about cannabis, it takes time to shift society’s mentality. The industry is still in its infancy so we have learned that progress doesn’t always happen within my timeline! That used to bother me but I’m slowly learning to be a little bit more Zen.
You opened in Westboro earlier this year. What has the community reaction been like?
The Westboro community has been very welcoming. The people here are very savvy, forward-thinking and adaptable. I’ve had some amazing conversations with patrons coming into the shop, even if they are hesitant about cannabis-based therapy. This is why I choose Westboro to set up shop. I knew this community would be open to our new concept and embrace the inevitable change our society is going through.
You’re still a young business; any plans for what’s next for Hybrid Pharm?
I want to spread our knowledge and expertise across Canada. I believe that medical cannabis is not being talked about enough and that patients should have access to appropriate educational sources. We are looking to expand to other cities and provinces to deliver the highest quality care for our patients.
Do you have a go-to local spot in the neighbourhood to step out for a coffee or bite to eat?
For a quick bite to eat, I really enjoy Bite This. They make amazing tacos. I am also huge pizza fan, so Fratelli’s is always delicious.
What’s scarier, starting your own business or bungee-jumping?
Remember when your parents would say “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”. My answer is yes! I love bungee-jumping, so starting your own business is 10X scarier. You don’t just fall once, it's a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows. Owning your own business means you have responsibilities to your employees, your community, your family and yourself. It is a total balancing act that is constantly changing and you have to have the strength and courage to stand for what you believe in. The unknown is totally scary, but the paved road is flat. That is why I will choose jump every time. I will tell you that there is nothing more exhilarating than throwing yourself off a bridge. So, if you haven’t been, call me. I will take you, and I promise to jump first!