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Staffing startup sees opening in cannabis

GEORGE DEMOPOULOS OCTOBER 28, 2015

 

You don’t need to grow pot to see your business take root in Denver’s cannabis industry.

Just look at Karson Humiston, a 22-year-old who founded cannabis industry staffing firm Gradujuana this summer and plans to expand outside of Colorado this year.

“Our first spot outside of Colorado is L.A., which will hopefully be up by mid-December,” she said. “Oregon will come after that in March. Right now everything’s great in Colorado, so we’re going to set up in some new places.”

The cannabis business staffing firm has placed 17 employees since launching in July, Humiston said, and she is trying to fill 24 more vacancies.

The company provides temporary hires, like trimmers and bud tenders, and direct hires like marketers, accountants and project managers. There are at least two Denver-based competitors, Hemp Temps and Greene Cross Staffing.

It’s a market that’s desperately in need of staffing, Humiston said.

“Seventy-six percent of cannabis business owners report employee turnover as one of their biggest problems,” she said. “The industry is growing so quickly that business owners are preoccupied running their company and hiring gets put on the back burner.”

The company, which runs out of Galvanize’s Golden Triangle location and employs three people, counts big-name cannabis companies like O.Pen Vape and Canna Advisors as clients.

Humiston financed Gradujuana with $10,000 that she made while running a travel business in college at St. Lawrence University in New York.

She said her latest stint as an entrepreneur comes in spite of college counselors.

“I was talking with career services about the cannabis industry and they were pretty horrified that I was trying to convince my friends to work in the cannabis industry,” she said. “They didn’t understand that there were lots of jobs in the cannabis industry like accounting and law and marketing. I realized there was a huge opportunity in staffing, so I got into the car and moved to Denver.”

Humiston owns the company, a position that she intends to keep.

“Right now we’re completely cash-flow positive,” she said. “I’m not interested in giving up any equity. The only way that will happen is if something unexpected happens.”

Humiston said she has run into some roadblocks building her company – especially the stigma against the cannabis industry.

“When I tell people I work in cannabis, they assume I’m in it for the weed and want to get high all the time,” she said. “That’s not true. I’m not an end user, and I definitely don’t consider myself a stoner or a pothead.”