People are increasingly interested in finding a way to participate in the cannabis industry, and for good reason. It’s growing like a weed (yes, we said it). According to a San Francisco-based research company, Grand View Research, the global legal marijuana market is expected to reach $146.4 billion by the end of 2025.
Still, it isn’t easy for potential recruits to know where to look for both temporary and permanent jobs, and it’s just as challenging for companies to find candidates who understand their business. Enter Vangst, a now three-year-old, Denver-based startup that just raised $10 million in Series A funding from earlier backers Casa Verde Capital and Lerer Hippeau to become the go-to recruiting platform for the industry, even while going up against several older entrants, including Seattle-based Viridian Staffing and Ganjapreneur, in Bellingham, Wash.
Yesterday, we with chatted with the CEO and founder of the now 70-person company, Karson Humiston, about launching the platform in college, and why she isn’t so worried about the competition. She also shared some interesting stats around how much cannabis jobs pay.
TC: Some people launch startups in college. Not many of them grow them into sustainable companies. How did Vangst get going?
KH: I went to St. Lawrence [University] and while there, I’d started a student travel company and compiled a database of students and recent grads — people who’d gone on trips through the startup or expressed an interest in going on trips. The spring of my senior year, in 2015, I sent an email to all of them asking what jobs they were interested in, and more than 70 percent said the cannabis industry.
TC: Wow, interesting.
KH: That was my reaction, but living in upstate New York where recreational cannabis isn’t yet legal, I didn’t know a lot about it. So I took a weekend off from school to go to a trade show in Colorado, where I saw everything from cultivation to extraction to retail to ancillary businesses. And when I asked what jobs they were looking to fill, they said, essentially, everything: a director of cultivation, retail dispensary store managers, HR, marketing. They all said it was their top pain point because if they posted on a traditional jobs board — and remember, this was 2015 — the listing would often get taken down. Meanwhile, there was no industry-specific resource because [marijuana] is federally illegal.
TC: So you dropped the travel startup idea and pursued this. Where did you start?
KH: First, I rushed back to St. Lawrence and made an inexpensive site on Wix and started connecting people in my database with summer internships. I’d told the companies I’d met with that I could find them employees for $500 and I called this new company Graduana, [with the tagline] green jobs for grads. My thought was, I’ll go to Colorado and do Graduana for six months and see where the industry really is.
By the spring of 2016, I realized that demand far exceeded interns and recent grads and that we needed to find recruiters who know what they’re doing. We brought on recruiters who were just focused on cultivation, for example, and who know the difference between someone who can grow cannabis in the garage and someone who has done large-scale agricultural growing. They they started pulling in people from the tomato and tulip and big commercial ag who’ve grown [plants] in big state-of-the-art greenhouses and could bring important skills to the table. We also brought in recruiters to just focus on the retail side of things.
It became this profitable, 25-person, boutique staffing agency. But we also saw an opportunity for on-demand labor, because of the seasonality of the industry. Cannabis grows, then it needs to be trimmed and packaged. . .
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Connie Loizos on TechCrunch
Published: January 24, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News