By Garrett Rudolph
You might call it a relatively inexpensive insurance policy.
Rather than taking a conventional approach of hiring one head grower and possibly an assistant or part-time worker, Colorado Leaf has hired two individuals to share responsibilities of head grower.
Colorado Leaf owners Brett and Keith Sprau said it was the right move to avoid putting the weight of the entire operation on one person they barely know.
“Brett and I could be $2.5 million in debt and out of this business in four months if we hire the wrong grower,” Keith said.
The decision was made easier by having several highly qualified candidates, the Spraus said. They hired Victor Moran and Daniel NAME to each run one half of the high-tech Nexus greenhouse. Both are experienced growers who have focused on organic cultivation techniques, but bring different backgrounds and styles to the company.
NAME, from Montana, takes more of an old-school approach.
“He’s really gone out of his way academically to learn anything you can do with marijuana right now,” Brett said. “That just shows somebody who’s trying to push himself.”
Meanwhile, “Vic is the complete opposite,” Brett said. “Vic is the ‘Rain Man’ of weed. He’s 23 and all his methods are completely different. It’s more the new way of doing stuff and utilizing technology.”
“We liked them both, and felt that if we could put a team of the four of us together, we’d have the ultimate team,” Keith said.
Moran said he’s been running two commercial greenhouses in California for about the last four years, so he’s excited for the approach Colorado Leaf is taking.
“I was looking for a place too, that wouldn’t be in the gray area,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve really seen people follow through when they say they want to build the best facility possible.”
The hiring of two head growers represents an evolution of Colorado Leaf’s business plan. The original model called for the first phase of the Nexus greenhouse to be completed in the fall, with the second half planned for six months down the road. Now, the Spraus have decided to accelerate the second phase of construction. While the move will cost more initially, it will save time and money compared to bringing the general contractor back out months after completing the first section of the greenhouse, they said.
The first phase is slated for an Oct. 8 completion date. Phase two should be completed about one month later. Each grower will control their own wing of the greenhouse, which will feature approximately 3,000 square feet of space for veg and 4,500 square feet for flowering. Each grower will also select the first 10 strains to grow.
“We’re going to work as a cohesive team when it comes time to harvest, but when we’re on Vic’s side, Vic is in charge and when we’re on Daniel’s side, Daniel’s in charge,” Keith said.
One challenge with the two growers essentially operating their own grow facilities is maintaining consistency with the final product.
Moran admitted that will be part of the challenge, but also sees the tandem as a way to generate some healthy competition and learn from each other as the company progresses.
“That’s what I love about this industry — the proof is in the product,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing, especially to start, because it’ll push both growers to their fullest potential.”
“It’s definitely unorthodox, but I think it’s going to work,” Keith said.
Not only will having two head growers eliminate the need for micro-managing a part-time employee, but it will also hedge the possibility of one grower turning out to be completely different than portrayed during the selection process, Keith said.
“We’re basically taking this $2.5 million debt that’s hanging over our head and giving somebody else the responsibility to help us crawl out of it,” he said. “It’s a tough thing to do when you don’t know them.”
Keith said the hiring process was fairly simple. They posted the opening online, outlining the specific requirements they were looking for. For consideration, applicants were required to present a resume, cover letter and professional references.
Even though cannabis growers have been operating in secrecy, Keith said those basic requirements weeded out a lot of non-contenders. From there, it was a matter of meeting with several candidates for interviews and selecting the people that fit the best.
The interviewing process was also reassuring that they’ve been doing things the right way, Keith added.
“It’s taken a little longer than we expected, but at least we’ve done it the correct way,” he said. “It’s good to see their enthusiasm to see when they get onto the farm and see what’s going on.”