By Garrett Rudolph
Growing up around the print industry, Cullen Raichart developed an early appreciation for quality machinery.
“Printing presses are exceptionally precise and very, very well built,” Raichart said. “They’re designed to last 35, 40 years and run all the time. … When your machines don’t work, you’re not working.”
Raichart brought that mentality to the cannabis industry, when he and Aaron Turner launched GreenBroz Inc. in December 2012, but the road from start-up to success story — even in the midst of the Green Rush — wasn’t exactly paved with dollar bills.
The early days of the company featured a great deal of pavement pounding for Raichart, the CEO, and Turner, the COO. The first trade show they attended brought little in the way of notoriety; it was geared more toward culture and consumers than the business professional GreenBroz needed to reach.
A road trip to the Emerald Triangle in Northern California saw similar results — an awful lot effort; not much in the way of returns; mounting discouragement.
“But we had all this time and money invested, so it wasn’t like we were going to stop,” Raichart said.
While that initial road trip to Northern California didn’t amount to much in sales, it did lead to a new design for a prototype dry trimmer Raichart developed.
“It was the ugliest thing ever, but I knew that I was on to something pretty significant,” he said.
The GreenBroz dry trimmer was a turning point for the company, resulting in a $60,000 sale to a Northern California trimming machine distributor and giving the San Diego-based company the momentum needed to push forward.
However, the hunt for investment capital remained a fickle obstacle. Raichart and Turner connected with The ArcView Group, first with an online presentation, then with a live presentation in Boston.
“We had a great reception, but it was pulling teeth from there,” Turner said.
GreenBroz had some proven technology, intellectual property and a success story. But potential investors — primarily bringing non-cannabis money to the table — were looking for something more definitive. They were looking for a track record and some indicator of return on investment.
“Getting past that initial interest didn’t happen,” Turner said. “A lot of good things came out of it, but we still had no money.”
It was back to the drawing board. The company formed an advisory panel, revamped its corporate structure, developed a larger dry trimmer than its standard unit, and began preparing for another ArcView presentation set for June 2013 in Denver.
Meanwhile, Raichart went back to the original retailer that had made the $60,000 purchase. He presented the GreenBroz commercial dry trimmer, a machine capable of processing eight pounds of flower per hour (compared to the standard trimmer at two pounds per hour). Based on Raichart’s presentation, the distributor committed to buying 30 commercial dry trimmers.
“And these are $10,000 machines,” Raichart said.
“I got that information right before I got on stage to do the presentation (in Denver),” Turner said. “I gave the presentation, went out to the parking lot and had meetings set up with investors before I even got to my car.”
GreenBroz capitalized on its newfound backing, finishing 2014 with nearly half a million dollars in sales, having sold every machine it built. Yet, the company still faces an uphill battle, as many growers prefer hand-trimmed buds and will never consider using a machine to do the meticulous work of trimming. But Raichart disputes the belief that hand-trimming is always better than using a machine.
“We’re not claiming we’re better than hand-trimmed,” he said. “We’re claiming we’re as good.”
“Every strain, every phenotype has its own shape,” Turner added. “Our machine allows the bud to retain its shape. It’s a leaf trimmer, as opposed to a bud trimmer.”
Raichart flashes back to his original demonstration of the prototype dry trimmer. Although the red-and-orange aesthetics may have been stomach turning, “the trim quality had jaws dropping,” he said.
According to Turner, lab testing indicated bud trimmed by the GreenBroz machines lost only about .75% THC compared to hand-trimmed bud.
Raichart added that unlike human workers that experience fatigue, machines perform at the same pace and quality throughout the day no matter how long they run.
“Our vision of tools came from our use of tools,” Turner said. “We’ve found that there were a lot of products in the marketplace that cost a significant amount of money and didn’t work. You buy them, you try them, you shelve them and they collect dust. Rarely were we excited about what we bought. We’re very particular about machinery. It should be well built and it should function well and do what you want it to do coming out of the box. That’s the driver for quality and function of the machines Cullen invented.”
From a financial standpoint, machine trimming makes sense, particularly for larger growers.
Assuming the average worker trims a pound of buds in about six hours, it would take 15 full-time employees working one week to finish a 100-pound harvest (or about $6,000 at minimum wage). The GreenBroz commercial trimmer can churn through the same amount of product in about 12.5 hours.
GreenBroz currently produces four different machines: the standard and commercial dry trimmers, a standard medical trimmer with a UV germicidal lamp and a tumbler.
“We’re trying to be the solution provider from an equipment standpoint for people processing cannabis,” Turner said.
Whether a producer is harvesting 100 pounds a season or 50 pounds a day, GreenBroz had a machine to fit their needs, he said.
Moving forward, the company plans to remain at the forefront of innovation, the founders said.
“We have lots of ideas,” Turner said. “We’re perfectionists, so we’re constantly fine-tuning and making little adjustments to improve it more on almost every production run.”