John Kaye loves working with people in the cannabis industry, from the consumers to the 80-plus employees of his company, Burb, to the growers he partners with in the company’s wholesale division.
“I feel really blessed to be in this industry,” he says. “At this point of my life, it definitely feels like a calling.”
Kaye co-founded Burb in 2018, opening five retail stores in British Columbia over the next four years, with licenses in-hand to open three more. The company has also been growing its wholesale business through licensing agreements, selling Burb-branded cannabis in Canada and California and expanding soon into Florida. Burb — a name derived from the phrase “burn herb” — will hit $30 million in annual revenues in the next 12 months, Kaye says.
Kaye took a unique path into the legal cannabis industry. Kaye was born in Minsk. He emigrated to Israel at the age of 2, then emigrated again to Canada at the age of 5. Watching his parents work their whole lives has instilled a “hustle mentality.”
“It really motivates me to build something,” he says.
In his early 20s, he was in a rock band, touring with bands such as Papa Roach and Avenged Sevenfold. When his passion dwindled, he got into the denim industry, white labeling cheap denim from India and Bangladesh for two years. After going back to school to study finance, he worked in mergers and acquisitions for a couple years, then got his first opportunity in the legal cannabis space, founding a testing lab that would later be sold to a licensed producer.
Although he’s been approached by some of the biggest cannabis companies in Canada, he’s steered clear of any offer to buy Burb.
“I just have no desire to sell the business,” he says.