Housed in a pair of nondescript warehouses in Thurston County, Washington is a cannabis company with global ambitions and the most year-to-date revenue in the state.
Just the Facts
Northwest Cannabis Solutions
Tier 3 producer/processor
Magic Kitchen edibles, THCaps, EZ Vapes, Evergreen vaporizers
Northwest Cannabis Solutions was born during a conversation between co-founders Leo Gontmakher and Vlad Orlovskiis. From the beginning, they set a goal of creating the premier cannabis production and processing facility in the world. So far, they appear to be well on their way to achieving the goal, having generated more than $20 million in less than two years of operation.
The son of a wealthy seafood distributor who at one time was importing well over $100 million in Russian king crab into the U.S. each year, Gontmakher grew up watching his father navigate a global business in a highly regulated industry. The skills he mastered during his time as an insider in the seafood distribution business are a good fit for the challenges of the nascent cannabis industry, Gontmakher says.
“I’m a strong believer that cannabis is headed toward national, and potentially global, legalization, and I wanted to take on the challenge of developing a business within the industry,” he says.
To do that the company assembled a multi-talented team tasked with building the world’s premier cannabis facility.
The state-of-the-art NWCS facility was up and running in February 2015. Within six months, the company had established itself as one of the top-selling edibles manufacturers in the state with more than half a million dollars in revenue in July 2015.
As NWCS has ramped up production of its entire line, including edibles, flower, concentrates and more, revenue has continued to skyrocket. In September 2016, NWCS booked over $2.2 million in sales, more than doubling its sales for the same period a year earlier.
At the moment, the company is focusing on consistently producing top-quality products that meet customers’ needs, Gontmakher says. In the long run, he wants to build national brands that will someday move into other states as legalization opens new markets.
Providing Washington consumers with products that are of the highest quality and best value has always been central to NWCS’s mission.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” says NWCS’s Matt Razore.
The team includes about 150 employees, many of whom grew up together. It’s a group of people who are passionate about their work, and often espouse the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” Gontmakher says.
“Implementing that team mentality from the start is a major factor in the success of any business, but especially a brand new business in a brand new industry like ours,” he adds.
The impressive NWCS facilities are split between two warehouse buildings: a 70,000-square-foot production warehouse where a constant supply of cannabis is grown, harvested and trimmed, and a 40,000-square-foot space dedicated to churning out retail-ready products.
Inside the grow warehouse, a frenzy of workers in white lab suits buzz around the spacious interior.
Tailor-made for NWCS, the production warehouse features a mezzanine and 44 grow rooms to maximize its 30,000 square feet of allowed canopy. It’s a unique grow style that leaves no room for gardeners to walk between rolling carts that house cannabis plants being grown in soil. For watering and daily maintenance, each cart is wheeled into the middle of the open warehouse wear a small army of white-suited workers manicure the live plants and hand-trim harvested flowers.
Nearby, the company’s processing warehouse houses two commercial-grade kitchens, state-of-the-art extraction facilities, quarantine and storage rooms, offices and a massive assembly line to package, box and ship products to more than 200 retail partners throughout the state. Like a Costco warehouse, walls are lined with steel shelving to organize the mass quantity of raw food materials that are used for edibles.
The cutting-edge extraction lab is decked out with Cascade Tek vacuum ovens. NWCS uses both an Extraction Tek butane extraction machine and an Eden Labs CO2 extraction machine, as well as Heidolph distillation unit and rotary evaporators.
All of the NWCS oils are winterized with 200-proof ethanol to achieve an extra-high grade of purity.
The commercial kitchens process a staggering volume of supplies each month, though Gontmakher says he’d prefer not to say exactly how much. NWCS uses “pallets and pallets” of sugar, flour and raw chocolate each month, Gontmakher says. In addition to the number of employees needed in the kitchens, they also require a lot of maintenance.
It takes a lot to power the sprawling campus — together the two buildings consume an average of 35,000 kilowatt hours each day from Puget Sound Energy, making them among Thurston County’s top electricity consumers.
Building the Brand
Northwest Cannabis Solutions already has several established retail product lines that are available at hundreds of retail stores in Washington. Its products are targeted at users across the spectrum and include everything from concentrates to flower to tantalizing baked goods. There’s the well-known edibles line Magic Kitchen, which features cookies, chocolates and the top-selling Pebbles hard candies.
The company’s single-use EZ Vape pens are available with both CO2 and BHO extracts, as well as a high-CBD version. NWCS also manufactures the Evergreen vape pen with a changeable cartridge. Other successful products from NWCS include THC and CBD capsules sold under the Lotionz Potionz brand.
When it comes to competition, there aren’t many companies in Washington that rival NWCS. Since August 2015, it’s been one of the top two producer/processors every month in revenue, trading places back and forth with Spokane Valley’s Grow Op Farms.
Both companies generated more than $2 million in both August and September, according to the latest data available. NWCS holds a slight edge in year-to-date sales at just under $15 million, while Grow Op Farms is close behind at more than $13 million. No other company has generated more than $6 million in 2016.
However, Gontmakher says his company focuses more on its growth by improving products and streamlining its internal processes, rather than paying attention to what the rest of the industry is doing.
“There are a bunch of great companies that are making good products that we have to compete with and just knowing that drives us to never get complacent and keep an underdog mentality,” Gontmakher says.