Company: Elev8 Cannabis
Seun Adedeji, CEO of Elev8 Cannabis with stores in Oregon and Massachusetts, says he has a “pirate mentality” when it comes to his stores. Started with just $50,000 in savings and maxed out credit cards, Adedeji says he put everything he had into Elev8, sleeping on the floor in his store for a year and doing as much as he could himself as “chief of everything” for the business.
“Call it young and dumb, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to execute on my own,” he says.
Originally from Legos, Nigeria, Adedeji moved to Chicago at age 5 and says he was “the kid who got in trouble a lot.” But he also had an entrepreneurial streak, always doing chores in his neighborhood and starting his first business, selling candy, at age 13. He also was arrested for marijuana possession around that age and shipped off to an aunt in Texas where he says he was able to stay out of trouble.
When he moved to Washington around the time of legalization, he saw a lack of minorities in the industry and decided he wanted to be a “beacon of hope” for those like himself. Only 23 when he opened his first shop in Eugene, Oregon, Adedji says the learning curve was steep. He had to learn how to be a leader instead of a friend and after failing “a tremendous amount” he “started expecting excellence” and things changed.
When opportunity arose in Athol, Massachusetts, he took it, opening the first African-American-owned dispensary licensed in the state without going through the social equity program. Two more stores are now in process, as well as a first in Illinois.
“Massachusetts taught me how to be a politician,” he says of navigating the red tape. “Oregon taught me how to be a hippie.”