Kelly Martin believes you don’t have to grow or sell marijuana to make money in the marijuana business.
He launched two companies in the past year that capitalize on legal, recreational marijuana in the Pacific Northwest. The oldest is DaKine 420 , a purveyor of fertilizers and processed coconut husks, in which marijuana is grown. Just finishing its first year, the company, which employs five in a 9,000-square-foot warehouse off SW Veterans Way, is set to clear about $700,000 in gross sales, Martin, 54, said recently.
“I was hoping to do more,” he said, laughing. “I wanted to do a million my first year. It’s a tough market to break into. People think, ‘Oh, cannabis, oh, you’re in the right industry. It’s gonna be easy money.’ Far from the truth.”
The second, a website called CannaFo, a play on cannabis information, went live in the past month, said Josh Pardee, 28, lead engineer on the site. He and Martin call it one of the most extensive sources of information about marijuana on one website. It links to sites with information on 9,000 marijuana strains and contains a news feed, but it’s also a marketplace, research library and meeting point for investors and entrepreneurs.
“The latest and greatest information relating to the cannabis industry is on there,” Martin said.
Martin joins other entrepreneurs around the country creating secondary-level businesses in the marijuana industry. Logical entrants include companies that make nutritional supplements or specialized lighting to help the plants grow.
Others provide financing and offer real estate opportunities, including Diego Pellicer Worldwide Inc., a publicly traded company that does not grow or sell marijuana or marijuana-infused products, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Instead, it plans to lease marijuana growing and retail sites to independent businesses and also develop and sell clothing, chocolates, pastries and other products in its outlets.
The CannaFo website offers visitors the ability to “search for all things cannabis.”
It gathers and filters information from other websites, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist and marijuana sites Leafly and Smoke Reports, as well as several news sites. The company collects a small percentage of sales through its site and plans on selling advertising next year.
Visitors can query the site for the best marijuana for sleeplessness, for example, then locate a marijuana dispensary nearby that carries that strain.
“So far, we’re seeing about 1,200 unique visitors a month,” Pardee said. “And then, our users are spending a good, average … five minutes to half an hour on the site.”
On the material side, DaKine 420 sells a fluffy, dry, brown substance called coir, a finely chopped fiber made from coconut husk. Martin said he imports his supply from India in compressed, 5-pound bricks that he breaks down, adds nutrients to and sells in 800-pound totes or 1.5-cubic-foot bags. He moves about 20 tons of it a month, he said. He also sells fertilizers.
His biggest customers are large, commercial growers of recreational marijuana in Washington, some growing tens of thousands of square feet of marijuana plants.
“He’s knowledgeable but not overly aggressive in his approach,” said John Jensen, of Urban Farms of Washington LLC, referring to Martin. “He listens. A lot of people just sell their product but don’t listen to people. He’s a different kind of guy.”
Martin came upon his experience the hard way. He served 2½ years at the federal prison in Sheridan on a 1993 conviction for growing marijuana. After his release in November 1996, Martin worked as an insurance broker, landscape contractor and a custom-home builder. He developed a subdivision, Badlands Ranch, east of Bend. His previous success finances his current enterprises, he said.
He kept quiet about his record until about two years ago, he said, to spare his three daughters the social stigma of a father with a prison record.
“I’ve kinda opened up with some people and told ’em, Yeah, I got in trouble with this stuff way back when, and it was no joke,” Martin said.
He told his daughters only when each turned 18.
“They were really surprised,” he said. “They were real good with it. They couldn’t believe I’d gotten into that much trouble for growing pot.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, email@example.com