Marijuana Entrepreneur Is Blazing a Trail for Big Business
DENVER ( MainStreet) Tripp Keber may be well on his way to becoming one of the nation's first legal marijuana billionaires.
When companies the size of Reynolds American and Pepsico start putting cash into this industry, Keber, the founder of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, may well be one of the guys taking cash out.
He's been called a "ganja-preneur," a "marijuana mogul," and the "Willie Wonka of Weed." His fast-growing company touts itself as "the future of cannabis."
He doesn't really believe in smoking pot. He believes in drinking it, eating it, vaporizing it and rubbing all over your body. He sells reefer-laced soda pop, truffles, mints, waxes and even marijuana massage oils. When he talks about his wide array of products with a once-illegal ingredient, he often sounds like an economics professor, even to the point of using the term, "widgets."
"All we're trying to do is create innovative delivery systems that give consumers and patients safe and effective choices," he told MainStreet. He is also building a brand.
Keber, 45, is serial entrepreneur who once helped turn-around a financially troubled telecommunications company in Denver and also developed a luxury RV park in Gulf Shores, Ala., called Bella Terra.
He began his adult life as a Reagan Republican, raising money for conservative causes, and even folks like Oliver North. He still remembers the former first lady's campaign to just say no; he just doesn't say it.
"Do you remember the commercial? This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs," he laughs. "Listen, I was a delusional, young man."
A downturn in prospects following the financial crisis pushed him into Colorado's nascent medical marijuana business in 2009. He started out in a 400-square-foot house in a crime-ridden Denver neighborhood where he worried more about the neighbors than the police.
Within a year, he expanded into a 12,000-square-foot plant in a commercial park area along Denver's Interstate-70 corridor. "If you would have told me back then that I'd ever need more space, I'd have said you were using the product," he said.
With the legalization of marijuana for recreational uses on January 1, he's been building out his business in 30,000-square-foot building that once housed a bakery. He now has 45 employees and adds one or two more per week to keep up with demand. He won't disclose revenues but said his revenues have been multiplying 150% to more than 300% a year.
His company generates so much revenue, in fact, that he said he paid cash for the building, and he is sparing few expenses on the equipment and finishes he's putting inside.
"This will be a place for cannabis business people to congregate," he said, giving a tour of his new plant, now under construction.