Employees: 9 (includes a rental location in Oregon)
Founder/owner/inventor Joe Black is bringing efficiency to the cannabis industry with leading-edge technology.
After working as a general contractor and flipping houses, Black saw business grind to a halt in 2008. "The market dried up," he says.
After construction went into free fall, he helped with a marijuana harvest. "I was helping a buddy trim one day and said, 'What a pain in the ass!'"
Black took the burgeoning industry's pain point into his garage and came up with a better way to trim marijuana plants. "The next time, we knocked it out in a day instead of a week," he says. "I could see the promise."
He made several prototypes in 2009 and 2010 before landing on what is now the EZTRIM Satellite, and took it to KushCon II at the Colorado Convention Center.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the company started selling trimmers in spring of 2011. The catalog now includes two Satellite models ($8,495 to $10,495), the smaller Drone ($6,495), and the handheld Wander ($1,495).
Black says EZTRIM trimmers are easier to control than the competition's and don't cause as much damage to the plants, preserving more of the leaf in the process. A patented filtration system collects clippings and strains them down to particles measured in the microns.
EZTRIM works with a network of fabricators and suppliers to make its products, most of them in the Denver area, and uses a just-in-time system to manage inventory at its 13,000-square-foot facility in Broomfield. "We primarily assemble and ship out of here," says Black. "We always have units in stock. If it doesn't ship that day, it ships the next."
But Black hasn't stopped brainstorming. "This year, we developed a rosin press, which is the latest and greatest in extraction," he says. "All you need is heat and pressure, so you're getting a cleaner product without the gases. It's easier to produce, and you don't have a bomb on your hands." The trimmers' filtration systems "go hand in hand with the rosin press."
"I'm always looking for new ideas," he adds. "I've always been somebody who tinkers with things and takes them apart and puts them back together."
The market has responded to the innovation. "It's been amazing," says Black. "We've consistently grown 30 percent a year, except this year. Year to date, I'm up 60 percent."
"It's the American dream. We always call it the Eli Whitney of the Green Rush," he laughs. "We're really at the beginning of the S curve as a company and as an industry."
Challenges: Banking is one. In 2014, despite being an ancillary supplier for the cannabis industry, EZTRIM lost its bank. While Black found another, "It's still a concern," he says. "Because everybody deals in cash, we get that cash and have to deposit it. That's been a struggle."
Seasonality is another challenge. "We get really busy during harvest season," says Black of autumn.
Opportunities: With a number of states looking at legalizing recreational marijuana in November, Black sees the chance to grow exponentially. "I hope they all go through," he says. "They're all looking good right now in terms of polling."
New products offer another route to growth, he adds. "We constantly communicate with our clients and say, 'Where's the new bottleneck?' We can turn around new products really quickly."
Needs: Money, says Black, "because the industry grows and changes so quickly." But he regularly turns away investors. "I'm trying to do it without additional capital. You can make mistakes with capital and do it too quickly."