Getting In On the Ground Floor with Lead Extractor Sean Strickland

Just a few short years ago, a career in legal cannabis wasn’t an option. Now, people can jump in with both feet. Such was the case for Sean Strickland, the Buyer and Lead Extraction Technician at our Washington facility. Sean has been with Avitas since the beginning, pitching in on our very first harvest back in August of 2014. He’d been on track to go into computer networking, but once he discovered cannabis, there was no going back.

Getting Into Cannabis

Sean was invited to see what Avitas was all about by his uncle, Jason Smit, our Master Grower in Washington. Sean was intrigued and decided to dive in as a processing assistant. He worked in processing for a year before transferring over to work in the lab and to explore R&D. Sean shifted his focus away from computer science and began to study chemistry and plant biology in earnest as he helped define and implement lab best practices back in the earliest days of Avitas. Being at Avitas from the start has had a significant impact on Sean’s trajectory, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He says, “It was amazing to be involved with cannabis from the very beginning. I’ve seen the company move from a friends and family operation to a multi-state movement.”

Making a Way

Being pioneers in the cannabis industry hasn’t been without its challenges. “We grew a lot more quickly than even we expected,” He laughs. “All of the sudden our facilities couldn’t keep up with demand, and we had to move fast to be able to fill all of the orders that came flowing our way.” It may have caused a few headaches at the time, but even Sean admits that rapid growth was a great problem to have.

Living the Dream

Today, Sean works with our Science Director, Dr. Amber Wise, and continues to streamline lab efficiencies to create the best cannabis oil cartridges on the market. “Working with weed and at the forefront of a brand new industry is awesome. It’s very rare that something like this pops up and I’m so glad that I was able to hop onboard.”

Overcoming Obstacles to Take the Long View on Cannabis with Craig Levin

A born and bred Washingtonian, Avitas C.O.O., Craig Levin didn’t see cannabis coming. In college and grad school, Craig steered toward degrees in business and finance and spent the beginning of his career guiding giants like Verizon in well-established industries. However, a few years ago, he decided he needed a new challenge.

History in the Making

In his search for that new mountain to climb, he discovered himself in cannabis. He still thinks it’s one of his best decisions to date. “Legal cannabis is a history-making opportunity. I realized I wanted to be involved in shaping this industry. Cannabis is about so much more than making money. It’s also about social justice and making sure that patients can legally get a medication that truly helps them.”

Overcoming Obstacles

On top of these broader concerns, the truth is that working in the legal cannabis space provided Craig with some fairly unique challenges. “In general, running a small business in this industry is ten times as hard as running a business in a conventional industry. There are so many additional hurdles that we face in cannabis, including really fundamental things like access to banking and credit.” He continues, “The product changes, the legislation around how we’re able to make the product changes. There’s some new obstacle that heads our way on a regular basis. It’s a lot of risk-taking behavior, and it can be expensive.” But, he thinks, ultimately worth it. “It’s an industry worth fighting for, and I love that Avitas is all about making sure we’re thinking through how to help the cannabis space in the long run.”

It’s All About Our Customers

That overarching view of the industry not only covers legislation and the ability to navigate the intricacies of regulation, it’s also completely focused on customer satisfaction. “We love our customers!” Craig explains, “They’re into connecting with the community and conservation. They want a feel-good experience. Not just what they’re consuming but the companies and brands they’re supporting as well. We always want to live up to and exceed their already high expectations.”

The hours can be long and challenging, but one thing’s for sure, Craig’s no longer bored. He’s helping our entire team be ready and willing to scale new heights in quality and customer satisfaction in both Washington and Oregon, and perhaps, eventually, beyond.

Avitas Origins: From Kitchen Table to Cannabis Calling

Here at Avitas, we’re both dreamers and doers. We love our jobs and our customers, and we love that we get to grow the best flower and bring you the most amazing oil on the market. But, you already know all of this. What you may not know is that we might not be here at all if not for some family time, a stunning vision, and a little needed encouragement in a warm and cozy kitchen just five short years ago.

It all started around a kitchen table. Back in 2012 as Washington State weighed the pros and cons of marijuana legalization, Avitas co-founder, Adam, sat in his parent’s kitchen talking pot with his family. He was all for legalization, Adam himself has enjoyed cannabis for many years, but he worried about this new and fragile market. Legal cannabis is a brave new world in America, and Adam soon found himself painting a passionate vision of what he’d like to see happen in this expanding frontier. Adam laughs when he recalls it now, “I didn’t realize it then, but that’s where Avitas was born.”

Adam has a had a long and successful career outside of cannabis. He came up through the ranks as a software engineer at Microsoft before moving into product management at Microsoft and then at Disney and ESPN. He’d seen what truly customer-centric companies could accomplish and slowly but surely, Adam realized that he wanted to create a brand like that in the cannabis world. He wished to build a company that consumers could trust to have their back, and he wanted to help shape how marijuana is grown, distilled, and packaged to help lift the stigma and misinformation that still exists around this amazing plant. He envisioned a company that was committed to a natural, preservative-free product that operated with integrity and was transparent about its process in ensuring the quality of its own flower as well as the quality of the buds it bought from other farms. Adam knew that it was going to be a long, hard-fought journey, but even he couldn’t have known what his future held in store.

At first, the industry was a bit like the Wild West. Regulations were always changing, license requirements were under constant review, and the market itself was incredibly unstable, but Adam persevered. “We stuck to our core tenets: Customers, Quality, Community, and Environment and that’s pulled us through. As a company, we have to be forward thinking and have a true commitment to integrity; otherwise, we’d be nowhere.” No matter how tough things got, Adam kept this commitment to excellence in sight. And slowly but surely, this has shepherded the Avitas family from just the hint of an idea at the kitchen table to one of the leading producer/processors in Washington. We’re so glad to be on this journey. We hope that you’re up for joining us on our adventure into a world of cannabis that not only feels good but does good.