Joshua Haupt doesn't want to give genetics all the credit for his extraordinary career path, but maybe his parents did have something to do with it.
"My father is an entrepreneur, and one of my earliest memories is him telling my mom he was quitting his job and he'd never work for anyone ever again," the 29-year-old cannabis grower, author, and entrepreneur tells Civilized.
"He said, 'there's no elevator to success. You've gotta take the stairs.' He instilled that in me. His father was an entrepreneur, too, and my great-great-great grandfather ran the Northern Pacific Railroad, so I have big shoes to fill."
Haupt has been ascending the ladder as a growing guru, of sorts, in the cannabis industry: some have even likened his ascendancy to that of Steve Jobs. He says he learned the ropes from an unnamed mentor, who taught him how to drastically increase the yield of cannabis plants from the standard one pound of product per light, to three or more pounds apiece.
After a few harvests, he says, people started getting interested in how he was continually getting such momentous yields.
"There's a 5-7 year learning curve with growing," he says, "and it dawned on me that I should write a book because there was nothing else out there that taught you how to grow from A-Z. Most people couldn't smoke a joint and then teach themselves how you grow, if you know what I mean. There's an information overload."
Enter Haupt's inexpressively deluxe coffee table book, Three A Light: a weighty tome with art direction and photography that meets, stylistically speaking, somewhere between an Apple product manual and a leather bag by Louis Vuitton.
An operating manual for the growing business
Haupt says he poured "2.5 years of [his] heart and soul" into the book, which not only looks fantastic, but acts as "standard operating procedure for your business," as he puts it, whether you're an novice looking to grow a couple of plants, or an entrepreneur looking to start a large scale grow. It's got a price tag to match: it retails for $500 on ThreeALight.com.
One of the unique aspects of the Three A Light growing method? A take-no-prisoners approach to growing he calls "schwazzing."
"There are time-lapse videos on our site of a plant that's been schwazzed," he says. "You take off every single fan leaf on the plant - and people think we're crazy for it! It makes it look like sticks, like a room full of cactuses. People walk in and think I killed my whole room - but then, you can see what happens on the time lapse. That's where Success Nutrients comes in."
Success Nutrients is another brainchild of Haupt's - "a nutrient line designed for cannabis," he explains. Haupt says competing nutrient products can contain as little as 60 percent of their listed ingredients and are "packed full of food colouring so that the end user doesn't know the buildup of microbes. So I can't back those companies," he says.
The methods outlined in Three A Light only work, Haupt says, if you're willing to invest in the entire system. "We can't advocate people schwazzing if they aren't feeding them our nutrients," he explains.
Naturally, all of this sounds little too-perfectly-vertically-integrated to be true. To the naysayers, Haupt says he's more than willing to put his money where his mouth is.
"When people try to call bullshit on what we're doing, I say, no, no and walk them through the numbers. We've pulled as much as 4.2 pounds per light, and I'm paying a $400 tax on every pound I grow, so the last thing I'm going to do is fudge my numbers. You can't fudge these numbers, and we're under very heavy scrutiny, so we have to run a very tight ship. We want to follow every single rule."
And, we have to ask, why a $500 coffee table book?
"Without the book I'm just another grower saying I'm the best grower," Haupt says. "This is not our first rodeo: it's a lure to get people to cross the lake, because real players in the industry are going to want to work with a team like ours."
Haupt's team includes an ex-Coca Cola VP
Indeed, Haupt's managed to enlisted the support of ex-Coca Cola VP and CEO Terry Fitch, with whom Haupt connected via family friend and who recently came on as a consultant for Haupt's growing operations.
"We needed some high-level consulting," he tells Civilized, "so we reached out to him and he was very interested in this market and will be a future owner. He's more on the grow side of things."
In addition to Three A Light and Success Nutrients, Haupt is involved with two Colorado facilities that sell wholesale marijuana.
"There is so much opportunity in the industry," he says, "and it's going to be as big as tobacco or alcohol. I'm honoured. We're in a beautiful situation where you can't even be at this level unless you're in the right place."