Company Name: District Growers LLC
Year Founded: 2011
Ownership Structure: Private Company Incorporated in District of Columbia
CEO: Corey Barnette
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
Industry Segment/Category: Producer, Processor and Wholesaler
Current Markets/States Served: Washington, D.C.
Current Number of employees: 6-8
Market Strategy/Goal: To have the largest variety of quality flower strains, edible and infused products, and oils and concentrates in the D.C. market, and to supply all licensed medical and then recreational retailers
Size of Market: Currently three (3) Dispensaries, two more coming online
2014 Revenues: $500k with increase of production limit to 500 plants, tracking towards $1.6-$1.9 million annually
Current Product Mix: Flowers, tinctures, oils, topicals, concentrates, adding edibles in few weeks
Grow Method: Aerophonics, & Fogponics, perpetual harvest equivalent to five (5) crops per year/500 plants
Expansion Plans: When recreational market opens, District Growers expects to open second location in D.C.; rapidly growing in current 500 SF space but will increase footprint and growing square footage on site to meet demand
Edible products coming online in next three weeks, and, will also sell Fresh Bottled Juice, Bottled Tea, loose leaf tea, Edibles
Financing strategy: To date, from operations and seed capital
From Chattanooga to Washington D.C. — a good, old-fashioned American success story
Corey Barnette grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a beautiful city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the scenic Chattanooga River. Like any other southern city, it has its share of haves and have nots and Corey was raised as part of the latter group.
Always motivated to improve his lot in life, Corey worked hard in school, enjoyed his sports, and parleyed his commitment to an academic scholarship at Tennessee Tech; where he pitched for the Golden Eagles after sitting out his freshman year. He also learned the better parts of his current art while at Tennessee Tech – almost at the expense of his education. However he continued on his merry path to better his life, gaining his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and taking a job with Bechtel, the world’s largest infrastructure builder.
Corey pursued his post graduate studies at Duke University where he earned his MBA at the Fuqua School of Business in 1997. After working as an investment banker for previous iterations of Bank of America (Nationsbanc Montgomery Securities), and later as a venture capitalist with the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund, his entrepreneurial bug kicked in and Corey started buying companies through his own investment company, The Scroll Companies. He bought, sold and built several companies in a variety of industries including an auto parts company, a clinical trials firm, and a towing company in Fairfax, Virginia, which at its peak, had 248 trucks and was the second largest in the USA.
His professional Cannabis Industry career began in 2008 when a business school associate asked him to join the board of his San Diego Medical Collective Board, and Corey soon thereafter took over the running of the medical dispensary. He grew the operations to two dispensaries – San Diego Medical Collective and Chi Holistic Collective – serving greater than 15,000 member patients combined and cultivating more than 25% of its medicine internally. As head of operations, Corey saw the competitive landscape grow from 30 dispensaries to over 230 in the market, and to differentiate, he brought in his friend and retail expert Vanessa West to create a team that would provide the best customer service in the market while he worked on supplying the largest mix of medical cannabis solutions. Corey leveraged his shelf space to gain product mix through consignment agreements with high quality suppliers under the mantra: “NO Shitty Products” and offering over 70 unique stains of cannabis.
He experienced some political backlash in San Diego during his tenure there as the conservative San Diego regulatory leadership decided against licensing dispensaries and grows, and worked with the Feds to pressure landlords to drop lease agreements with cannabis concerns. To combat this, Corey became active in organizing local support, and as part of a local patient care organization, he helped organize an effort that gathered 93,000 signatures to overturn the local referendum against licensing.
It was in 2010 that Corey also began work on applying for a D.C. cultivation center and medical dispensary license. At that time, he created District Growers and invited one of his San Diego growers, Kathryn Rust, to join him in Washington DC. District Growers LLC was founded in 2011 and Corey was awarded one of the three original licenses granted by the D.C. Department of Health in 2012. He was not one of the original dispensary licensees; however, he brought much needed capital and became a managing partner with the Metropolitan Wellness Center and Mike Cutthriell in 2012. Interestingly enough, Kathryn and Vanessa joined the management of operations in D.C., and the team set-out to replicate their successful model of providing a diverse product mix and superior customer service to the new D.C. Medical market.
DC Growers currently provides twice the variety of the other two operational licensed production competitors combined in the District. Now that grow limitations have been raised to 500 plants, they have maximized their cultivation site to produce up to five (5) crops a year with perpetual harvest bi-weekly, and have designed a unique aeroponics and fogponics system lighted with low heat LED lights (DC’s high humidity makes high pressured sodium lights too hot to utilize for most of the year) and they compensate for any lost yield through “hyper-efficient” growing techniques and a “no-corner-cutting” mentality.
With production capacity moving to its top end, District Growers wholesales to all three active medical dispensaries in D.C. In addition to flowers, they sell processed tinctures, oils, and concentrates as well as beverages (bottled tea and juices) and will begin offering edibles in the next few weeks.
Growth opportunities include gaining licenses in new East Coast and Southeast U.S. markets where Corey has his feet on the ground following the regulatory development in MD, PA, TN, KY, NC and FL. District Growers offers a variety of advisory services and is open to a lead license bidder or secondary bidder partnership in these markets as well.
As is the case with MWC, District Growers is the only minority owned grower in D.C. (Montel Williams has an affiliation with another grow in the market) and has a unique and aggressive grow system tailored the unique growing environment in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. With a strong knowledge of the regulatory players and environment in this part of the country, plus a successful track record of scaling businesses in several industries, don’t be surprised to hear more about this American entrepreneurial success story because Corey and his team expect to have an increasing impact on the Cannabis Industry over the years to come.
Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]
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