Young Professional 2016: Steve Lee
Steve Lee is the owner/founder of Green2Go, Kennewick
How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? I have lived in the Tri-Cities for 23 of my 32 years.
Family: I am incredibly lucky to have the (singularly) best wife in the whole world, Jessica Lee. I am also pretty lucky that she came with our little pooch, Franklin Dachshundo Ruffsevelt. (It’s really just Frankie. I insisted on giving him a full name.)
Company background: Green2Go is the Tri-Cities’ longest established, first and only legal cannabis retail store. Green2Go began in 2012 as a delivery-based medical cannabis collective. Washington state outlawed home delivery in July 2015, at which time we switched to a walk-in style retail model. After a nearly three-year battle, Green2Go opened to the public as a 21+ recreational cannabis shop just 19 days before the state would have forced us to permanently shut down. With the reincorporation of Washington state’s medical cannabis program, Green2Go was the first state-recognized medical cannabis retail store in southeast Washington.
Tell us about your job/career and how you got into it: I’ve been “in the industry” for over 12 years. In 2012, I was laid off from my cushy government-subsidized office job, and I had to find a way to make ends meet. Once it was apparent nobody was going to hire an over-promoted, over-skilled, under (formally) educated 20-something-year-old, I didn’t have a lot of ways to earn an adequate income. So, with the blessing of my significant other, we started to formalize/professionalize the process of selling weed. Over the following years, we formalized it into an actual medical marijuana collective, and then later into an actual legal I-502 business.
Business philosophy: Be nice. There are no more important rules. If I can’t get rich being nice, it isn’t worth it. Invest in: niceness, trustworthiness, credibility, stability, community and health. I will always lose a dollar to invest in the stability of the lives of my employees. If my budtenders can’t afford a nice place to live/car/food/healthy family, how can I ethically profit (and I will) from their labor and sacrifice? I try to keep my expectations open and make room for people’s superpowers. We hire people for a certain task set, but encourage them to develop their way out and into their dream job. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. Everyone should be able to improve any idea/process/system if they think of something better, and they should be able to do it quickly.
Life philosophy: My life philosophy can be summed up as “Best Case Scenario Nihilism.” I don’t believe anything has inherent value. I believe that value and worth is made up and totally subjective.Since that’s the case, and everything defaults to a value of zero, humans are empowered to assign their own values to everything. Everything I value, I do so because I chose it. If it isn’t worthwhile, it remains a value of zero. If I value it, it is as important to me as air, water and food. My values help me choose my goals and my people. Without my values, I’m basically an unintentioned meat-sack wafting in the breeze until I die.
Community involvement/community service: In the past, I have been involved with many organizations/causes through my previous work at the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center. More recently, now that we have been able to come out into the light of day as a cannabis business, I was finally able to start donating and sponsoring community events. Recently, Green2Go was the first cannabis business to join the local chambers of commerce, as well as TRIDEC. We were also the hunger sponsor at Safe Harbor’s “Tie One On” event last month, and the title sponsor of the second annual Hemp & Health Expo at TRAC. We’ve also recently involved ourselves with other beloved causes like DrewBoy Creative, Confluent Spaces and a few more.
Who were your mentors and what did they teach you? Rik Jones (Round Table Pizza): organizational management and crisis problem solving. “It’s not life or death. It’s pizza.”
Jay-Z (hustler): “I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them. So I got rich and gave back. To me, that’s a win-win.”
Ed Lee (father): In reference to mean people, “Everything is an issue of mind over matter. You can’t mind, because they don’t matter” and “I’m at least as smart as anyone else you’ve ever met. You are too.”
Rich Cummins / Davin Diaz / Kyle Cox / Nikki Berglund / Darrick Dietrich / LTC Class XV –> Adulting role models supreme. All of these people had a hand in turning me into a real grownup.
Toughest business/career decision you had to make or obstacle you had to overcome? After already being unemployed for months, and engaged to be married in under 90 days, I chose to leave the traditional employment pool to try and ride (what was at the time) a gray-market industry into whatever new frontier I could help carve out. I spent three years battling the cities/counties/state/WLCB/DOR/IRS/police and accepted around $1.2 million in punitive debt to get my store open. At the time of this application, we have been open 83 days under I-502. In that time, we created 25 FTEs (at an average rate of $16.50/hr) and have grossed $1.9M in sales (of which $600K is local/state taxes). Store number two in Tokio, Washington, will be open in a few weeks.
First job: My first job was at Taco John’s. I learned a lot of things. Mostly, I learned to turn everything into a learning experience, so I’d never have to work at Taco John’s again. I worked there for two years. I still eat there twice a month. It’s way better being a customer.
What do you like most about what you do? Everything. I have literally created my dream job. I sell SO much pot. I get all I want for free. I get to hire people I love. My wife is my business partner (and we actually work well together). I get to train my crew in how I think the business should be conducted. I get to give people chances, and opportunities, and money! It’s amazing. I’m really like THE luckiest guy in the world.
Least? It took me a really long time to get here. And it used to be really scary. These days, sometimes my carpal tunnel really acts up from all the cash handling.
Favorite book: “The Count of Monte Cristo”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? At 42 I should be retired and:
-Hearing proposals at the Lee Foundation for charitable giving or research funding.
-Helping my ground floor employees build their business empires.
-Finally getting around to vacationing or something.
What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? I’m actually 300 years old. I can only be killed by other highlanders. When I die, whoever kills me will absorb my power.