NEW YORK (MainStreet) Ata Gonzalez soft launched GFarmaLabs in December 2013. Since then, the manufacturer of cannabis extracts, oils and chocolate won first place for best edible at the High Times Cannabis Cup in San Bernadino just two months ago. Most recently, the family man received an offer of $100 million for a 20% stake in his company from an investment firm he met at the CannaBusiness Money Show in Boston last week.
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"This feels like a dream," Gonzalez told MainStreet. "It shocks the heck out of me to get offers so early into having launched this company. We need the money to keep growing but we're trying to keep our composure. We haven't made a decision yet."
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The only reason Gonzalez wouldn't sell is for the sake of his five kids.
"I'd like to leave something for their future," Gonzalez said. "My wife and I want to leave them a company to run. It's good to see that we built something that's sparking interest. We've worked very hard as a family and to see it come into reality is amazing."
Gonzalez got involved in this cannabis industry five years ago after watching a documentary on television called "Marijuana Inc." He had been a successful real estate agent in Florida and promoter of the World Cup of Salsa before packing up his car and driving 57 hours straight to California with his family in tow.
He attended Oaksterdam University in Oakland for a semester and received a certificate. In class, he learned about growing cannabis, bud tenders and how to launch a dispensary.
"We built grow farms in Northern California then opened stores in Los Angeles but had to close them after three months because at the time the federal government hadn't spoken," Gonzalez said. "It felt like a war. Dispensaries in Southern California were getting shut down. We watched them get raided or heard about it on the streets but when the Feds announced they would leave legalization up to the state, the industry exploded."
And now Gonzalez is in a position to become a multimillionaire with Liquid Gold branded products, such as cannabis oil, vape pens, medical cannabis infused chocolates and GStiks (pre-rolled packaged sets of marijuana cigarettes that come in indica, sativa and hybrid varieties).
"Edibles and extracts are a growing sector of the industry," said Taylor West, deputy director with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). "They're a great opportunity for people interested in consuming cannabis but don't want to inhale. So we're seeing a lot of growth and diversity in those products."
For now, the best seller from GFarmaLabs is Liquid Gold Delights Mint Meltaways, which is what won the company first place for best edible at Cannabis Cup in February.
"We're selling 2,500 boxes a week of these chocolate truffles," said Gonzalez. "That's more than what Godiva sells in the state of California."
The next step is licensing the right to sell Liquid Gold products to representatives in states that will eventually legalize cannabis.
"We'll sell you our manual on how to grow, infuse and extract," Gonzalez said. "But we're not franchising."
The cost of the product licenses will vary by state, and GFarmaLabs says it will work with all potential licensees to navigate legislative red tape and budgetary obstacles to ensure the brand's presence in a given region.
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet