Banking on Careers How the young and successful founder of Vangst filled a need in the cannabis industry

The remarkable explosion of the U.S. cannabis industry—from the black market to medical dispensaries to recreational sales in 10 states in a dizzyingly short span—couldn’t have happened without a lot of people working hard to pull this plant from the shadows into the mainstream.

At Vangst, the industry’s largest job placement firm, the hard work has been to match some 10,000 job seekers with some 650 different companies, in an industry that has basically grown from no (legal) employees to nearly 300,000 practically overnight.

And for Vangst Founder and CEO Karson Humiston, 26, a clean-cut recent college graduate who rarely partakes in cannabis herself, it’s only the beginning, with the industry expected to double in size over the next five years.

 

Inspiration in Colorado

Many college students spend their time at school, studying, waiting tables or passing out under them. Humiston, at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York, spent her free time founding a travel company for students, which allowed her to build a large email database.

In 2015, she emailed the students about their post-graduate hopes, and was surprised to learn 70 percent of them wanted to work in the cannabis industry—despite the fact only four states had legalized adult-use. So, she spent a week in Colorado learning about the industry.

“I was really impressed by the types of companies that existed in the state, everything from cultivation companies to extraction companies to retail businesses to ancillary companies like technology companies, media companies and service companies,” she said.

“You name it and the companies were hiring for it, and when I asked how they went about finding their employees, they said it was a huge, huge pain for them.”

Posts to mainstream job boards were often removed for involving illegal drugs, she learned. Or employers would have to use professional recruiters who charged a healthy percentage of the new employee’s salary for their services. She saw a need and took a chance to fill it.

“You name it and the companies were hiring for it, and when I asked how they went about finding their employees, they said it was a huge, huge pain for them.”

 

Vangst is Born

What became Vangst—which is Dutch for “catch,” a nod to Humiston’s ancestry, was born when she graduated college and moved to Colorado the following year. Today Vangst has 80 full-time employees, 650 cannabis company clients and a track record of filling 10,000 job placements.

The site is free for job-seekers, while job advertisers pay a fee. The jobs range from seasonal cultivation gigs and retail sales all the way to top marketing and CEO positions. People who find jobs are known as “Vangsters.”

“Every business is make-or-break based on the people they hire,” she said. “The only way the industry was going to take off the ground was if amazing talent came into the space, and there was nobody doing this, fixing the problem. I thought, ‘This is an exciting opportunity to build an industry from nothing by connecting the best people with the best companies.'”

“I’m very proud of the work we have done. Some of the people we placed were the first 10 people at the company, and now the company has over 1,000 people.”

“Every business is make-or-break based on the people they hire. The only way the industry was going to take off the ground was if amazing talent came into the space and there was nobody doing this, fixing the problem.”

 

Once Vangst began successfully filling jobs, finding clients was not a problem. What was a problem was breaking down the negative connotations of working with a plant that remains federally illegal.

“There’s definitely a risk factor for anybody who moves into the space and some candidates aren’t comfortable with it, which is understandable,” said Humiston. But at the same time, she is seeing more and more people, including some who come from top positions at major mainstream and may know little about cannabis itself—willing to take the risk.

“You’re talking about 300,000 jobs being created by this industry. Obviously there are not going to be enough people with [cannabis] industry experience to fill these jobs, so companies are recruiting from other industries,” she said. “You don’t necessarily need to have cannabis industry experience to land a job. You can do what you’re doing in another industry and apply your skills, experience and knowledge.”

And what has been good for the industry has been good for Vangst. It has offices in four cities and recently raised $10 million in financing to expand their job services into 10 more states.

“It’s the fastest job-growth sector in the world right now . . . It’s crazy what legalizing cannabis can do for the job market and our economies.”

 

vangst.com

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