Knowledge is power — especially in the world of retail sales. According to a study from Tulip Retail, 83% of consumers believe they’re more knowledgeable than store associates, and 79% of survey respondents say knowledgeable associates are differentiators when deciding whether they trust them enough to make a purchase. That’s why Steve Kelnhofer created Elev8 University.
Elev8 University is the culmination of Kelnhofer’s more than two decades in the cannabis and smoke shop industries as manufacturer, distributor, and store owner. His company Elev8 Distribution is the creator of the Silver Surfer desktop vaporizer, and his brick & mortar business, Elev8 Glass Gallery, has two successful locations in Colorado Springs.
Elev8 University is for smoke shop and dispensary owners and staff, as well as vendors new to the industry, so they can get caught up with the lingo they’ll be using when speaking with customers and clients. From glass terms, techniques, and styles to in-depth product information and sales techniques, the online courses teach crucial information needed to be a trusted resource and a better salesperson.
“The biggest issue I see in this industry is bullshit integrity and misinformation,” Kelnhofer says. “It’s frustrating when you have people learning from different sources — and all of those sources could have differing information. Elev8 University ensures everybody is on the same page.”
Consisting of more than 50 in-depth lessons, Elev8 University offers a self-paced curriculum, including online discussions with Elev8 staff and other learners. Those who earn a passing grade earn a certificate of completion.
“Training employees can be a nightmare, but it’s a necessity because they in turn teach the customers about the products,” Kelnhofer says. “Having employees go through the university makes onboarding easier and more productive because within just a few days they are up to speed on all of the relevant terminologies.”
Kelnhofer got into the counter-culture industry after being laid off from his job as an electrician. He tried earning a living selling adult toys online, but sex didn’t sell as well as he’d hoped. His next idea was to build vaporizers. He credits Vapor Brothers for introducing the desktop vaporizer and inspiring him to make his own version of the device that he launched under the brand 7th Floor Vapes. Refinements included changing the body from wood to aluminum and incorporating a ceramic heating element for a safer and more efficient user experience.
“As I did research, I discovered that combustion destroys 60% of active ingredients. It only made sense that if I eliminated combustion the user would only need half the amount of flower to achieve the same result,” Kelnhofer notes.
While you cannot make medical claims about the health-related effectiveness of any smoking device, there’s nothing against testimonials. 7th Floor Vapes has sold more than 100,000 units, and one of their satisfied customers is country music legend and cannabis advocate Willie Nelson — in letter to Elev8 from the musician’s wife, she credits the Silver Surfer for helping his voice sound better than it had in the last 10 years.
Supporting their motto of “meticulously curated products,” Elev8 Distribution added more home-spun products to their brand including two other versions of the desktop vaporizer, a pair of handheld flower vapes — the Sidekick and Life Saber, and Elev8 Dolls CBD bath bombs. The bath bombs are handmade in Colorado, and inside each sphere is a collectable glass marble. In researching bath bombs, Kelnhofer heard a common complaint about the ring left around the tub from the dye — which is for nothing more than coloring. His are white (dye-free) with fragrances from 100% pure essential oil blends.
Theresa Dvorak joined the Elev8 team as wholesale rep in 2018. A former member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, she knows firsthand the psychological challenges of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how cannabis can help to ease the debilitating symptoms. As the founder of Elev8 Veterans, Dvorak made it a mission bring awareness, education, rehabilitation and re-acclimation of veterans and their families to society using alternative methods.
“The name Elev8 meant so much to me, and the Silver Surfer vaporizer and cannabis had worked miracles for me in my own life, that I wanted to show how they could help our community,” Dvorak says.
“What I find in the veteran community is they’re extremists, and they want to go as far as they can to the brink of death and then bring themselves back,” she adds. “So, the goal with Elev8 Veterans is to help them recognize there’s a problem and there are positive ways to deal with it and rehabilitate.”
One way that Elev8 Veterans helps is by offering free glass blowing classes to veterans. For some it might turn into a hobby, for others a new career. Dvorak recognizes one veteran who has gotten so good on the torch that he makes marbles for pipes or accessories for the vaporizers. Being able to come to work and be productive, she says, helps him feel better about himself and his future.
Elevating mind, body, spirit is what Elev8 is all about.
“We’re all human monsters in some way, and by being with like-minded people, as well as those who different, we can learn new viewpoints and take better care of our minds and bodies,” Kelnhofer says.
“When somebody comes back and says, “Man, you really helped me out,” or “I really love that product you turned me on it,” you can’t buy those compliments,” he adds. “Those are the rewards that are earned from all the hard work of creating the Elev8 brands.”