Becca Stevens and the Journey of Elev8 Glass
By Sofia Noillif
A lot has changed in this space, and not all of it for the better. Once upon a time, conversations among the so-called “ganjapreneurs” revolved around shared passions for art, natural medicine, and progressive ideas. Profits were the means, rather than the end. Clearly, legalization necessitated an adjustment, but I’ll posit that there was an overcorrection. We have gentrified the space—almost to the point of sterilization, killing off the intricacies that made the industry so appealing in the first place.
It is against this backdrop that I now speak with Becca Stevens, manager and part owner of Elev8 Glass Gallery. The conversation that unfolds creates a refreshing juxtaposition.
Elev8, the now 20-year-old multi-pronged counter-cultural conglomerate that has footholds at every level of the cannabis accessory vertical––from manufacturing to retail––distinguishes itself by striking a precarious balance. Commercial success is necessary, but for Elev8, it doesn’t appear to be the singular goal. Maybe they’re just good at marketing to an old head like me; maybe they’re the real deal. It’s impossible to know for sure. But my chat with Becca only further confirms my gut instinct that it’s more likely the former than the latter.
There’s a contentment in her voice you don’t often find when speaking with a corporate worker bee, a soft spirit and propensity for kindness, along with a general tendency to discuss the art they create, the charities they support, and even the workplace atmosphere they cultivate, far more than ledgers and strategies. There’s a heart that beats at the core of this machine.
Some Call it Synchronicity…
Elev8, born in a small Colorado Springs garage, has journeyed far from its humble beginnings under the watchful eye of founder, Steve Kelnhofer. It was in that initial garage that Steve invented the Silver Surfer Vaporizer, the company’s inaugural brainchild. In those days, the only vaporizers in existence were the Vapor Brothers’ original box and the Volcano. These devices served as Kelnhofer’s inspiration, in part from their functionality, but equally from what he saw as their shortcomings. Somewhere in the midst of that, he also managed to start a glassblowing studio—and then a store.
“It was kind of an accident,” Becca recounts. “Steve had to teach himself how to blow glass to make parts for the Silver Surfer, and he outgrew his house, so he found a little industrial building. There was an extra room, so he threw a couple of cases in there and started making pipes and threw a name on the building.” Becca’s entry into the business came only a few years later.
“The store had been around for about a year, and someone was like, ‘Oh, you got to go check this place out.’ At the time, I’d never heard of the place. Never heard of the Silver Surfer. I decided to check it out—and ended up with a job. Fifteen years later, I’m still here.” This journey from an accidental head shop to a still-thriving counter-cultural brand and business encapsulates the organic growth and adaptability that characterizes Elev8.
Be Nice or Leave
Becca’s leadership style is a reflection of this ethos—a blend of the rebellious and the strategic, the artistic and the pragmatic. Her approach to management, encapsulated in the ethos “Be nice or leave,” promulgated by a sign that hangs above her office door is not only a policy, but a nod to the communal, respectful spirit that has long defined our little corner of commerce.
“I tell my employees that their comfort is very important to me,” Becca says. “And if someone’s making them uncomfortable or just being rude, ‘you can be nice or leave’ is what we like to say. When you have a sign that says ‘Be nice,’ we’re like, ‘I’m the one trying to help you out, and I will do my best.’ But some people just have an attitude and there’s nothing you can do that will make them happy.”
While the cannabis accessory industry prides itself on being progressive and inclusive, it is not without its flaws. Reports of misogyny and sexism, ranging from sexual objectification to inequities in pay and opportunity, have tainted its reputation. Yet, these issues do not uniformly define every player within the space. Becca’s tenure in this world brings a different perspective, one that challenges the narrative of pervasive gender-based adversity. “I honestly haven’t really had too many negative experiences,” she reflects. “I almost feel like sometimes it’s a benefit to be a woman because I have a good relationship with these glassblowers.”
A good narrative requires drama mixed with personal grievance. Refreshingly that is not the case with Becca. She isn’t interested in contrived frustrations. She is much more comfortable with her truth, which ultimately feeds into the real narrative—which is the contentment she feels and exudes as a result of working at a company with a soul.
The Soul in the Machine
The conversation cascades naturally and comfortably, like a mountain stream passing over boulders smooth by millennia of current.
It’s difficult to separate Becca from the company in which she plays a role. I know that as the manager of one appendage of this multi-legged table, she is but one piece of the puzzle to a much bigger picture. But after 15 years with the company, Elev8 has left its mark—and she has left hers on it. She is part and parcel.
I bring up the Silver Surfer and she lights up immediately.
“I think there’s still a huge market for it,” she says. “We let people try it in the store and . . . they fall in love with it instantly. Once they understand the benefits, the bioavailability, everything about it, they’re sold on it. Plus, it’s an awesome machine. You can diffuse oils, you can do dabs, it’s all around. You can do everything with it.”
She hesitates pensively for a moment and takes a breath before offering a glimpse into the struggle that comes with selling a product built to last. “The problem is,” she begins tentatively, “there’s thousands out there. Once you have one, it doesn’t break.” Of course, this triggers a diatribe on the ugly sides of late-stage capitalism, i.e., the consequences of an economic model that requires infinite growth: unending landfills of portable electronics designed to break so companies can get us to buy more, i.e., planned obsolescence. Just kidding; Becca’s not one to gripe about the things she cannot control. The issue is tacitly acknowledged, but we move on and continue to parse out the various operations under the Elev8 banner.
“It’s a little confusing,” she says graciously as I struggle to map out an org chart in my head. “Everybody gets confused. We have the wholesale distribution, which makes the Silver Surfer, and then the Glass Studio makes all of the glass components for it. They also make glass for the head shops. We also offer the glass at wholesale to other shops. That’s Elev8 Distribution.”
The conversation then shifts to their 501(c)(3) non-profit, Elev8 Veterans, which helps military veterans transitioning to civilian life by offering rehabilitative tools, including medical cannabis and glassblowing therapy. The organization is funded through monthly events where glassblowers contribute tax-deductible art pieces for sale. Elev8 Veterans ensures veterans have access to affordable cannabis vaporizers and free glassblowing classes, fostering both a creative outlet and a potential income stream. It’s practically closed loop, a self-perpetuating system—and it’s beautiful.
Becca’s beaming pride in the endeavor emanates through her voice as she explains it to me, but she’s quick to pass the credit where it’s due. She’s not one to steal thunder.
“Elev8 Veterans is Theresa’s project. She’s the one you really want to talk to about that, but I think you guys already did.” She’s 100% correct. Her colleague, Theresa Dvorak, was featured in this very column just a year or so ago. If you haven’t read that piece, Becca thinks you should—and we agree.
In her personal life, Becca’s choices and values mirror the ethos of Elev8. Her preference for travel, her love for her “fur babies,” (her two dogs) and her reflections on life paint a picture of someone who values freedom, individuality, and a connection to the broader world.
Throughout our dialogue with Becca, it’s glaringly obvious that Elev8 navigates the balance between profitability and principles with a rare grace. This nearly two-decade-old venture retains the original spark of the counter-culture’s rebellion against the norm, nurturing the art and community values that set this industry apart. Elev8’s growth from a garage-based startup to a cultural stalwart in the cannabis accessory space is a testament to enduring authenticity in a sea of change—and Becca’s warmth and contentment after 15 years inside the machine only further illuminate the deep-rooted conviction and spirit that drive their enterprise.