Pouring your hard-earned money and time into a new business idea can be terrifying, even for experienced entrepreneurs. For Lukasz Tracz and Sebastian Solano, their second attempt at it nearly broke them.
Tracz, 37, and Solano, 38, are co-CEOs and co-founders of Jeeter, a Desert Hot Springs, California-based cannabis brand they launched in 2018 with their siblings — together, they’re part of two sets of twins. In just four years, Tracz and Solano have built Jeeter into one of the cannabis industry’s most successful retail brands, selling more pre-rolled joints than any other brand in the market.
In 2019, Jeeter made $19 million in total revenue, according to the company. That number is poised to jump exponentially this year: The company projects sales of more than $400 million in 2022. Just wrap your mind around this fact: In the brand’s home state of California, customers smoke about 3.5 million Jeeter pre-rolls each month, the company says.
To get Jeeter off the ground, though, Tracz and Solano say they had to learn some things the hard way. A series of false starts in a new industry meant that the first two years of trying to establish Jeeter — even as the company brought in millions — were “some of the toughest, worst years of our life,” Solano says.
Tracz adds that, at one point, the founders pawned their watches and cars to get enough money to cover payroll after burning through millions of dollars in funding before Jeeter took off.
Here’s how they did it, and why they say Jeeter could become a billion-dollar brand in the next few years.
In a way, it’s deja vu all over again for Tracz, Solano and their twin siblings — Patryck Tracz and David Solano, who serve as Jeeter’s vice president of marketing and chief sales officer, respectively. As college students at Florida State University in 2006, the quartet threw a series of parties that eventually became Life in Color, a multimillion-dollar global events and music festival brand.
Tracz and Solano met while waiting tables to pay their way through college roughly 16 years ago. Together with their twins, the four bonded over watching HBO’s “Entourage.” The show inspired them to look for ways to make money while partying together, so they started throwing house parties.
Tracz and Solano stayed onboard as partners at SFX for five years. The ride was bumpy — SFX declared bankruptcy in early 2016 — and Solano says the “very corporate” environment weighed on all of them.
At the time, Solano says, the co-founders were receiving unsolicited pitches from cannabis startups looking for investors. By then, legal marijuana was already a multibillion-dollar industry, and California represented its most fertile ground.
Solano says he decided to “dive into the numbers” and found an “outrageous” opportunity: The company with the buzziest, most attractive brand might have the best chance of winning over a nascent market. The friends pooled their money to launch their own cannabis brand, cobbling together $6 million between their own savings and some additional funding from friends and family.
They were distinctly outside of their comfort zone this time. “Everything was a challenge,” Tracz says.