Once separated, now merged into one family, 7th Floor and Elev8 are the life's work of Steve Kelnhofer. This talented man with a great vision both for his company and the industry as a whole saw the flaws in other products and took it upon himself to improve them. As a result, he gave us some of the most powerful and durable vaporizers available on the market today and transformed a simple glass blowing studio into a well of inspiration, education, and innovation. Read on and find out more about Steve's journey, motivation and products, and see for yourself how his company became the gold standard of the industry.
Could you tell me a bit more about your background? Did you always know you will be a part of this industry?
Well, my dad got busted growing pot a few times and I remember our basement full of plants under fluorescent lights. This was in the ’80s. At the time it was just my life and I did not know any better. When I turned 16 was the first time I tried some herb, and never looked back. It helped with my ADD and I just liked it.
The first time a saw a glass pipe I wanted to make them, and the first vape I used I wanted to improve. Nearly a year after that I got laid off from being an electrician. That opened up the door for free time. In that free time, I started selling sex toys, and that is where the name 7th Floor came from. I needed a discreet business name and 7th Floor was for sure discrete. That did not work how I planned, so I later decided to try to make a vape. Well, that did not go well because I needed glass. No one in my town blew glass so I got a book (this was before youtube). It took about 2 years before any real momentum started, and then it just took off. We were growing super fast and that, in turn, caused a lot of problems, but we got through them and improved our process and how we did business.
You are a self-taught glass blower. How did you learn the skill and is it still your passion?
I learned from the bible of glass called “Contemporary Lampworking” by Bandhu Dunham. I needed to know how to make the parts for the SSV. I think at that time I was for sure bit by the glassblowing bug. I feel and hope to be doing this until my body just can not do it anymore, that being in my 80’s or later with today's technology.
Pictured Above: One of Steve's custom 'Alien Skin' pipes
You consider your employees to be your family. How do you find the perfect people for your team?
Well, like your family you kinda get what you get. I mean that in the best of terms. If I had to find the people I have here, how would I know what to look for? So, I find people that have the same mindset and we work together to build our dreams. Sometimes they are similar, sometimes they are not, but we talk, grow and adapt. Many of the people that work here are a lot like me in that maybe we just do not fit perfectly into the corporate world. So 7th Floor, now Elev8 is the perfect place for us all. I think strong connections are made because I am a lot like most the people out there, just trying my best.
I see a lot of mention of MIND-BODY-SPIRIT connection in your promo materials. This is also mentioned in the ‘Code of Conduct’ page on your website. I would love to hear more about this idea and how it shaped your company.
What is really neat about our code of conduct is it was put together by the team. I think this is just rules to being a good human. We mention the MIND-BODY-SPIRIT because I truly believe you must put your all into you and what you do. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so to Elev8 means the world to me. To me, Elev8 is about simply doing your best, and what was your best today, for sure can be improved tomorrow. I really feel the human being is MIND-BODY-SPIRIT all in one, so if you only focused on the mind, the body and spirit may be left behind. I do feel it is important to Elev8 yourself and everyone around you, only then can we keep growing to be better.
Where are you located and how many people are in your team today?
We are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and if you are ever down in this area all are welcome to come to say hi! Today we have about 22 people in all of our parts of this business.
Pictured Above: A part of the Elev8 Glass Gallery team
You had the first MIP license in Colorado Springs. What was that like?
When it first became legal I was like why not. Well you must pick the proper business partners or there will be issues, so we eventually shut it down. The funny thing is that the perceived profits were not at all what we were hoping. This, in turn, caused issues and then it was easier to just turn it off. The good thing is everyone in CO can grow 6 plants so no real need to have a dispensary and that also allowed me to focus on 7th Floor and Elev8 Glass.
You are the man in charge of 7th Floor Vapes and Elev8 Glass Galleries. Could you tell me a bit more about your beginnings and how things changed over the years?
Ya, it all started with the Silver Surfer and then as things changed, we changed and adapted. As we grew and our team of glassblowers grew, we wanted our own identity as we were 7th Floor, but we started making a lot more things than just vape parts. So eventually the name Elev8 Glass was born. Our first headshop was called Higher Elevations Masterpiece Productions or HEMP for short. Later we started to feel the need to expand the head shop as it is on a dead end street and on the other side of town. I had formed a great relationship with my manager and offered her the opportunity to be a part of the shop. After a few years, I had to make a website for Elev8 Glass Gallery as marketing a vaporizer is one of the most difficult things there is. Now we are more focused as Elev8 and the vaporizers as the best way to consume cannabis. So it all ended up tidying up pretty nice. Now we have the Elev8 Doll who is a lady who lives their life in a higher state of mind, body, and spirit. Embracing an alternative lifestyle.
Pictured Above: Super Surfer with a bag attachment
What made you decide to start producing vaporizers?
The flavor and that I was not hacking up a lung the next day from blunts and bongs. I was going to buy one, but it had so many flaws that I knew I could address. I also saw that maybe I could make a living making vapes, so why not. Your desktop vapes are known as the most durable units on the market. How did you achieve this durability? What differentiates 7th Floor vaporizers from the competition?
Well, durability is always a concern. I also like guns and how they can be customized, upgraded and the AK-47 is just one amazing functioning gun. So with that thought, I made the SSV around durability and usability. Somehow I was an electrician and was lucky enough to have been working with a 4-inch conduit. Metal is tough, so what a great housing, I thought. The next thing was I needed a strong heater. After a ton of searching, I came across a ceramic heater and tried it. WOW, some of them have lasted 10+ years now. I think what differentiates 7th Floor vapes is who makes them and the materials we use in the SSV being mostly metal, glass and ceramic. We make a lot of the glass, and what we do not make, we design it to be made if we can not do it in house. I also am a user of cannabis and I have a passion for it so I am always trying to keep the SSV up to date and keep improving it. Being a perfectionist I am always seeing a better way. I think the biggest thing is the love of what we do and who we are. Anyone can come to meet the crew and do a tour. I think when you buy a 7th Floor vape like the Silver or Super Surfer, you are getting a little piece of me. That means we will be here for you and we will keep improving.
Above: Steve presenting the Super Surfer Vaporizer
From recently, 7th Floor became a part of the Elev8 group. What inspired this transition and did it change anything for 7th Floor?
Elev8 has really been a dope thing for all of us to rally around. The name says so so much. What really inspired the transition is an internal struggle with an investor that came on about 2 years after I started the SSV. It was never for the money, but for moral support and wisdom. That went away so for that reason we had to work to end 7th Floor LLC. 7th Floor vapes will always be a part of the heart, and really nothing on the production side has changed. Sometimes life makes moves and you just have to move.
Your last release was the Super Surfer Vaporizer. How does this unit differ from your other desktop vaporizers?
For the desktop, the Super was my last creation, but we also have produced the portable vape called the SideKick, along with a torch vape we call the Elev8R. I also came up with some Pro Trim Elite auto scissors for trimming. The SUP was an idea at the same time I came up with the DBV. I had to either make an affordable unit or a unit that could fill a bag. So I went with affordability and did the DBV. This was a good decision as I learned a lot about what I can and can not make in production. So, we added lights to the Super Surfer to make a cool night, as well as it can fill a bag or blow vapor out of the vapor whip. This really helps people with bad lungs. With the Super, I was also able to do some redesigns so I changed out the heater cover stand to accept a 19mm female joint. This makes swapping heater covers easier. Right now, I am working on my 5th rendition of our EOK (essential oil kit) for dabs. I have finally got over 1 heater cover for both herbs and oils, so now the new EOK will do concentrates only.
Pictured Above: The Sidekick Vaporizer
What are some major things you think should be improved in our industry?
Misinformation. I see so many people saying "Lets hit this enail at 710". Like that last cannabinoid vapes at 428, so why go higher? Now I also see CBD everything like it's the new cure-all. I think CBD has its place, but GOD gave us the plant in full form and we get full extraction from vaping flower. I would like people to learn that vaping flower has more healthy aspects than just getting high or taking CBD.
What are your plans and goals for the future?
Keep looking out for the next new thing from us here at Elev8. I plan to make Elev8 a lifestyle. I know its real because I live it every day and many of the people around me live it every day.
Pictured Above: Busy Day At Elev8/7th Floor
We want to thank Steve and his team for this interview! You can learn more about them here. You can also support them on Instagram here.
To see our curated 7th Floor collection click here.