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extract labs story | boulder co | cbd companies | craig henderson | success stories

Where It All Started | Extract Labs Story

From humble beginnings in a garage to a thriving business, the journey of Craig Henderson and his company is one of perseverance, hard work, and determination. Get ready to be captivated by the tale of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the creation of Extract Labs.

December 2016 | Garage | Arvada, CO | 250 sq ft

On a cold and dreary day back in December of 2016, Craig Henderson had a dream of becoming his own boss and making CBD (Cannabidiol) accessible to those in need. He was motivated to start something amazing after going through a difficult period in his life, which included filing for divorce from his wife of nearly 10 years and losing his job at Apeks Supercritical. Despite the challenges he faced, he remained determined to make something big happen and never gave up on his dream. With this mindset, he founded Extract Labs, a company that specializes in creating CBD products that are affordable and accessible to all.

Craig was determined to turn his dream into reality, and he wasn’t going to let a lack of investors or support hold him back. Despite facing financial obstacles, he took matters into his own hands and transformed his garage into a laboratory. He procured essential equipment such as a small rotary evaporator, and invested in basic processing tools, thus laying the foundation for Extract Labs. With unwavering determination and a can-do attitude, Craig embarked on this solo journey, determined to make it a success.

As Craig dedicated himself to the creation of Extract Labs, he faced numerous challenges and long hours. Despite the demands of caring for his two young children, aged 2 and 8 at the time, Craig worked tirelessly, alternating between the house and garage to perfect his early extractions. He would stay up late into the night, experimenting and adjusting his processes, drawing on his prior experience from Apeks Supercritical – although he had to adapt to using more rudimentary equipment. There was a substantial amount of trial and error involved in finding the most efficient method, but Craig was undaunted. 

Craig in garage

He utilized his freezer for the isolation process and even used shoveled snow as a coolant for the condenser coils on his first rotary evaporator. Through determination and resourcefulness, Craig succeeded in overcoming these obstacles and laying the foundation for Extract Labs. We asked Craig if he had any other examples of his ingenuity in the garage lab. He said:

Yes, I couldn’t afford a chiller to chill the rotary evaporator so I purchased a small fish tank pump and a large rough tote that I would fill with ice or snow if it was available. The fish pump would pump the cold water though the coils in the rotary evaporator. Distillations were done in my basement, and isolation was done in my kitchen.

Craig’s big break came when a farmer he met through mutual friends decided to put his trust in Craig. The first large quantity of hemp was delivered to the home address and his vision for the future really started to open up. Craig had also gone to a local hemp expo, with his truck almost breaking down on the way there, and met other farmers that helped give the business the boost it needed.

February 2017 | Second Location | Boulder, CO | 2,500 sq ft

Craig was finally able to start hiring employees to further his vision. The first two employees worked alongside him in his garage. Only a month and a half later, in February of 2017, he found his first rental space to expand the business. A humble setup in North Boulder would become the 2nd home of Extract Labs. We asked Craig what was most memorable about the second location, Craig said:

At the time it felt like we had “made it” having a 2,500 square foot building seemed so huge at the time. Looking back it was still very primitive and it’s hard to believe how amazing it felt during that time. The company was young and the industry was young, but we were thriving. The most memorable part was all the new employees and the personal feeling of accomplishment and business success for the first time ever in my life.

Recognizing the presence of numerous CBD extraction companies in the market, Craig saw the need to differentiate himself and stand out from the competition. This realization led to an “Ah-Ha” moment, when Craig shifted his focus from raw materials to product manufacturing. He aimed to establish a brand that was appealing and accessible, rather than pretentious or boutique. This vision led to the creation of Extract Labs Muscle Cream, our best-selling and highly acclaimed product. When asked about the origin of this successful product, Craig provided further details:

I first started formulating muscle cream around June of 2017. I wanted a cream that when people put on their body they immediately started feeling something hence the reason for menthol. I also wanted the cream to be made of simple, effective organic ingredients so that people would trust the cream and be able to read and understand every ingredient on the label, unlike most topicals today where you can’t even pronounce the names of ingredients. The third aspect of the cream was high potency. At the time most creams had 50-100mg of CBD. Our first muscle cream had 1000mg of CBD.

July 2017 | Third location | Boulder, CO | 5,000 sq ft

Craig successfully relocated to a spacious facility in Boulder located at 1756 38th Street. The new location, which serves as the third official workspace, is situated in a charming strip mall alongside a Kung Fu studio and a glass installation company. The space has been fully configured to accommodate the laboratory operations, including material grinding, alcohol extraction, distillation, Co2 extraction, and isolation in the rear of the building.Meanwhile, the front of the house served as a hub for hemp storage, product formulation, production, customer service, social media and marketing, wholesale, shipping and receiving, and accounting activities.

IMG 9339 scaled

To paint a picture of how small we were at the time, a 4-top table served as a centralized workspace for social media management, customer service, marketing, accounting, and label printing for shipping purposes.

Around this time in the industry, isolate was the hot product. We asked Craig about what he recalls about this time and how it compares to the market today:

When I first started making isolate, it sold for around $30.00 per gram. About the time that we had started to master the process of producing isolate on a small scale. We were producing 20-30 kilos per month when prices dropped to around $9.00 per gram. We continued to scale isolate production but the prices continued to drop. Today, isolate can be purchased in large quantities for as low as 25 cents per gram.

The success of his isolation production opened new doors and helped expand the business. In April 2018, Craig made the decision to introduce the new brand, Fetch. This was a line specifically catered to animals, as the customer service team had multiple customers asking how much CBD they should give to their pet. As growth continued, Craig wanted to accommodate the team and made the investment to purchase additional desks for the front of house, which was met with great enthusiasm by the employees.

In an effort to source new vendors, Craig actively participated in hemp expos across the nation, traveling to events in Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky and more, always accompanied by a team of representatives from the company. Additionally, Craig was a regular presence at local events such as NoCo and often served as a speaker, further establishing the company’s presence in the industry.

October 2018 | Fourth Location | Boulder, CO | 8,000 sq ft

photo 2 EL moving min

Within two years of operation at the third location, it became evident to Craig and his team that additional space was necessary to meet the increasing demand. Fortunately, they were able to secure a new building within the same business park. The front of house operations, product formulation and shipping and receiving were promptly relocated to this new facility, along with an expansion of the office area. The plan was to transfer the majority of the laboratory operations to this new location, while retaining hemp storage and basic processing at the previous site.

Craig recognized the need for a more efficient method of filling tincture bottles and streamlining the production process. Previously, the task was performed manually, including hand-filling of the bottles, insertion of the dropper, labeling, addition of batch IDs, and application of tamper detection seals using heat-shrinking techniques. The solution came in the form of the tincture filling line, which revolutionized the formulations department by providing a high-capacity piece of equipment capable of producing tinctures at a significantly faster rate – 100 times faster than manual filling.

This building is where Craig started focusing on how to make sure customers knew his products were the purest and most potent in the market. He got his team to get the facility cGMP, Kosher, Halal, and cruelty-free certified. Craig knew his product was top-notch, but wanted to assure his customers through transparency.

As time went on, the space that had once seemed huge, was beginning to fill up very quickly. New equipment for distillation and isolation filled up the back of the building, the formulations department and storage filled the middle, and shipping and the office area filled up the front. Craig saw that this building was not going to be able to support the company in the long run, so he started to search for the next home for Extract Labs.

Aug 2021 | Current Location | Lafayette, CO | 22,000 sq ft

large commercial building

The search for the company’s forever home had been on Craig’s mind since 2018. The rent in Boulder was getting outrageous, and Craig knew he had to invest in his own space. After looking at countless locations, as soon as Craig stepped into the final building, he knew it was the one.

The first level of the building was already built to accommodate a huge lab, storage, and shipping. The second story had multiple office spaces and meeting rooms, as well as a full kitchen and break area. The view from the building was gorgeous, as you could see The Flatirons and foothills. The ample amount of space was more than enough for the company and left Craig feeling confident that if we ever needed to expand an area, he would not have to search for a new space again.

Extract Labs continues to thrive and it’s all thanks to Craig’s dedication and finding employees who deeply care about the company.  

Related Posts
Craig Henderson CEO of Extract Labs head shot
CEO | Craig Henderson

Extract Labs CEO Craig Henderson is one of the country’s top experts in cannabis CO2 extraction. After serving in the U.S. Army, Henderson received his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville before becoming a sales engineer at one of the nation’s leading extraction technology companies. Sensing an opportunity, Henderson began extracting CBD in his garage in 2016, putting him at the forefront of the hemp movement. He’s been featured in Rolling StoneMilitary TimesThe Today Show, High Times, the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, and many more. 

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