How and when did the company start?
Topstone started in 2014 when I became ill and was using concentrates to help me heal. I would be lying in bed after taking 10 other prescriptions and struggled to even open my vaporizers because of resin gunking up the threads. I couldn’t find anything non-plastic or long-lasting. With my heavy daily use, the pens had a three-month lifespan or less. So, I starting drawing designs for something different; something I could easily clean, disassemble, and load. Topstone started with me trying find a solution for myself.
Your website says this product also came from the desire to “augment [your] own experience of concentrates.”
CT concentrates are incredible. They are pharmaceutical-grade in terms of the testing and purity. So, it felt wrong to me putting this incredibly clean medical solution into a delivery system that was frustrating to use and made of plastic. I use concentrates as I’m getting ready for the day, so I was envisioning a product that fits right in on the kitchen counter and that I feel excited about picking up every morning.
Is Topstone a one-man shop?
The core Topstone team is my partner Violet and me. Violet and I have been together for eight years, so we have a very deep communication wavelength and team mentality. We did this together. I shared my design ideas with her and she helps me communicate that vision to others and keeps us going on a day-to-day operations level.
Why focus only on concentrates and not include flowers?
I felt there weren’t as many good options for vaping concentrates as there should have been. The landscape has been growing in a really positive way. When Violet and I first heard about concentrates, it was more of a DIY extraction process with butane and other harsh solvents. But in the past few years, we’ve seen a lot more sophisticated, clean, healthy concentrates made with water or C02 extraction. Topstone is a product that continues to push that landscape forward.
How is your product different from other vaporizers?
We envision a different kind of concentrates experience. It’s about prioritizing design. It’s about prioritizing how using a piece makes you feel just as much as its function. In that sense, you could call us an “artisanal” vaporizer. In the glass market and even the paper market, there are mass produced options and then there are artisanal options. We didn’t see that in the vaporizer market, where they are typically made overseas in the thousands.
Tell us a bit more about the product’s design, inspiration, and build.
I’m inspired by Rocket espresso machines and those modern tabletop lighters—things that are a bit romantic in their design but still have solid functionality. Our materials are beautiful but also play practical, functional roles. For example, with the Pyrex glass chamber, you can see the vapor volume as you’re using the piece. It’s also super easy to clean: scrape residue off the inside and pop it in the dishwasher.
Why was using American-made components important for you?
Using American-made components is about supporting other local businesses and ensuring I meet our standards of quality. Everything on our piece is made in the US, even the battery, all the other internals, the packaging. Everything.
Do you make the vaporizers yourself?
I finish each vaporizer myself in our machine shop. It comes back to the artisanal quality and ensuring every aspect of the piece meets our standards. Right now, I make vaporizers as the orders come in.
How many prototypes did you go through and what major changes happened in the journey toward the final product?
We had three prototypes. The core ideas from my first design are still a part of the product: the mouthpiece was always going to be wood, the chamber was always going to be Pyrex. It was always going to be a bigger, countertop vaporizer. Throughout the process, our engineering got way more refined—the intake box, the shape of the 3D-printed twist-off joints, things like that.
The Topstone is a countertop vaporizer even though it’s shaped like a pen. Why did you marry the two designs?
This is also influenced by my early experiences of using concentrates. One of my simplest desires was to have a vaporizer that could actually stand upright on its own instead of always falling over and leaking out the mouthpiece. I wanted something handheld but wasn’t as concerned as making it portable as well. Instead, I wanted a vaporizer that could live on my countertop as a mainstay.
Why do you say, “Topstone is not an accessory”?
Topstone doesn’t live in your pocket or travel around with you. It’s rooted to your home life. It’s more than an accessory because it’s not paraphernalia or something you dispose of once it’s tapped. Instead, it’s an integral part of your relationship with concentrates. It elevates your whole experience of concentrates by engaging your senses—the organic feeling of the wood mouthpiece, the weight of stainless steel, that super clean taste coming off the titanium coil.
Let’s focus on you for a moment. I’ve heard you were a cyclist before founding Topstone. Can you tell us a bit about your cycling career?
Violet got me into cycling. It started with seeing Violet win the first sprint triathlon she competed in; I was recovering from a major spinal surgery at the time, but she inspired me to get into training. I quickly found out I was terrible at running and swimming but natural on a bicycle. I went deep into cycling.
From day one, it ignited a passion and I knew I wanted to go pro. I moved to Asheville, NC, to train in the Blue Ridge Mountains and traveled to Manizales, Colombia, to train with South American pros. Unfortunately, while in Colombia, I contracted several types of parasites, including two nasty amoebas. It stole two years of serious training and racing from me. At that point, I knew I had to pivot industries for realistic health reasons.
Is cycling still a part of your life?
Every day starts with a strong cup of coffee and a bicycle ride.
Has cycling influenced Topstone’s path in any way?
I have friends and contacts who were pursuing their own entrepreneurial ventures in the cycling industry. I’m lucky because they taught me about cycling but also what it takes to start a business. The pro cycling world is about regime, routine, discipline, training; you fail a lot but retain faith that you can still achieve your goals. Riding 150 miles sounds impossible until you do it. This mentality translated into entrepreneurship and has definitely helped me grow and stay focused despite the obstacles new businesses face.
What condition do you treat with medical cannabis?
My GI tract suffered a ton of trauma from the parasites on top of early Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. I also underwent major spinal surgery as a teenager. I have 22 metal bolts and two bars permanently fusing the majority of my spine. I use concentrates to help my GI tract and also to deal with the residual physical stress on my body.
Any plans to expand the company or your product line?
Keep your eyes out. You can expect some interesting collaborations and events. We always envisioned this as a lifestyle company, so we are interested in either creating or looping in new products. They could be outside of cannabis but still about elevating your time at home and your time pursuing wellness, which is what’s at the core of our vaporizer.