Pete Patterson loves to see people's reaction when he tells them he makes the machinery used to process marijuana.

Some are shocked and taken aback, after all, cannabis used to be an illegal drug.

Others are impressed and think it's cool Patterson is capitalizing on a thoroughly modern and lucrative business sector.

"When we first started Vitalis Extraction Technology, I used to cover my mouth and say what business I was in quietly," said Patterson, who is the company's co-founder and chief operating officer.

"Now, I'm very open about it. It's not taboo anymore. We don't touch the plant."

That's right, Vitalis manufactures, sells and installs the units that use high-pressure carbon dioxide to turn cannabis into the essential oils used in products for both medical and recreational use.

In fact, 40 Vitalis-made machines are in use around the world.

Most are in the U.S., but 10 are in Canada, two are in Colombia and one in Serbia.

Marijuana is legal in Canada for medical use, but is expected to also become legal for recreational use by the end of the year.

"We're already seeing many Canadian companies ramping up for the recreational legalization," said Patterson.

"Canada is a good market for us, but 80 per cent of our business is in the U.S."

The recreational use of cannabis is legal in nine states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – plus the District of Columbia.

It is also decriminalized in another 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The extraction machines are manufactured by Vitalis in Kelowna, where it has 37 employees.

Vitalis' botanical extraction systems are state-of-the-art and have dramatically improved technology that hadn't really changed in the past century.

In fact, Vitalis' innovation meant it filed patents with over 18 unique claims in its first year of operation.

Making essential oil-extraction machines for the cannabis industry is a far cry from the photocopier business Patterson used to be in.

However, Patterson knows business operations and it's served him well in both careers.

He was the Vancouver-based national operations manager for Ricoh photocopiers overseeing a $100-million-a-year business.

He also has an executive MBA from Royal Rhodes University in Victoria.

When he moved to Kelowna six years ago it was because his clinical psychologist wife, Fiona, had landed a dream job here.

The only person Patterson knew in Kelowna was ReMax realtor Joel Sherlock, who had just helped engineer James Seabrook buy a house.

Sherlock was also helping Seabrook raise money to start Vitalis.

Patterson came on board to help write the business plan and handle operations.

For the business plan, Patterson followed a Blue Ocean Strategy as outlined in the book of the same name by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Such strategy urges businesses to skip competing with other companies in the bloody, red ocean and come up a niche where you have the market to yourself, thus an untouched, blue ocean.

So, rather than get into the highly-competitive field to supply extraction machines for coffee or cosmetics sectors, Vitalis decided to concentrate on the under-served burgeoning cannabis extraction market.

It's worked and Vitalis is a world leader and is positioned to only get bigger and better.

Working at a rapidly growing company leaves Patterson with very little spare time.

"It's a good thing business is my passion because I spend most of my time with Vitalis," said Patterson.

"But I also enjoy family time with my wife and our son, Hemingway, 2. We get out on hikes, go to the pool, go to Vancouver Island to see family and get to Hawaii for a week here and there on vacation."

Patterson's volunteerism is linked to Vitalis.

The whole staff has made lunches to distribute to the homeless, stuffed Christmas hampers for clients of the Central Okanagan Food Bank, donated blood and cycled for Multiple Sclerosis fundraising as a group.