Call now to reserve exhibit space for the B2B vapor event at (203) 483-5774.
By Alyssa Stahr
Jason Winkler is an entrepreneur who started in concert promotions at the age of 19, working with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, DJ AM, Travis Barker, Paul Oakenfold, Wiz Khalifa and many more. From there he took his experience in the music business and marketing to help brands such as Uber build recognition in Southern California. He was able to pair brands with certain events and trend setting musicians to help create a buzz. Winkler brings a creative outlook on how to launch brands and is able to bring influential strategic partnerships to the table that gives companies the upper hand. At age 24 he helped launch a tech company called Liquipel. In one year the company won numerous awards such as Best Of Show at CES and The Edison Award. Once Liquipel had the respect from the tech world, Winkler wanted to spread the brand to the masses. In the next six months he set out to bring influential partnerships to the company. He wanted to make Liquipel a lifestyle brand, not just another tech company, so he signed partnerships with Pharrell Williams, WME and Steve Aoki. Most recently, Winkler and his business partner saw an industry that had no cool factor or lifestyle to it, so they brought that with one-of-a-kind packaging, clean flavors and creative content creation to Black Reserve. Winkler and his team have paired Black Reserve with some of the most recognizable names in music and sports, from throwing a launch party with performances from Rick Ross and Wiz Khalifa, to having Rampage Jackson do a signing at their booth at ECC.
Graftan Darnall has a background in product development, business architecture and design. Starting with the sale of a successful entertainment equipment rental company, he has worked on many product development, application development and branding projects. He holds patents for inventions in both consumer and commercial product space and considers product design his passion. Since 2012, he has been featured in major publications for his inventions and ventures. Darnall heads and co-heads all product development and brand strategy for Black Reserve, and manages business operations for Brand One Corp and client partners.
Cody Soto, an Orange County and Los Angeles resident, found his place in the world of marketing at a very young age. With his entrepreneurial mindset and the drive to succeed, he knew he would find great success in all business endeavors he explored. His first success was his position as brand ambassador for Orange County-based tech company Liquipel. As brand ambassador for Black Reserve, Soto has successfully signed professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston. Alongside celebrity endorsements, Soto has a successful past in the promotional space sponsoring events, campaigning with celebrity partners, and maintaining client relationships. Currently Soto also oversees brand strategy as marketing officer/partner for Brand One Corp.
While three may be a crowd in some cases, it’s not in the case of the three creators of Black Reserve: Jason Winkler, Graftan Darnall and Cody Soto. One of the first to discover lifestyle branding in the e-liquid industry, the three entrepreneurs always are working to find new ways to innovate and market their products differently than the all rest.
VAPE: You’ve all three been entrepreneurs in other businesses. How did this translate into getting into the e-liquid business?
Graftan: We were getting into mods and hardware, and we started realizing that there was this big opportunity in the e-liquid … and really coming out with an e-liquid that’s known for its quality and cleanliness. So, we took our knowledge of
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creating a brand and our passion for the vape community and the vape market. We really wanted to make a quality product in the market. We saw that there wasn’t a lot of classic bottle e-juice at the time, and a lot of things weren’t standardized. So, we wanted to bring that standard to the e-juice market and really create something different.
Jason: We really saw in the beginning of this industry that brands were kind of taking that approach of ‘hey, let’s print our name on a bottle make a good flavor and see what happens.’ No one really took the approach of ‘Hey, let’s try to build a brand,’ like a lifestyle brand and we feel like we were the first ones to kind of pioneer that. Even though our juice didn’t really launch right away, we got out there and we got the designs out there and we got the vibe of Black Reserve kind of in the market before we launched. And now we’re seeing a lot of companies kind of take that same approach and we’ve had a lot of companies tell us, ‘You guys inspired us to go a different route with our bottling and our content that we create and the way that people get involved.’ The key thing for us is to have the influential photographers that Cody brings to the table, and a really strong community in the vape scene, and taking the new kind of vibe to our brand. Now we’re starting to see that throughout the board and we’re proud of being kind of the first to do that.
VAPE: How do you view the lifestyle and celebrity aspect of a brand? I feel like a couple of years ago celebrities did not want to be seen vaping, and I feel like that’s kind of changed over the years. Do you feel that way too?
Jason: I really do feel that way. About two years ago, at that ECC, we were the first company to bring celebrity to ECC, so we had French Montana and Rampage, we [had a DJ] in our booth the whole time, so we really brought UFC, celebrity and music to an industry that celebrities were really kind of fearing. We used our relationship to kind of let them know, ‘Hey, this is a new industry, this is a growing industry and you should be a part of this industry before everyone jumps on board.’ That resonated with them early on, and I think by leveraging our relationships from working with them in the past and being involved in the music scene kind of helped us open the door for that. I do feel like there was kind of a convincing phase that we had to go through with a lot of these people. Cody’s really a strong point on that as well; really tight in with the content creators with the rap side and the DJ side is really what we’re focusing on right now.
VAPE: They say three’s a crowd. But it’s not with you. Why do you think the three of you work so well together?
Graftan: We’re all three are absolutely very different. We bring different skill sets to the table; we don’t overlap; we complement each other on everything. While Cody’s working on one thing, Jason’s working on another and I am too. Luckily we’ve been able to work together in a way where we don’t step on each other’s toes and we help each other with everything.
Jason: A lot of times too Graftan has to wrangle us all in, and he’s kind of the guy that makes sure everything executes on time. Cody and myself are all over the place trying to build new relationships, trying to find different avenues for the brand, and Graftan kind of pulls it all together and makes sure that we point it in the right direction.
VAPE: Take me back to the beginnings of Black Reserve. How did that idea come about and what was your inspiration?
Jason: We didn’t see a package or a high-quality brand out there, and our idea for it was let’s make the, and it’s kind of corny to say, ‘ace of spades’ of the vape industry. Or let’s make something that everybody wants to have and be a part of and not just a flavor that we make, but a brand that we recognize and feel that we want to be a part of. So, kind of building that cult following in a high-end fashion kind of way. That was our concept for Black Reserve from the beginning. We were sitting in a bar drinking and talking and that’s how it came about.
From there we thought up different packaging concepts and like I said content creation that would make sense for the brand, kind of built the whole entire story and the image before we even created the juice. We had an idea for flavors, but we know that if we created such a high-end package and brand that our juice would have to stand up to that. We created the brand, the packaging and we were like, ‘Hey we want to make sure that our juice is perfect.’ We don’t want to be that product that has great packaging and they buy it once and they don’t want to buy it again. We spent a lot of time after that testing. The reason we took so long to release our product is that we spent a lot of time sending out different flavors throughout the market to over 100 stores and having blind testing on our flavors. We tested hundreds of flavors to make sure we found the best flavors to launch with. That’s what really been able
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to ensure our success, and that’s why we’re one of the top selling brands in every single store we’re in right now.
VAPE: Can you talk about the trial and error process that went into choosing the three flavors?
Jason: We used a starring system. We did internal testing; we whittled down from about 100 flavors to about 20 flavors we really liked and then we sent those out to partnering stores, people who are really supportive of our brand, and we did a lot of consumer testing in-store with people who were looking for new juice to buy. We got the feedback a few different ways. We asked them some questions about the juice, if they would refer it to a friend, if it was an all-day vape, and then we had a star rating on how good it was. From there we were able to look at what the highest rated ones were and use that as our educated guess as to what the market wanted.
VAPE: Do you look at it as an all-day vape then? Is that your consumer focus?
Jason: We do, but we like to mix it up. We have a couple of flavors that are really rich and are very tasty and they won’t necessarily be an all-day vape, but they’re that flavor that you can sit back and really enjoy.
Graftan: I think one of them is an all-day vape and the rest are more of an enjoyable, savory vape.
VAPE: Do you have plans for expansion of the line?
Jason: Our fourth and fifth flavors that are coming out very soon, we’re actually very excited about. We can’t tell you yet what they’re going to be. One is definitely going to be an all day vape. We’re going to be focusing on seasonal flavors for 2016.
VAPE: How did the idea of tinted black glass, chrome colored top dropper filler system, and raised metal embossed labels come about?
Jason: We came out with all these designs and packaging that there when really there was nothing out there like that on the market. We wanted to create something different and raise the bar in terms of packaging and the branding and the look of something that would be on the shelf. We found an all-new system for dripping with the dropper and then we went about using metal labels to really give that bottle the pop. You can actually feel the labels, and it’s something when you hold in your hand it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool and it’s nothing like what I have had before.’” That was really important to us not only to recreate something from our vision, but something that was different and to raise the standard on what was on the market.
Graftan: In the middle of our process we had those silver caps, but then the law passed where they had to be childproof, so we switched to our black caps. The cool thing is by February you’ll be seeing that we’ve developed our own childproof silver dropper caps that will be coming with the bottle, and the look will be revised to what it was.
Jason: It was important to us to care about the safety of the consumers and children and be compliant.
VAPE: How do you feel you’re prepared for upcoming regulations?
Jason: We’ve really positioned ourselves with our manufacturing, our testing, even recreating all of our own flavors to position ourselves in the market and in the eyes of the government, as a leader. It’s taken a long time, a lot of R&D. We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
Graftan: We also have a really strong partnership involved that is really on the forefront of lobbying for this and being more involved on that side of things. We’re prepared with the people that we work with to make sure that we’re able to handle whatever regulations happen in the future.
Jason: A lot of people are in this business for a quick buck, and we’re trying to build a brand that lasts. It’s kind of a ballsy statement, but when there’s five or 10 companies left, we hope we’re one of them.
Graftan: We want to build a staple brand that you’ll know.
VAPE: Anything else to add?
Jason: We want to get the point across that we are a brand that is really involved in the music scene, the arts scene and photography. We are talking that culture and helping spread vape into the mainstream market through our avenues that we’re really tied into.
Cody: Our goal is to educate non-vapers. When we do these lifestyle shots, and it’s new to people and they don’t know what it is. We want to grab an audience—if you don’t know anything about vaping, come in to vaping. We just want to get all aspects of different industries and bring them into vaping. Like you know how Monster Energy sponsors a skateboarder, sponsors a professional snowboarder, it’s getting to that thing now where companies are sponsoring the best trick guy in the world, sponsoring athletes. It’s going to turn into that industry. Black Reserve is taking the first steps with it and kind of leading the way for that time to come. There’s going to be a lot of cool things that are coming up.
Jason: The reason for that is we want the community to know that we’re trying to spread the word in a unique way where it reaches the masses, and that’s the purpose that Black Reserve is doing this for. We want to grow this industry into something that is helping people quit smoking and using our outlets to do so.
For more information, visit http://www.blackreservevapors.com/.
By Susan Oser
Parrot Vapors has been a source of Web chatter lately, especially the hosts of Vapenet, who have become addicted to this e-liquid. It’s probably because their good friend Adam Miranda (A.K.A. vaping_goat), a host on Vapenet, decided to connect them to a few people. In fact, Adam Cericola, co-owner, was the one who asked me if I could do an interview with his brother Aaron a few months ago. I’m glad that I did, because Parrot Vapors is in it for the long run.
Susan: How did Parrot Vapors get started?
Susan: How did you get into vaping in general?
Susan: Why did you choose to get into selling e- liquid as opposed to equipment or other things?
Susan: What are your most popular e -liquids?
Susan: What has been the best thing about creating Parrot Vapors?
Susan:What has been your biggest disappointment with the company?
Susan: What do you want to see improved with Parrot Vapor?
Susan: How has your life changed since you started vaping?
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Susan: What has been the biggest surprise you’ve seen with the vaping community?
Susan: What has been your biggest disappointment you’ve seen with the vaping community?
Susan: What are you doing to protect yourself from regulations?
Susan: How do you feel about vaping activism?
Susan: Why should people care about the vaping community?
Susan: What do you see with the future of vaping?
Visit Parrot Vapors in Phoenix, Ariz. or visit http://www.parrotvapors.com. Order retail products from them at http://dallasvaporsupplies.com. For wholesale inquiries, call Aaron Cericola at (480)436 -2029, like Parrot Vapors on Facebook, join the #parrotNATION business page, and follow them @parrotvapors on Twitter. If you connect with them, please let them know that you saw their article in VAPE. They just happen to be subscribers.
With the passage of the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act (S. 142) by both houses of Congress, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will likely soon get new authority to require child-resistant (CR) packaging (“special packaging”) over certain packages of nicotine-containing e-liquid. Assuming the president signs the bill, as expected, covered products will be subject to the same requirements that CPSC already enforces on packaging of prescription drugs, some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and other potentially hazardous products found in the home.
Specifically, the law applies to “liquid nicotine containers,” defined to include “package[s] from which nicotine in a solution or other form is accessible through normal and foreseeable use by a consumer and that is used to hold soluble nicotine in any concentration.” Thus, bottles of refillable nicotine-containing e-liquid sold directly to consumers for use in “open-system” electronic vaping devices are covered, but packaging for zero-nicotine e-liquid—a growing segment of the e-liquid market—is not covered by the definition.
The new law also creates another important exception. Special packaging requirements would not apply to “sealed, pre-filled, and disposable” nicotine containers that are “inserted directly into an electronic cigarette, electronic nicotine delivery system, or other similar product,” so long as the nicotine is not accessible to consumers “through customary or reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion or other contact by children.” In other words, “closed-system” electronic cigarettes (cigalikes) where the e-liquid is not intended to come into contact with or be handled by the consumer are not required to use CR packaging.
CPSC already implements the Poison Packaging Prevention Act of 1970 (PPPA), Pub. L. 91-601, 84 Stat. 1,670 (Dec. 30, 1970). That law requires certain household substances to have packaging that makes it significantly difficult for children under five years old to open within a reasonable amount of time. The PPPA is regarded as one of the CPSC’s biggest successes. For example, CPSC estimates a 45 percent reduction in deaths of children under 5 due to the unintentional ingestion of aspirin or oral prescriptions.
To meet PPPA requirements, 80 percent of children should not be able to open the special packaging after 10 minutes of attempting to open it. The CPSC has adopted specifically prescribed testing. Additionally, 90 percent of adults must be able to open the packages. A minimum of one panel of 50 children must be tested, along with 100 adults aged 50 to 70 years old. Manufacturers or importers of products that require special packaging must issue certificates of conformity indicating that their products comply with the special packaging requirements, and must issue/furnish them to distributors and retailers, and make them available to the CPSC or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon request, under provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).
The bill—formally presented to the President for his signature or veto on January 19, 2015—was originally introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in summer 2014 in part because of the increase in Poison Control Center-reported incidents involving possible e-liquid ingestions, which can cause death or severe illness in large enough quantities. Indeed, in one case—although the facts are controversial, as apparently the consumer mixed e-liquid at home with very high concentrations of nicotine rather than using a commercially available product – one child death has been associated with access to an open bottle of e-liquid. Several states, including New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Minnesota, have passed laws requiring CR packaging for e-liquid products.
Vaping advocates agree that CR packaging is necessary and note that most responsible manufacturers have been using such packaging for some time. The American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA), a trade association of e-liquid manufacturers dedicated to the safe and responsible production and handling of these products, has required CR packaging for its members since 2012.
The new bill, which would take effect 180 days after it is signed into law, does not limit or pre-empt the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate e-cigarettes, and FDA would still be empowered to impose its own packaging requirements. Specifically, the Act mandates that FDA consult with the CPSC if the FDA “adopts, maintains, enforces, or imposes or continues in effect any packaging requirement for liquid nicotine containers, including a child-resistant packaging requirement … taking into consideration the expertise of the Commission in implementing and enforcing this Act and the … [PPPA].”
Electronic cigarettes and e-liquids that contain nicotine derived from tobacco fall within meaning of “tobacco product” under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Family Smoking and Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA). While the FSPTCA only gave FDA the immediate regulatory authority over cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco products, it also gave FDA the authority to promulgate a regulation to “deem” other, currently unregulated tobacco products (including nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and e-liquid) to be regulated products subject to the FSPTCA. The so-called “Deeming Regulation” is currently in the final stages of review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and is expected to be published in 2016.
Regardless of any new authority it obtains over e-cigarettes, as it has with certain drugs, it seems likely that FDA would defer to CPSC’s relatively successful approach to safeguarding children from ingesting easily openable dangerous products. Manufacturers and importers of liquid nicotine refill containers should begin planning to implement this new requirement, and expect enforcement by the CPSC down the road if packaging does not comply.
For more information, contact Sheila A. Millar (+1 202.434.4143, email@example.com), Azim Chowdhury (+1 202.434.4230, firstname.lastname@example.org), or Nathan A. Cardon (+1 202.434.4254, email@example.com). Follow consumer product safety, advertising, and similar topics on Keller and Heckman’s Consumer Protection Connection, and news and analysis on worldwide packaging regulations at PackagingLaw.com. For more information about our tobacco and e-cigarette regulatory practice in general, click here.
By Alyssa Stahr
All Luke Tschantz ever wanted to do was be a pilot with the Blue Angels. Though he received devastating news that would end his dream, he didn’t quit. While stationed in Hawaii, he found vaping through Volcano, a vaping company, and took his love of aviation and vaping back to his home state of Iowa. After moving to Atlanta to finish his MBA, another dream was realized—opening an e-liquid company called Nighthawk ELiquid. Tschantz recently shared his tough road with VAPE, including his drive for success, having a military-owned company and bringing vaping to the Southeast.
VAPE: Can you take me a little more in depth about your background in the military?
Tschantz: I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, and joined the Army after high school. My grandfather and my dad both served in the military; I was not really interested in college, so I enlisted and joined the Army. I always had a passion for aviation, and wanted to be a fighter pilot one day. I realized that I couldn’t fly jets in the Army; if I wanted to fly, it was helicopters, and I wasn’t really interested in that. I got out after my enlistment and started school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the No. 1 school in the world for aeronautics and aeronautical engineering.
While I finished my degree at Embry-Riddle, I started to apply for the Naval Aviator pipeline for the United States Navy. I applied three times before I was accepted, and after I finished my degree in aeronautical science, I left for Officer Candidate School.
VAPE:And then your dream to fly for the Blue Angels was crushed.
Tschantz: During OCS, the flight surgeon found minor back injuries in my medical record and disqualified me for naval aviation. I was devastated from the news. The only thing I wanted to do in my life was to fly. To get that close and kind of have it yanked away—it was pretty difficult. I decided to re-designate as an intelligence officer and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from 2011-2014.
VAPE:Having your dream crushed after being so determined must’ve been terrible.
Tschantz: The Navy flight program is actually one of the hardest things to get accepted to, and I think I was one of 50 people in the class that I got accepted to, and there were like 5,000 applicants. I was ecstatic at that point; I had worked so hard for this and I got it. Halfway through, they’re like, ‘We looked through your medical records and you’re still OK to be an officer, but you can’t fly.’ So, that was probably one of the hardest parts in my life to go through. Just the feeling of being defeated and not really having anything, not being able to do anything about it.
VAPE: And in Hawaii is where you found vaping?
Tschantz: In Hawaii, I noticed a lot of military guys using e-cigs as a replacement for cigarettes. I, myself, was an on and-off smoker for 10 years. I tried e-cigs in 2012, and was able to wean myself off of traditional cigarettes. While I was out there, I saw kind of the e-cig boon, especially in Hawaii with Volcano. What I realized [was] that [in] Iowa, where I’m from, there wasn’t any e-cig stores within a 100-mile radius. I would quit for a while and get back on. And the vapor products and e-cigs were really the only thing that helped me stay off. So, I approached Volcano at that time and I said, ‘I see you’re doing really well in Hawaii; there’s nothing back home where I’m from in Iowa. Can I distribute your products and have my own volcano store?’ They said, ‘Yeah, we can set you up as a distributor; there isn’t anybody in Iowa that’s carrying Volcano.’ In 2013, I opened my first vape store. I founded Hawkeye Vapor in 2013 while still serving in the Navy.
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VAPE: And then you decided to launch an e-liquid company.
Tschantz: After receiving multiple e-liquid samples from companies throughout my time owning Hawkeye Vapor Lounge, I realized that there were multiple companies that didn’t have great branding, and the e-liquid wasn’t the best. I thought that I could provide the vaping industry a better quality product, with branding that people could relate to in the industry. The military vape community is growing exponentially. I started doing my research for e-liquid labs and branding companies to start my own premium e-liquid line. We reached out to Showcase Marketing because of their work with Suicide Bunny, and had them design a militarized, aviation-type e-liquid brand. We launched Nighthawk E-Liquid in August, and got our first partnership with Vapor Beast in October. Next year, we are planning on doing all the major conventions and hope to increase the amount of international vape shops that carry Nighthawk E-liquid.
VAPE:Tell me a little more about your smoking journey and how you began trying e-cigarettes.
Tschantz: I was in Hawaii; I was working for an intelligence agency, and some of my enlisted members (so, the people that I was in charge of) started using these e-cig eGo pens. So, they brought it to me and I was like, ‘What is that?’ I was kind of familiar with it, but back in 2012 it was still pretty new. Sub tanks weren’t even around yet. They let me try it. I went on a search to try and find that specific one. It didn’t dawn on me that I probably could’ve Googled e-cig Hawaii and Volcano. I went around for a couple of afternoons to head shops and I was like, that’s not the one that I saw, and they were trying to sell me some other brand and I finally went into a shopping mall. And, Volcano, they kind of got their start in the kiosk side of the business. They later expanded to lounges. But, I ended up buying my first one and kind of went through the ranks of Volcano, and I really liked their products back in the time when there really wasn’t much other option. Then, I started to bring it home with me. I’d go home on leave and I’d come back to Iowa and my friends were like, ‘What is that, man? I’ve never seen anything like that.’ And a little lightbulb went off in my head that said, ‘You guys don’t even know what this is. It’s huge in Hawaii; it’s huge on the West Coast. Why can’t I bring this here and open my own business?’ And, so, that’s how I got started.
VAPE: So you moved back to Eastern Iowa?
Tschantz: I got out of the Navy and went back to Iowa and ran our vape lounge full time. I’m doing my MBA right now. When I moved to Atlanta, my goal was to either open a vape shop down here, or to develop our own premium e-liquid line. Once I got down here and got into school, I realized there are a lot of vape shops here, unlike in Iowa, where I was, like, the only one in the city. There’s probably 150-200 shops in Atlanta metro. And, I didn’t really want to be the new guy jumping into the pond with everybody else. That kind of solidified my quest to developing an e-liquid company. I still run the brick-and-mortar in Iowa. I have a great manager who does everything for me. I order all of the products and I do the payroll and pay rent and the bills. I spend the money and they go to work—it’s a good tradeoff.
VAPE: What were you finding wrong with other liquids that you wanted to change?
Tschantz: Owning the vape shop and being on the retail side for a couple of years, I saw what sells. I saw what flavors sell really well, so that was a good kind of inside knowledge for me to base our flavor profiles off of. I knew custards sold really well; some of the dessert vapes sold really well. I kind
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of saw everybody coming out with the same stuff. Everybody had a strawberry milk or a strawberry custard … everybody’s trying to, basically, copy everybody else. They see the success with the companies, and they say, ‘Well, I can do that, too,’ so they bring out strawberry milk, and there’s 5,000 different strawberry milks. I kind of knew what flavor profiles we wanted, but we didn’t want to do what everybody else did. So, how we developed the flavor profiles is that we had a manufacturing lab send us 30 or 40 different flavors, and we whittled those down to about 10, and we wanted to launch five. But, we couldn’t eliminate the sixth one. We couldn’t eliminate one, so we just decided that, hey, the six are so good, that we’re just going to do six. On the branding side, our branding has a fighter pilot-type military logo, and I think that best describes my background. I think that it can relate. Military guys can relate to it. People that go to air shows just to go see the Blue Angels, they can relate to it. It’s really edgy. It almost has, like, a video game, like HALO, first-person, shooter-type branding, and I don’t think anybody in the industry has a military geared brand e-liquid company.
VAPE:What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in making the liquid?
Tschantz: The challenges that I see is not only the e-liquid market’s pretty saturated, it’s the challenge of kind of going into vape shops and talking to owners and having a blank slate. Because, me, as an owner, we get samples every day. We get emails all the time—‘Hey, we’d like to send you this’–and we just kind of get blinded by all of these companies that are almost spamming the vape shop owners to the point where they don’t even want to hear it anymore. OK, you’re just another e-liquid company that’s soliciting me. So, that’s probably the hardest challenge. That, and being a brand that nobody really knows about yet. We’re coming around; we’re getting there. We’re getting a lot of face time on the social media platforms. People are asking questions. We did a really nice website; I think that set the bar for other e-liquid companies to strive for. If you look at the overall branding of e-liquid companies, it’s almost you have the ones that it doesn’t really seem like they put a whole lot of thought and work into it—just bad labels or the fact that they’re borderline copyright infringement. I’ve seen a lot of companies that are knocking off cereal companies. When we were in the development stage for branding, we didn’t just want to put Froot Loops on the label. We wanted to develop our own brand and to have a brand following—have people who look at the brand. I was really impressed with Suicide Bunny and the way that they did their branding. Cuttwood has a huge following—Cosmic Fog, Space Jam—so we kind of wanted to go that route and develop this Nighthawk brand that people can get excited about, and kind of feel like they’re a part of the Nighthawk family. We went through a company called Showcase Marketing. They’re unknown to a point, but they’re also very well respected with those that know their work. We partnered with them, and they’ve designed our entire brand from start to finish. The website, the logos, most of the Facebook images.
VAPE: Do you plan on working with any of the military in the future?
Tschantz: If we ever get to the point to where we do a follow-up line, I want to do some type of donation—a portion of that donation to some type of military cause. Whether it’s the Wounded Warrior Project—some type of non-profit that supports the military.
VAPE: So, you do have plans for expansion?
Tschantz: If the high-VG stuff sticks around, I don’t know if that’s bad or not. The cloud chasing stuff has been around for a while, but I think it’s going back to more flavor chasing. Or, looking for the flavor vapes. So, if there is still a high market for high-VG stuff, I think that would probably be our follow-up line, is do like a special-edition, high-VG line where five or 10 or 20 percent of the proceeds goes to such-and-such military cause.
VAPE: Regulations: Where do you stand?
Tschantz: How we’re going to deal with that, I think, [is] being responsible as a company in the e-liquid manufacturing game [and] making sure you don’t do any type of copyright infringement. Ensure that there isn’t any childish pictures or types of childish marketing. So that people take us seriously and not a bunch of renegades-a bunch of e-liquid companies that are marketing to children. So, we tried to stay away from that when we did our branding. I think that it’s going to be some type of regulation, but I don’t think the government is looking to put us out of business, per se. I just think that they’re trying to have this unrelated industry have some type of rules and regulations, which I think is appropriate for any company.
VAPE: Anything else to add about the line?
Tschantz: One thing that kind of makes us stand out is, because we’re based in Atlanta, we wanted to give the southeastern side of the U.S. something to root for when it comes to e-liquid. Most of the major e-liquid companies are based out of California. And, there’s really no up-and-coming e-liquid companies in the Southeast. You have Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina. So, what we did with our flavor profiles, is we kind of wanted to give, like I said, the southeastern side of the U.S. something to root for, something to call their home e-liquid company. So, most of our flavor profiles kind of have a southern feel to it. We have the Arnold Palmer lemonade iced tea, which a lot of people enjoy; Peaches and Cream; Caramel Cinnamon Roll; kind of the southern past things that the people in the Southeast kind of enjoy. That’s what makes us different, and we’re proud to represent Atlanta. There’s a big vape community that kind of gets overshadowed by the California vape scene, but the people here are really passionate about it.
For more information, visit http://nighthawkeliquid.com/.
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See you at the Warsaw Expo on March 4 and 5.
By Maria Verven
New E-Liquid Company Makes Big Waves Right Out of the Gate
The first question one might ask the owner of a new e-liquid company is: Why start an e-liquid business at this late a date?
Jodi Santino, co-owner and founder of Intrinsic e-Liquid, fired back a quick answer.
“When we attended the ECC show in 2014, we saw a lot of companies run by people who seemed very inexperienced with regard to the big business world,” she said. “It was like the wild, wild West. With my biotech background, I already understood the fact the FDA was coming, but it didn’t appear to be a main concern of many I met.”
After earning a degree in accounting and a master’s in international business, Santino and her husband/business partner both garnered years of business experience. “Thanks to our finance and biotech backgrounds, we understand what it takes to launch and sustain a successful business,” Santino said. “I have a knack for numbers. We bring more to the table than most.”
She continued to work full-time as a controller for a large insurance provider while writing the business plan for Intrinsic, finally quitting her job in June when they launched Intrinsic at Miami’s World Vapor Expo. Their debut was quickly followed by appearances at Chicago’s Vapor Expo and the ECC in Pomona, Calif.
Like many, Santino’s passion for the industry comes from having someone close to her die from smoking-related illnesses.
“I’m the epitome of the heavy smoker’s kid from the ‘70s,” she said. “My biological father passed away from coronary disease at a young age. When my little brother took up smoking, my mom and I were vehemently against it. At the end of the day, vaping helped him quit. That impressed the heck out of me because he had tried to stop on numerous occasions.”
Intrinsic’s e-liquids are made by a contract manufacturer in an ISO 7 clean room inside a cGMP compliant lab. “I got the impression at the 2014 show that if you used a manufacturing company to produce your juice, you were a poseur, a fake,” Santino said. “But, flash forward to 2015, and I’m amazed to see how much the industry has matured in just one year. People understand this is a serious business, and government regulations will be imposed to ensure the safety of the consumer.”
Intrinsic uses NicSelect USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia-grade) nicotine for all of its flavors. “It was not a hard decision at all,” Santino said. “We tested others. We weren’t going to mess with anything from China. We wanted something that was premium. Hands down, NicSelect is the best. It was almost a given, but we did our research. We let our manufacturer do some blending and testing and make sure it was all kosher. We’re exclusively using NicSelect and have no plans to use anything but.”
Intrinsic also uses USP kosher food-grade vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol in all its flavors; the mix is 70 percent VG, 30 percent PG. All Intrinsic e-liquids are diacetyl free and come in four nicotine levels: 0 mg, 3 mg, 6 mg and 12 mg.
Before launching their first three flavors, Santino pulled together a tasting group that included a local vape shop in Simi Valley and a circle of advisers. “The market is oversaturated with juice companies, but we feel our flavor profiles stand up and hold their own against the competition,” she said.
Thanks to aggressive outreach directly to vape shops, via distribution channels and strategic alliances, Intrinsic has made great headway in getting its e-liquids out in the market. Santino said they worked hard on the pricing structure “so everyone makes money up and down the chain.”
Intrinsic now is “firmly planted” in the areas where the vape shows were held; somewhere between 50 and 100 shops in Florida and the Carolinas, New England, Chicago and the Midwest, and all over the West, now carry the brand. Thanks to an aggressive international sales rep, Intrinsic now is carried in a dozen other countries, including Australia, Guam, Lithuania, Malaysia, South Africa and the U.K.
Santino attributes their early worldwide success in part to successful branding. “When creating a concept for our premium e-liquid, we turned to our city for inspiration. We took the city of L.A., the most photographed city in the world, and used it as our backdrop for marketing,” she said. “People all over the world want stuff that comes from L.A. It’s been a very pleasant surprise.”
The names of their e-liquids clearly reflect the frenetic pace of the city where they’re made: “Rush,” a blend of vanilla and mint; “Skyline,” a mix of lemon, dragon fruit and raspberry; and “Traffic,” their dessert blend of peanut butter and banana. “We sure stopped traffic with this flavor,” states the description on the Intrinsic website.
Santino said Intrinsic will be debuting two new flavors around Thanksgiving. They’re keeping the names and flavors secret for now, but there’s very little doubt they will be intrinsic to vapers’ tastes and the city of L.A.
For more information, call http://www.intrinsiceliquid.com/.
The original Vaping Vamp, Maria Verven is partner and chief marketing mentor with VapeMentors.
The new shop opened on Feb. 1 and is located at 10100 Commerce St. This marks the company’s fourth location in Northwest Georgia and is representing a larger expansion initiative that calls statewide presence. The company plans opening as many as 10 locations in the Greater Atlanta area over the next few years.
To stay one step ahead of the curve, Smart Spark will be the first vaping franchise to control the production of its e-liquids. The Summerville location will feature an AEMSA-certified “clean room,” which was built in anticipation of upcoming FDA standards that allows Smart Spark to mix e-liquids in a controlled environment on site, which also will allow the company to control the quality and consistency of the e-liquid products. The shop will also serve as a distribution center for all Smart Spark lounges.
“With vaping becoming a healthier and more popular alternative to smoking, the FDA is putting restrictions on on-site e-liquid preparation,” said Smart Spark founder Jeremy Kwaterski. “Our Summerville location is an introduction to the new era for Smart Spark as we push ahead of FDA recommendations and manufacture our e-liquids with an emphasis on the strictest standards.”
Kwaterski founded Smart Spark Vape + Lounge in early 2014 upon learning his father had contracted stage 4 lung cancer. He was looking for a healthier way to get his father to stop smoking while still getting the nicotine he craved. Unfortunately, Kwaterski was too late to offer his dad help, and he passed away in early 2015. In his dad’s honor, he has made a commitment to help as many people as possible kick the cigarette and chewing tobacco habit.
Today, Smart Spark has established itself as the first authentic franchise brand in the vapor industry. The lounges merge an upscale atmosphere with a vape shop retail component, where customers can relax while enjoying a wide selection of premium juice and mod products. All of the juices—from apple pie and strawberry shortcake to blue raspberry and various tobacco flavors, among others—are 100 percent American made and the option to mix and create their own flavors. Smart Spark’s inventory of vaporizers represents a higher standard compared to other vaporizers in the market by focusing on quality and effectiveness. Smart Spark lounges also offer various food and drink options, as well as entertainment including arcade games, pool tables and juke boxes.
“We are excited to bring a smarter solution to smoking to the residents of Summerville,” Kwaterski said. “Making the decision to quit smoking can be a difficult journey for some, so we are proud to offer our customers the smartest e-liquids and vaping products on the market to facilitate their transition away from tobacco.”
About Smart Spark Vape + Lounge
Founded in 2014 by franchise industry veteran Jeremy Kwaterski, previous founder CPR Cell Phone Repair, Smart Spark Vape + Lounge is the first authentic franchise brand in the multi-billion dollar vapor industry, merging an upscale lounge atmosphere with a vape shop retail component. Having already opened three lounges in Georgia, Smart Spark launched its unique franchise opportunity in 2015 and plans to have a total of 150 locations nationwide in the next few years. For more information, please visit www.smart-spark-vapor.com.
Words and photo by Tony Ottomanelli II
When contemplating the ideas behind my current short documentary project, titled “Who Are The Vapers?” I can’t help but wonder about whether my team and I will receive the overwhelming support I have anticipated. An article I wrote published in October’s Issue of VAPE was a clear indication that this film would be made sooner than later, but only with the support of the vaping community. We introduced the production of our film by creating social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about three months ago, as well as a YouTube channel and LinkedIn account.
“Who Are The Vapers?” now has a YouTube channel and a LinkedIn account, emerging as additional promotional opportunities in the social media realm. The fact of the matter is that an online presence is vital, regardless of which type of project it is. I assumed there would be an enthusiastic reaction from the vaping industry of widespread, immediate support. However, I must continually remind myself that it has only been three months since the film’s social media introduction and almost two months since the official announcement of our ethnographic documentary in article the October issue of VAPE.
The key word to reflect on in that last sentence is “ethnographic,” or the examination of broad culture sharing behavior of individuals or groups. I’m approaching this short documentary from a sociological perspective, conducting qualitative research while facilitating an observational protocol related to ethnographic methodology. Ethnography is a word many people are not accustomed to often hearing. Creswell said that it is a research method that is used by sociologists often when studying groups, organizations, and communities that are a part of a larger complex society.
What’s promising, however, is that this project could be published in the peer reviewed Journal of Video Ethnography, instantly categorizing the film as a valid social scientific study for academia to offer as a reference for students and faculty. Thus, our strategy of inquiry toward our research question is the ethnography, which is what uniquely sets our documentary apart from the others.
We plan to film interviews with individual vapers in order to capture their authentic and emotionally charged stories of how they were able to quit smoking by switching to vaping, taking us through their mental museum of past tobacco abuse. The backstory of any vaper can be riveting, and vapers are not usually ones to shy away from sharing their personal transformations. I have at least 10 interview subjects on deck, eager to begin this process. We can always use more supporters and volunteers.
“Who Are The Vapers?” could influence empathetic attitudes, thus creating more social approval of vaping nationwide. All things considered, even though I am optimistic about my project, I feel as if there is a stigma surrounding the act of filming an independent vaping documentary. Recently, I had a chat with fellow VAPE writer Susan E. Oser, known as Angelwriter in the online vaping show world, and she reminded me of the issues she heard about concerning vaping documentaries. She reminded me to look up previous projects, which I had done prior to our discussion, but I had not recently revisited that portion of my research.
I came across a once highly anticipated, feature- length documentary that has yet to release a single second of footage, titled “We Are Vapers.” Oser suggested there may be a cloud of skepticism among the vaping community, due to the fact that promises were made in the past and many pledged their support to a number of potential projects with little or no results. Unfortunately, for “We Are Vapers,” the filmmaker raised more than $20,000 for the documentary, yet no footage has been released and the website was deactivated. In an article online, writer Anthony H. states, “There is nothing to show for ‘We Are Vapers’ except a lot of excuses, a defunct website and a close- lipped attitude towards the community who donated nearly $22,000 to make it happen.”
Taking this into account, in attempt to garnish more support within our community, questions arose: Are certain vaping groups and individuals reluctant to show support? Is there suspicion with getting involved, all because of one past project that rose and fell so fast?
Don’t get me wrong; overall, support for our project is not entirely absent. We have attracted 1,000 Twitter followers @WhoAreThe- Vapers, but my expectations were much higher. Why wouldn’t my vaping documentary get more immediate attention and overwhelming support? Especially given the political climate suffocating the vaping industry and the genuine passion shared by all vapers. I can’t help but think of that failed feature -length documentary. Yet, the issue at hand revolves around my other questions as to why my own independent film has yet to attract the instant support it deserves. Something tells me, that one failed film can’t seriously be a factor. Then again, sociology would reply by stating, “It’s obvious that everything is connected within our social construction of reality, everything.”
Perhaps it is a major factor for my own challenges with the production of an independent vaping documentary. But if I’m going to think big, I need to look at the big picture. Perhaps the filmmaker was, in reality, honest with his intentions and totally underestimated his budget plan. All we can do is move forward and keep trying. The 2016 release of the feature- length vaping documentary “A Billion Lives” will show groundbreaking footage that serves as concrete evidence that hope remains steady for vaping as acceptable subject matter openly embraced by the filmmaking community. This particular documentary was funded by a major film production studio, and though they most likely had to overcome some obstacles producing their film, nothing will ever be more challenging than attempting to make a film independently. Fully funded by a major studio or not, I still respect their crew a great deal for their relentless dedication and courageous sacrifice. They’ve made history; it’s undeniable.
To all the vaping activists across the nation, it’s vital to promote vape education to gain more positive social expectation about this alternative to cigarettes. Ultimately, a newly acquired inhalation, a fresh taste of modernized elation. When all’s said and done, is there a vaping documentary curse? Not at all; some people just seem to take a turn for the worse.
Please feel free to contribute in any way: spread the word, follow our social media pages, contribute funds, sponsor us, vouch for what you believe in and do whatever you can to assist us in completing this film. Help this filmmaking vaper complete a documentary project consisting of artistic expression combined with academic research.
Tony Ottomanelli graduated with a Master of Arts in sociology from DePaul University. Ottomanelli also taught sociology at Owens Community College. He lives in Denver, Colo., where he pursues opportunities in sociology, writing and, of course, vaping, testing new vaping devices and e- liquids. Because the staff focuses on educating customers, Vaporleaf off Colfax in Denver is his favorite go- to shop.
The makers of Marlboro, Altria, formerly know as Philip Morris, this week announced a huge layoff that would predictably save the company $300 million per year. The company participated in a call, and said that sales volume is down 2.6 percent since last quarter.
Gizmodo.com reports that Altria’s Chief Executive Marty Barrington was asked during the call what the company planned to do with the savings. While Barrington didn’t say specifically, he did say “the company continues to invest in ‘reduced harm products’ such as electronic cigarettes and in its brands.”
The company is developing its iQOS e-cigarette, hoping to compete with other tobacco companies hoping to make a buck in the vaping market.