April 2015

Mastering the Vape Space



Dirty Little Vape Shop Secrets

By Norm BourSome Vape Shops Won’t Survive. Here’s Why.

Batman fans may recall the moment in “Batman Begins” when Bruce Wayne’s father teaches him about failure.
“Why do we fall?” he asks Bruce. “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”  A lifelong entrepreneur, I now coach and mentor vape space entrepreneurs. One of my mantras is “Fail early and fail often,” since our failures help us grow.  Across the country, there are several thousand vape shops participating in this $3.5 billion industry. Some are doing extremely well, many are getting along OK and some, unfortunately, are failing. Most failures are caused by a common human weakness, whether it’s lack of follow through, lack of planning or lack of funding.

N.H. Vape Shop: Lack of Follow Through

Last fall, VapeMentors offered a free review, diagnosis and weekly consulting worth around $1,000 to one vape space business. Regardless of where they were at in their stage of development—just getting started or if they had been open for business for a while—we knew we could offer valuable insights gleaned from working with many other vape shop owners. Our winning pro bono client was a vape shop owner in Hooksett, N.H. who had opened his doors two months ago. He told us that in his second week in business, another vape shop opened up less than two miles away. He wanted to know how to set his shop apart from his competitor. We were excited and ready to help him develop his competitive positioning and further develop a unique brand and create an in-shop experience that would set him apart from his competitor—for free. But, he never returned our calls or the forms we sent to further assess his situation. What happened? Presumably this business owner is too busy working in his business rather than on his business. He will likely face the same challenges and will continue to run on the same treadmill until he’s ready to work smarter and not harder.

Costa Mesa Vape Shop: Lack of Planning

Costa Mesa, Calif. is one of the densest areas in the country for vape shops. In the summer of 2013, a young man opened a 3,000 square foot store with high hopes of creating a vapor lounge and a huge magnet store, one of the biggest shops around and a great place to “hang.” However, when he tried to get his permit from the city, he was shut down by city council members who didn’t like the word “lounge” associated with vape shops. If he had planned better, he would have received his permits before signing the lease on a behemoth space. Over half of his retail space sat unused for a year and a half. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining to this story. He ended up forming a partnership with Vapor Solutions, which repurposed the space into a combined coffee shop/vape shop. Store number four in the Vapor Solutions’ growing chain, they’ve been hugely successful with their unique combined coffee/vape shop concept. The irony is that while it still looks like a vapor lounge, the city approved it because it’s designated as primarily a coffee shop that sells vape products. Despite the lack of planning at the outset, this lucky owner was ultimately able to realize his vision: a comfortable lounge environment that’s a great place to hang out and try different vapor products and e-liquids.

Lack of Funding

Of course, lack of funding is what stops a lot of budding vapreneurs from ultimately achieving their goal of opening a vape shop. That’s a topic for a whole other article. But, it’s important to note that lack of funding 1) can be overcome and 2) is not always the reason why people fail in the vape space. Staying focused on your goal, working smarter, not harder, and planning out your business strategy are just as important as securing the funding for your business. John Dumas, host of “Entrepreneur on Fire,” friend and fellow podcaster, developed an acronym for the word FOCUS: “Follow one course until success.” It works. In business, it’s easy to be reactive, rather than proactive. But that’s a sure-fire recipe for failure, especially if things aren’t cranking along smoothly. You have to step back, focus on what’s important and proactively make changes. If you want to create a vape space business, you need an even higher degree of focus since there are so many things to do. Your passion for vaping will only carry you so far. You must focus on developing a business plan or at least a business model for your budding business and then put the systems in place to implement your plan. Eliminate any excuses and give yourself permission to fall, pick yourself up and try again. Take heed. Take chances. Embrace opportunity. You only fail if you quit.

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors, the first and largest business consultancy focused on the vape space, now running VAPE U: Six Pillars to Vape Space Success. Norm also hosts Vape Radio and authored “Vapreneur: Your Guide to Mastering the Vape Space.” Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.