April 2016

Mastering the Vape Space: Why Florida is a Vape Trendsetter

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By NORM BOUR

In 1982, first-time-writer John Naisbitt penned the book “Megatrends.” Little did he know, it paints a microcosm of the vape industry’s deep roots in Florida.

Megatrends discusses societal changes within the country and said that “The most reliable way to anticipate the future is by understanding the present.” He called himself a “social forecaster.” Fifteen years earlier, Naisbitt worked at the White House under President Lyndon Johnson and was tasked with gathering similar intelligence for the staffers.

He and his team of two dozen analysts dissected 200 daily newspapers from all over the United States and looked for signs or indicators of what was to come. This was the core of Megatrends. Today, there are online tools that do the same thing, but 35 years ago this was innovative and tedious work.

His studies revealed that many new trends in the US comes from just a few states which he called “bellwether states.” Among those were California and Florida. When it comes to innovation and leadership in the vape space these two states stand out more than most others. California, which is considered “Ground Zero” for vaping and where many things start, is an obvious choice. But “Why Florida?”

The Significance of Florida

Florida pulls lots of money and talent from the colder Northeast area which accounts for lots of demographic immigration. The huge influx of senior citizens, retirees and snowbirds that escape the colder climes do the same. Since Megatrends came out there has also been a big increase in South American and Hispanic influence, especially in Miami and the surrounding Dade and Broward counties. Also since that time, the election debacle of 2000 has made Florida and Floridians noteworthy for the wrong reasons. For those that may not remember, the presidential election of 2000 was a virtual tie until the “chad” hit the fan in Florida. Were it not for a few winds blowing the other direction, we may have had President Al Gore instead of President George W. Bush in office. I recently spoke with Rich Peirce, Digital Marketing manager and T.D. Bowen,

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owner, from Moon Mountain Vapor, in Tampa, and asked the pivotal question: why Florida?

“Florida is prevalent in retail, e-liquid companies and corporate locations because of the diverse culture of people from all over the country,” they replied. “Florida is a melting pot with fewmulti-generational natives here. Most are first generation born Americans or Floridians.

“They all seem to bring ideas and ways of thinking from other areas. Since there are no state income taxes in Florida, it also appeals to those that want to avoid that expense.”

As in California, there are a select few significant areas of actively: Broward and Dade counties, which cover Miami and the surrounding areas; Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which surround Tampa to the north, and Orange county, which is dead center and includes Orlando.

The Tampa area appeals to many displaced middle class Americans, whereas Miami and the southern cities have a huge percentage of South Americans, Cubans, and immigrants from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. According the Moon Mountain, “Florida is the largest vaping state in the eastern United States.” As a consultant, I echo that opinion as Florida is the number one state for VapeMentors clients, surpassing even California. Many recognizable name brands originate in Florida, including Halo, V2, South Beach Smoke, VaporFi, and Vapor Shark.

I caught up with Brandon Leidel, CEO of Miami based Vapor Shark, and one of the bigger players in the business and asked his thoughts. Since starting in 2010, Vapor Shark has grown to 37 locations, including one in Shanghai and Guatemala. They include both corporate shops as well as franchises, but have the largest retail presence of anyone in the state.

Leidel brought up an interesting statistic about Florida. Florida has a very high number of alcohol treatment centers and former alcoholics. Many of them are also reformed smokers and have become vapers.

Florida is a leader in advocacy, with their own state association, the Florida Smoke Free Association, FSFA, which was established in 2014. Bowen was one of the founders and continues to be actively involved.

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors, which offers online educational programs, services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also host of Vape Radio, a podcast series that interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.

– Norm Bour