April 2016

There’s a New Vape Shop Event in Town …and you’re probably not invited


By Norm Bour

It’s the smallest vape show that you will never attend. If you are a consumer and not in the business, you won’t even be invited.

It’s called Vape Shop Events and the second iteration of this new-style show took place in La Jolla, CA. the end of January. This highly-personal, invitation only affair brings together 27 sellers/ manufacturers and 20 buyers, and over two days puts them together one on one for a 20-minute closed door session.

There are no distractions from music, vape clouds or half naked models to interrupt the meeting and the net result is that business gets done.

“Even though we’re new to the vape industry we’ve been doing these style events for over 10 years,” said Mike Sessoms, co-owners and founders of Ohio-based Vape Shop Events. His company also offers this concept in the pet food, tobacco and promotional industries and have found that almost 90 percent of attendees return for future shows.

To be a seller is a rare privilege for which manufacturers and distributors pay, but the investment gives them an opportunity to present to a captive audience. Their fee also includes all travel expenses during the multi-day event. Meanwhile, the buyers, also limited and pre-screened, have their travel, lodging and food costs covered as well. The net result: “I’ve gotten more orders in my hand in two days than I would have done
at any other vaping event,” said one attendee.

It’s all about relationships… Even in the impersonal world of online business, it’s all about relationships. That proves itself endlessly in this vape space. It’s who you know and trust; and much of that is due to the lack of trust in this still immature industry.

The day and a half long event took place mostly on the third floor of an Embassy Suites hotel, but even after hours, business got done. Many met for early meetings before the day started or had drinks after dinner.

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One of the attendees, Keith Nash, Vice President of Sales for JSPR and its related arm, The Council of Vapor, is a pro at events and making them effective. “I found the event exceeded our expectations from a buyer’s perspective,” he said. “The organization and team has proven to manufacturers and buyers the seriousness of this industry and I think this format will be around for a long time.” He plans to attend as a seller for future shows.

The Canadian Dilemma Kurt Huhn with Valor Distributions out of Quebec, Canada, was a font of great information, especially regarding the process of importing e-liquids into Canada. The country has clamped down on the border but sly innovators have been able to circumvent the restrictions.

Is it even worth the effort? “A lot of Canadians want to vape on American products and not use some inferior junk made in someone’s bathtub,” Huhn said. “We use that term in jest, but there’s a lot of fact behind it.

“Everyone wants to be the ‘next big guy’ in juice so they want to get the best stuff from the US to learn from.”

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The importation rules were unclear about nicotine restrictions and even legal experts were conflicted. Health Canada is the Bad Cop here and “advised against nicotine,” in 2009. That also included importation of nicotine from outside the country. Huhn and his team concluded that it was in fact, illegal, and a specific license was required.

The problem is that Health Canada has not issued a nicotine import license since 2007.

The situation is complex and many American companies do not understand its intricacies. This one on one event configuration was ideal for Huhn or anyone else that had an unusual situation which may be too involved to explain in just a few moments.

When asked if he was happy with the conversations he had and whether they would result in new business, he gave a hearty thumbs-up.

Vape Shop Events hosts quarterly shows, with the next one coming up April 24-26 in Park City, UT, followed by La Jolla again in July and Scottsdale in October. For information visit www.VapeShopEvents.com.

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 the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than one million downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.