By Alyssa Stahr
Photos courtesy of Black Reserve Vapors
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?
Jason: We’ve all come from building lifestyle brands, and Cody and myself have been working on different products for the last several years. We started in a tech business that we helped to start called Liquipel, and what we did with that was kind of take that from a standardized tech business to more of a lifestyle brand by getting people like Pharrell Williams involved and Steve Aoki and making them partners, so that company was more looked at as something that you could bring music and fashion and function into a technology like waterproofing cell phones. So, that’s our key to do with any products that we get involved with is trying to find that ‘cool’ factor and to relate to our market. Graftan had been working with Cody on other products as well and he connected me and Graftan together, and from there we formed Black Reserve about a year and a half ago. We’ve been partners ever since, all three of us.
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
Photo by Joseph Siano
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?
Aaron: It all started with the idea that my brother had. He was convinced that he could make a few flavors himself that people might like. Toward the end of the year in 2013, he asked me to join him, and we had to come up with a company name. Since I had a couple of parrots myself, we thought that that would be a simple, easy and recognizable name for the company. Thus, the name Parrot Vapors was born.
Susan: How did you get into vaping in general?
Aaron: My brother Adam introduced me to vaping back in 2013. He took me to a few vape shops here in the Phoenix area to take a look at some of the products that were on the market at the time. I was told that I should start with a mechanical mod. This way, I would not have to dump or waste money on products that probably were not going to work for me.
Susan: Why did you choose to get into selling e- liquid as opposed to equipment or other things?
Aaron: At the time, there were not many max VG lines available. We wanted to focus our efforts in creating one of the first high VG [or currently called max VG] e- liquid lines that you could actually vape all year long. My brother wanted to create a high-VG line that was light and functioned like an all-day vape, or at least something that could be vaped over and over again. At the time, most lines were selling mainly 50/50 or 60/40 blends.
Susan: What are your most popular e -liquids?
Aaron: Currently, the most popular juice is turquoise, which is a tangy berry vape, or turquoise. It is by far the hottest selling flavor out of Arizona right now. Everybody loves it. Our line is primarily a fruit line, and as the market changes from heavy desserts to fruits, Parrot is really expanding and starting to become a household name when it comes to delicious fruits or candy based e- liquid lines.
Susan: What has been the best thing about creating Parrot Vapors?
Aaron: I would have to say that the best thing that has come out of creating Parrot Vapors is the friendships and the connections that we have made, without a doubt—locally, nationally and globally. I also think it’s the ability to be able to create an original brand that people actually like. It takes a lot of effort to push hard every day, keeping up your focus through ups and downs in an oversaturated marketplace for e -liquid.
Susan:What has been your biggest disappointment with the company?
Aaron: I wouldn’t necessarily say there has been one major disappointment with our company. I mean, business is business. It’s always a risk and roll of the dice. You want to do your due diligence to make sure you are putting your best foot forward to limit your failures. At the end of the day, every week could bring change in how you have to reposition your business. It’s all about being open -minded and keeping on your toes. Flexibility is key to being successful and learning which cards you have to play or hold back. I would say people in general are the most disappointing factors to any business. People’s actions nowadays are hard to come by. So, if you find a reputable partner that will help you expand your business, while also seeing if you can help them as well in the same space, make sure not to burn the bridge and keep the channels open.
Susan: What do you want to see improved with Parrot Vapor?
Aaron: We are at least in 25 states now in various stores, and plan to be a national company soon. As we grow as a company, there are growing pains from sales to management to customer service relations. There are always things to work on. Having said that, we feel that our No. 1 priority is taking care of our customers. If we mess up, we must be quick to resolve the issues and make it right. Everyone makes mistakes and falls down on their swords. It’s not about how you fall; it’s all about how you get back up.
Susan: How has your life changed since you started vaping?
Aaron: Well, that’s a great question. I guess it has changed a lot. I went from vaping to starting a business to running around town getting to know our local customers, shop owners and distributors, to expanding into different cities through social media awareness and exhibiting our Parrot brand all over the United States. We are also gaining traction in the U.K. nowadays.
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Susan: What has been the biggest surprise you’ve seen with the vaping community?
Aaron: I guess the response from so many happy vapers vaping on Parrot. I had no idea there would be such a demand. You always hope for the best when starting a business, and so far, it has been an amazing ride and [we] plan on so much more to come.
Susan: What has been your biggest disappointment you’ve seen with the vaping community?
Aaron: Well, we don’t know what the regulations from the FDA are going to say, exactly, until it gets passed through the OMB. From the looks of things (and I’m not saying this to scare anyone), but things don’t look good as far as what’s coming down the line. We have to be hopeful that the rules won’t be so severe that tens of thousands of jobs are just taken away by their ignorance or just lack of caring about our health in general; we are literally changing people’s lives.
Susan: What are you doing to protect yourself from regulations?
Aaron: Our primary focus at this very moment is preparing for our second e-liquid line that will be released toward the end of December 2015. The proART line is a three-flavored 60 ml bottle that will retail for $26 to $30. It will be some of the cleanest juice on the market by far that will have data backing this up. This lab is an “FDA registered” facility as a tobacco manufacturer, and all of the formulas are on file with the FDA. They practice in accordance with cGMP guidelines (21CFR Part 111). The liquids are tested in their own A2LA accredited ISO 17025 analytical laboratory, on a GC/MS, GC/FID and HPLC, to assure purity and proper nicotine levels. All formulas are made by degreed chemists for maximum shelf life. They use no diacetyl, acetyl propanol or acetoin in any one of their products.
Susan: How do you feel about vaping activism?
Aaron: We all feel strongly about activism and advocacy. Parrot is a board member of our local National Advocacy Vaping Business (NAVB) Association. We are constantly in communications with peers of ours who are members of SFATA and of course The Vaping Militia. Being in the fight and taking part is an ongoing, day -to- day battle. I’ve also found out that joining these organizations makes a big difference in the local community.
Susan: Why should people care about the vaping community?
Aaron: I think that people are misinformed and not aware of what vaping is. I feel that people need to do their part and be aware of what’s happening at the local, state and national levels. They should care of the positive experience of vaping. There is a lot of money thrown against it in general. I hear these stories of those who got off cigarettes who smoked for 20 to 30 years. To me, vaping is a revolution that is needed in our society today, especially if people are just trying to find a way to quit smoking.
Susan: What do you see with the future of vaping?
Aaron: I’m not really sure about the future of vaping. I’m hopeful they won’t take it away from us. I would hate to see so much innovation from juice to mods just suddenly go away. At the moment, all we can do is live one day at a time and make more progress each and every day. Keeping up the fight, educating more people coming off cigarettes [and] sharing our experiences with others are the things that truly matter and what strikes a chord in every community. It is inconceivable for me that with a pen stroke, the FDA has the power to wipe out a billion dollar yearly industry and destroy so many jobs, livelihoods and dreams. Keep watch, my friends; keep fighting, and “Drip on, my friends.”
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.
By Alyssa Stahr
Photos by J. Jones Photography
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/.
- Оliver Kershaw, founder, The E-Cigarette Forum and Vaping.com
- Arnaud Dumas de Rauly – secretary-General Europe International, FIVAPE, will talk about product standards.
- Hichael Hamomudi, CEO at Vape Consulting, secretary general of users at FIVAPE
- Nick Littlebury, head of regulatory affairs, Diamond Pharma Services, will talk about regulatory Practicalities of Implementing TPD.
- Peter Beckett, head of compliance at Nerudia, will speak on March 4. He will talk about the latest information on the upcoming regulations through TPD and what everyone needs to know.
- Beju Lakhani, founder and CEO of Moshi E-Liquids, president of the Canadian Vaping Association, will talk about successfully implement technology and how to scale your business without going broke.
- Pablo Cano Trilla, international legal analyst, Ecigintelligence
- Daniel Irwin-Brown, EU/International market analyst, Ecigintelligence
To register at Vape Expo Poland click here.
See you at the Warsaw Expo on March 4 and 5.