August 2015

Mastering the Vape Space

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By Norm Bour

Jason Hambrecht didn’t open his vape shop for the money. He already owned a successful construction company in northeast Florida and was named one of the fastest growing companies in the state. Business was good, and he didn’t need to be there full time to have it succeed. That afforded him time to look around for other opportunities. Hambrecht was never a smoker, but was looking for a change, and decided to open a vape shop.

“I genuinely wanted to start a company that helped people in profound ways. I also wanted a company where everyone involved was happy all the time and negativity was at a minimum. A vape shop seemed to fit perfectly, and it has proven to be precisely what I was looking for.”

Hambrecht had a grasp of reality and how different a vape shop would be from his current business. He had no disillusions of creating a successful shop by accident, and began working with VapeMentors in May, 2014.

“I knew what I didn’t know, and knew that having a coach and guide would speed things up,” he said.

Speakeasy Vaporium opened in August 2014. Fast forward to today, and Hambrecht regularly hits his revenue goals of $1,000 per day and has ideas for expansion. He opened a wholesale operation and plans to launch a second store, along with his own lines of e-liquids.

Speakeasy Vaporium is crushing it as they celebrate their first full year of operation. They are setting a great example of what a vape shop can and should do, and was voted the first “Vape Shop of the Month” by VapeMentors.

Why Speakeasy?
One of the critical steps in any business is the process of developing the name and brand. Many ideas were discussed and, when asked about the area of Amelia Island, a small coastal town of just 12,000 people north of Jacksonville, Fla., Hambrecht shared their illustrious history.

“This is an historic and notorious town,” he said. “We were run by pirates and criminals back in the 17th and 18th centuries, and our town, Fernandina Beach, was right in the middle. Famous names like Captain Kidd and Jean Lafitte are legendary, and the town loves their pirates!” They have clubs and events, and “Talk Like a Pirate Day” is very big here in September. This gave Hambrecht an idea: develop a theme business around pirates.

But wait! There’s more, as they say on late night TV. Fernandina Beach survived the pirate invasion, but different criminals ran their town in the recent past: gangsters. For a town so small, Fernandina Beach has a unique history. Eight different nations flew their flags over this small town, and during Prohibition, many bootleggers smuggled liquor though their streets. As Hambrecht shared this information, the branding options multiplied.

Given Fernandina Beach’s history during Prohibition, the name Speakeasy Vaporium was the top choice, and Hambrecht tapped into his construction experience and connections to create a fantastic vape shop. It is just 1,500 square feet, but it is cozy, comfortable and successful.

Hambrecht has developed a reputation for offering some of the best service around. We visited his shop unannounced, and were welcomed like family. Any fear or intimidation that a newcomer might have would have been quickly put to rest, and I asked Hambrecht how he did it.

“I have an amazing team here that treats customers—and each other—like family. That energy is obvious when a customer first walks in the door,” Hambrecht said. That allows him to do what is rare in any business: he is an absentee owner.

Hambrecht spends a few days in the shop and works it into his schedule while he runs his construction company. He has faith that his business is in safe hands, and that is a rarity. I visited the shop on my Florida tour and spoke with two customers who were hanging out on a rainy Friday night. They stayed for several hours, and when I inquired why, they said, “The crew here make us feel so comfortable and welcome, we would rather be here than at home!” Words like that are priceless, and that is how you beat your competition.

There are shops that are crushing it and doing it right. They should be shared and used as a lesson for this industry. Speakeasy Vaporium certainly qualifies. Congratulations on being Vape Shop of the Month!

To listen to the Vape Radio interview with Speakeasy Vaporium, visit http://vapenewsradio.podbean.com/e/introducing-vapeshop-of-the-month-learn-how-to-become-one-and-commandyour-market/?token=6b10ab8a7cc823262c78b586c1a86c45.

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors, which offers online educational programs, services and 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.

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