By Norm Bour
Success and successful vape shops come in different shapes and sizes. The truth is that there are many ways to create an awesome shop.
Not all are started or run by millennials and often are run by women or by “older citizens.” Many are unique and so are their stories.
Climbing Iron Girders to Find Success
Andrew Poirier knew there was a better way to make a living, but he was stuck in the concrete and construction trade and didn’t know how to get out. He was introduced to the business by his uncle and though he made good money, he always thought he could do better.
His father was a successful entrepreneur and worked for General Electric for decades. He traveled internationally and supported his son’s aspirations, but Andrew knew he had to find his own course.
Smoking on the job was pretty much “part of the lifestyle” and Poirier was smoking up to two packs a day when he was introduced to vaping four years ago. He was a native of Boston and along with his smoking habit he picked up an even worse habit: heroin.
Efforts to kick it and remain in Boston were unsuccessful, so he removed himself from bad influences and went to Arizona for two years. That is where he was introduced to vaping, which was more advanced than in the Boston vaping community.
He returned to Boston with a new lease on life. He was clean of drugs and tobacco. He was motivated. And he was hungry.
“The Boston vaping community was poorly run at the time,” Poirier said. “There was such a lack of professionalism along with a lack of product knowledge. And the prices people were charging were crazy! The public was being taken advantage of.”
He returned to the construction trade and tried to figure out how to get into the vaping business. Using his west coast connections, he bought products which he sold from his car.
“I went to work with a backpack full of Kanger starter kits and juice. ‘Vape Kid’ is what they called me!” he shared.
“I was pouring concrete and climbing girders to get vaping products to the steel workers many stories overhead. It was almost comical.”
He saved his money and opened Wicked Vaped in November,
2013 and became successful very quickly. He already had a following: his construction and iron worker buddies. “They were supportive and rooted for my success,” he recalled.
The store grew and hit revenue figures we rarely see, and Poirier had many six-figure plus income months. Later he expanded into his own liquids which he sold in his shop and at wholesale to other businesses.
When asked how things are today he confessed, “Business is not what it was, but stays pretty consistent. No one wants to see numbers drop, but considering where they were I’m okay with it.”
“Our juice lines are picking up and we are selling amazing quality for affordable prices; 60 ML bottles for just $21.95. We just launched a single flavor juice, called Stuft, for half the price of our competitors.”
His days of climbing steel skeletons is behind him and since he is still not even 30 years old, he has much loftier mountains to conquer.
Commanding the Vape Space in the Middle of Nowhere
Ron and Deana Marshall lived in Belgrade, Montana. That small town of about 7,000 was large enough to start them on their journey in the vape space, and three years later their journey continues.
Smokers for three decades, the Marshalls are not your typical “Vapreneurs.”
Ron was a truck driver; Deana was a housewife. Were it not for a sickness that forced her off cigarettes in 2013, Deana may have remained a smoker forever. Researching introduced them to V2 and Blu brands, but she found them less than satisfying.
“There were no vape shops anywhere within 150 miles and Billings was the closest. So we opened Freedom Vapes in March, 2014 with just $3,000 in inventory, word of mouth marketing, and a Facebook page.”
“We introduced lots of people to vaping,” Ron Marshall confessed, “And there were lots of misconceptions. The public image was bad back then, but surprisingly is worse today.”
Pictures of their first shop show barren shelves, but business was so good they opened up shop number two. A competitor tried to tap into the growing vape market, but they overcharged and sold to minors, and lasted less than six months. Their new shop was the first in Bozeman, a college town with a population of about 65,000.
…continued from above
When asked how they get the word out in a state with a population smaller than many cities, the Marshalls share that “it’s all about service. People can go online to get products, but they’d rather visit us to get educated and receive our personal treatment.”
In a state with a sparse population, they are involved with advocacy and have met with every politician that wields any influence in Montana. They traveled to Washington, DC to meet with the OMB in December, 2015, and went to the Capitol to meet with more.
They played a big part in getting vaping put into its’ own category from tobacco and acknowledge they “were not politically wired!” They “did what needed to be done to stay in business and to support their industry.”
Considering they did this in a state with a population of just over one million people, they are to commended.
Would You Like Some E-liquid with that Burger?
Rarely do you go into a burger joint to buy vaping products, but Ramble Creek Vape Company and Grill may change your minds.
Kyle Harris started his first vape venture, Ramble Creek Vape Company, in Missouri City, Texas and at just 700 square, it’s one of the smallest around. With a population of about 67,000, this Houston suburb was lacking a vape shop. Texas was late to the vape space, but is now one of the strongest vaping states.
It took off in Austin, followed by Dallas, and then filtered out to Houston and beyond. Harris found a shop “not in the best part of town,” but the price was right and they got six months free for a 12-month commitment! “A deal we couldn’t refuse,” he confessed.
They hit our VapeMentors’ benchmark of $10,000 monthly revenue in just two months and have plateaued at double that. Considering their overhead, they were doing so well they decided that if one shop was good, two would be better. They found another unique opportunity in the town of Richmond and this one came in the form of a former burger joint that closed when the owner died.
With just 1200 square feet, the offer of free kitchen equipment was too good to pass up. The landlord said, “it’s just sitting there,” so with some cleaning up of some components and replacement of others, a new vaping model was born.
“My dad was a budding chef and the winner of several BBQ contests. When I mentioned our unique opportunity and asked him to go in with me, he jumped at the chance,” Harris said.
They run the business under one name, but use two different systems of accounting and tracking. Ramble Creek Vape Company and Grill opened in January, 2016, but the kitchen did not open until March, 2016.
Their grand opening brought in over 250 attendees and the overall comment was that “the burgers were fantastic!” That keeps the crowd coming back for vape products, food, or both.
Since some object to eating in a “smoky environment” they plan to offer delivery service and just added 12 lines of craft beer to their menu. They will add another three dozen over the next few months.
Some detractors initially condemned the concept of mixing food and vape and had wrong impressions of what a vape shop was all about. The community rallied and defended the shop and everyone seems to be on the same page now.
What does a typical vape shop look like? Who is a typical vape shop owner? Those answers are elusive and there are many ways to set your shop or business apart from others. Do you have a unique story or shop? Would you like to be profiled?” Let us know!
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. They offer 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 1.3 M downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.