By Chris Mellides
In the years that followed the release of the first vapor products in the United States some ten years ago, the number of products brought to market has grown considerably.
As the technology of vapor products evolved, so too did the tastes of a growing consumer base looking for better performing and higher quality devices.
This inherent desire among consumers helped elevate the vape industry to its current multi-billion-dollar status, with innovation paving the way for a diverse marketplace to unfurl.
Witnessing these trends in the industry first hand, Axis Vapes’ founder Wynn Warren attempted to seek out vapor products that eliminated his desire to use combustible tobacco, with functionality and aesthetics that would allow for an enhanced user experience.
When he began vaping three years ago, Warren soon realized that as a vaper, his desire for the ideal vapor product was often met with disappointment.
“I was using products like the Sigelei’s and the IPV4’s and stuff like that, and I just had a bad run of experiences with those products,” Warren said. “Buying something and using it for a week to two months and having it break or something go wrong with it was discouraging.”
Warren says that he was a cigarette smoker for close to four years and that he started vaping after purchasing the more compact Innokin iTaste products, but they left him wanting more from the experience.
“I was never really able to capture the experience that I needed to fully quit and until sub-ohm vaping kind of came out is when I was really able to find the right setup for me,” Warren said.
His search for the right setup led him to venture away from Chinese imports and into the world of high end mods. What he found was products that appealed to the high end user, but that were also made in short supply and were often difficult to obtain.
“What I found was private Facebook groups and lists that you have to sit on for months at a time to be able to obtain some of these mods,” Warren said. “And I thought there should be a better way in the market to obtain these.”
“And I thought there should be a better way in the market to obtain these.”
With that desire came a vision: to create an affordable high-end product, manufactured in the United States using quality materials, and one that would be much more accessible than similar products found in that category. And who better to design and manufacture that product than Warren himself.
In 2015, Warren founded Axis Vapes and released his company’s first product, the M17, which began shipping to early adopters in December of last year.
The M17 is beautifully designed and manufactured in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The mod is powered by Evolv’s DNA200 board and makes use of a custom machined enclosure, Mitech switch and tactile control buttons. The body of the mod is made from stabilized wood and can include acrylic along with a variety of other materials.
“There’s a lot of designs out on the market and it seems like the majority of the high end scene at the time was riddled with C-Frame mods or just, I don’t want to say generic designs, but they were pretty much all the same to me, so I wanted something a little different,” Warren said.
With four employees, including Warren himself, the Axis Vapes team set out to make Warren’s vision a reality. According to the 26-year-old startup founder, his team often shares responsibilities, but they each play their own integral part in keeping Axis Vapes running smoothly.
Kayla Eberle heads customer service, Preston Elliot and Rob Scheribel share machining, polishing and assembly duties, and Warren focuses on business development along with assembly work and quality control assurance.
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The process of creating a single M17 device can take up to four hours to complete with special attention paid to a number of key steps. These steps include a milling and engraving process, a period where the enclosures are hand finished with four different grits of sandpaper before being polished with Renaissance wax, and then there’s soldering electrical components and installing the 12.21 watt-hour 1100 mAh Lipo batteries.
“With cutting down the blanks, the machine time, the soldering, the machining and QC, there’s a lot that goes into one device,” Warren said.
Several variations of the M17 mod offered at different price points are made available for purchase at axisvapes.com with new stock added every week to keep up with a growing customer demand.
“Each vape is different, each blank has different wood grains, colors and that’s really what I was looking for,” Warren said. “I wanted a device that not everyone would have and one that could stand out a little bit, and I feel that the M17 did that.”
He added, “Again, it is obtainable and at a lower price point that people can afford as well.”
The challenges faced by Warren and his team were typical of any new business enterprise, but with the hype behind the M17 and the ease at which they were meant to be purchased meant that Axis Vapes had to expand rapidly to remain ahead of the curve.
The success of the company came without the help of common marketing techniques like Google and Facebook advertising, since the M17 mod is classified as a tobacco product and therefore marketing on those ad platforms is strictly prohibited, according to Warren.
“Early on when we released our product we quickly found out that there’s a lot of hype and demand behind the M17,” Warren said. “And we did what we could to expand at a rate that wouldn’t reduce quality and that wouldn’t reduce our customer service standards.”
In that respect, Warren and crew seem to have succeeded where other mom and pop modders would likely fail in meeting the high volume demands for custom made products regularly asked of Axis Vapes.
In the face of looming government regulations that can potentially put small business operations like Axis Vapes in jeopardy, Warren is confident that so long as businesses and vapers band together, his company, along with countless others, will persevere.
“I definitely want to say that we’re not going to go away, and I think a lot of people are getting scared because of these deeming regulations, but we’re going to do everything in our power to stay up and running,” Warren said.
“I just urge everyone to sit tight until we really find out what the fight is so that we can pull together and make it happen.”