August 2016

Vape Shop Events: A New Way to Do Business

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By Norm Bour

One of the most common descriptions of Vape Shop Events is that it’s like “Speed Dating for vape professionals.” With just 20 minutes to wine and dine your customers, everyone brings their “A Game.”

“This is not the place to come party,” said one of the attendees, “and if you focus on what is in front of you, the time will be well spent.”

Joshua Krane from Craft Vapery put it succinctly as I sat in on of his meetings.

“We can do this the hard way or the easy way,” he offered to the e-liquid seller in front of him. “The hard way is that you do your song and dance and waste ten minutes and I tell you I want to buy. Or we can cut the crap and work out a price that we both like and I walk out with a 2500 bottle order.” They did and he did…

Krane and Craft Vapery had the best of both worlds at this unique event. He came as a seller, offering their own products, and he was also there as a buyer, seeking out great flavors and deals for his subscription services.

How-and Why- it all Works

Vape Shop Events is not a new concept, but it is a new offering in this still-young vape space.

“We’ve been doing these type events for over 12 years now,” offered Mike Sessoms, the founder of VSE. “We do similar programs in the tobacco, promotions and pet shop space.”

With this proven concept, 27 sellers/ manufacturers buy a space (room) at the host resort. They meet with 20 buyers who are hand chosen and invited to participate. In a round-robin whirlwind over one and a half days, every seller meets with every borrower for 20 minutes. Then the timer goes off, the doors open and a new prospect enters the room.

The sellers pay to attend and one fee covers 100 percent of their expenses, including airfare, lodging and food. The buyers get a better deal; they are invited in for free and likewise have all expenses paid. This process weeds out a lot of time wasters on both sides of the transaction.

Park City, UT, one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the country, was just four miles away, but few attendees ever ventured into town until the event concluded. The beautiful Westgate Resort is at the base of the ski lifts, though ski season had ended just weeks earlier. Over the course of two days it did snow, which made for a dramatic day.

Sessoms says that this is his favorite host resort of all.

When I jokingly mentioned to him that the resort felt a bit like a prison he responded, “That’s intentional!”

“All kidding aside, the goal is to immerse all the attendees in the business at hand and discourage them from leaving the premises.” That was not a problem as the resort offered a spa, indoor/ outdoor pool, lots of walking paths and a restaurant that was voted “Best Steakhouse in Utah.”

What the Attendees Say

Jessica Johns from Virgin Vapor is not a virgin at these shows, as this was her third time. With her associate Asia, they both raved about the show staff and the reasons they attend.

“These guys are so organized and professional and they always make us feel so welcome. On top of that, the ability to spend 20 minutes at a time with face to face buyers is invaluable and generates business.”

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Gary Wilder from Lizard Juice attended for the first time and was especially impressed with the professional intentions of the buyers they met with.

“These guys are not here to play; they are here to do business. And with no distractions from other conversations, loud music or passersby, that’s what we did. Just in our first day we signed on two new accounts and took away orders.”

They already signed up for the next show in La Jolla in July.

Oren Cohen, the owner and chief chef of The Vaping Kitchen, was new to this event, but remembered participating at one of the first events put on by the same promoters 12 years ago.

“I was in another industry and recall how great the process was even then,” he said.

I asked if he had any advice for those looking to attend a future event.

“Be clear with your mission and intentions. If you are a seller be sure you have a good product and if you are a buyer, be focused on exactly what you are looking for.”

Dylan Thompson from Vaporessence attended the last show in January and learned some lessons, which he shared.

“Don’t bring too much product,” he offered, “and you need not set up a fancy display! The people we met with don’t care about fluff, just quality products. In most cases they know what they are looking for and you either have it or you don’t.” Instead of bringing his entire line, he only brought his top four.

Some other comments from the attendees:

  • “There’s no lack of good product out there, but there’s a huge lack of good companies to work with,” said an attendee. In less than 30 minutes we get to know each other and we both walk away as friends and future associates.”
  • “Study the buyer’s profile and research them as best you can. The more you know about them, the more likely they’ll buy from you,” said Cory Parravano from The Vapor Spot. He attended the last show as a buyer, but returned this time as a seller.
  • “When you sit down with someone over dinner you really get to know them,” Taylor Craig from Big Bang E-cigs confided. “You can’t even come close to that level of intimacy at any other type of event.” He was here for the second time and plans to return.

Chris and Margaux Jimenez from BankCard USA was not a typical vendor, but they have carved out a prominent and significant space in the merchant services field. They have also been part of Vape Shop Events since the beginning, and participate in other industry shows that the VSE team conducts.

“Merchant Services is incredibly complex, so we come here to offer guidance and education aside from just great pricing,” Jimenez shared.

He suggested anyone interested in participating to “Get in while you can. With just 27 sellers and 20 buyers there is a waiting list already, so it may be awhile!”

The next event will be in La Jolla, CA on July 17-19, 2016. For more information, visit www.VapeShopEvents.com.

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 1.2 M downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.