By Norm Bour
Detroit during the first week of March would normally not be a “go to” destination in winter, yet the crowds did throng into the Cobo Auditorium in downtown Detroit to attend the first VPX vaping event in that city. Along with this event they hosted the first “ECC Vaping Academy,” educational program, which was sponsored by Electronic Cigarette Convention (ECC) and VPX.
ECC is a giant and leader in the vaping event space and the founders of the still largest vape event, ECC Southern California, which will be held this year in November in Pomona, CA. Founder Steve Mack and his board launched the first ECC in 2013 and it has continued to grow from there and has expanded to other cities.
“We use the ECC brand only in Southern California, but
we have launched a series of events in smaller regions
using the VPX brand. We are officially called ‘VPX,
by ECC,’” Mack shared. VPX was originally a shortened
name for the ‘Vapors Exhibit’, per Mack, with ECC
being the parent company.
In 2014 they held their first event outside California, in Niagara Falls, NY. “Why there?,” I asked and Mack responded, “We have a huge demand from the Canadian vape market so we’re trying to accommodate them and still engage our American crowd.” That was one of the motivators behind this recent Detroit show since Detroit is just one bridge away from Canada and just hours from Toronto.
As the event space evolves we are seeing more regionally focused events. These are designed to bring in vendors and attendees from localized areas within a 500 mile radius. The VPX shows in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and now Detroit, do that. Mack confirmed that VPX is not designed to be a “mega event like ECC in Southern California” but is a smaller version that offers ECC high standards.
Education is Important to the Industry
Like many events today, the promoters attempt to engage the B2B crowd during the first and second days, followed by the consumer crowd. The Detroit show made a serious effort to put “butts in seats” by offering a variety of speakers on a large and well- designed stage.
Mack and his crew are serious about education and on opening day they offered a two-hour educational platform known as ECC Vaping Academy. With eight speakers having just 15 minutes to speak, the quickly moving series offered talks on improving cash flow, protecting yourself through insurance, ways to maximize your mailing list, and the
2016 Vape Industry Survival Guide, offered by this author. One entire row on the show floor was dominated by one major company and 14 of their offshoot brands.
Independent Vapor Company, from Madison Heights, MI, started in May, 2014 and became an immediate success. They were approached by others to partner up and have now done so with several brands, including their most popular line, Nillionaire, which accounts for up to 30% of their cumulative sales according to Jessica Hill, a mixologist at Independent. All of the flavors were created by co-owners Ryan Wagner and Jerret Kirouac and 11 of the flavors are all made in house.
Independent is a great example of an e-liquid company that has dominated a state and region rather than trying to rule the entire nation.
This show was not the largest or most attended of the many shows I have been to, but the manageable size allowed lots of time for everyone to talk business and to make the weekend effective.
When asked about other markets that VPX is
considering, Mack shared, “We’re looking at the
Virginia market, possibly Richmond. One of the
biggest restrictions is finding a venue that allows
us to vape inside.” The next VPX event will be held in
Las Vegas in May, 2016 and after that the ECC crew will
be taking a break until the biggie in November.
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors, which offers online educational programs, 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.