June 2016

San Diego Event Gets It Right


By Norm Bour

The SoCal Vape Convention rolled out their second edition in March, 2016, and proved that it is possible to produce a small show, have it be engaging, and provide value to the attendees.

Led by Local Vape E-Cig Supplies as the organizer, and sponsored by Ruthless and a host of others, the event was held at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center in Mission Valley, just outside San Diego, CA. Though events are usually held at a stand-alone convention center this choice is a good one as the Town & Country offers 32 acres of rooms, convention facilities, and restaurants.

This event, like many, opened on B2B Friday with many vendors slow to arrive and set up. The floor was open until 8:00 p.m., which is later than most, but the timing worked out. The following two days of B2C was notably more crowded, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Chantix side effects started a positive ripple

Laura McCollum has been with Local Vapes since late 2015, and runs their San Diego operations. Prior to joining Local Vapes she worked for Orbit Vape, and as the marketing director kept asking herself: “How can I put Orbit on the map?” She came up with the idea of an event since San Diego had none of their own, yet hundreds of shops and businesses were everywhere. After developing and submitting a solid business plan, management went all in and the first SoCal Vape Convention took place in spring, 2015.

Orbit teamed with “The Switch SD Vape Shop” since The Switch sold mostly authentic hardware and Orbit mainly offered clones.

In year one they had 84 vendors with about 5000 attendees, and proudly donated half the net proceeds to SFATA, the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association.

This year they sold about 110 spots and expected more than 5000 attendees.

McCollum’s entrée into vaping is a significant lesson since she was a smoker for 30 years and was unsuccessful in her efforts to quit. When she realized that Chantix (a prescription medication used to treat nicotine addiction) was “zoning her out” to the point of risking her children’s health, she discovered vaping.

Ironically she was a former nurse. And she also had a small motorcycle track behind her San Diego home. One day McCollum’s mother found her six-year old grandson riding his motorcycle out back without a helmet, and that’s the day that Laura stopped her Chantix dosage.

When asked why they chose Town & Country she replied: “We like this place for two reasons. One is because our larger San Diego Convention Center is not vape-friendly and never showed us much love and the other is because we like the on-site rooms and group packages.”

What it takes to be Different

Exhibitor Wes Brown with VOAK, which stands for “Vape of a Kind,” calls himself “The Visionary” of the company rather than “founder.” His self-proclaimed title may be appropriate since his shop is one of the few combinations of vape and hookah anywhere.

Their San Jose, CA lounge is called “The Abyss” since “you will find yourself in there for a long time,” as Brown told us. Clever and original messaging, for sure.

Hookah Lounges, like many businesses, are changing with the times as this shop uses electric hookah heads which adjust from 3.2 to 6.0 volts and offers a 8 ml tank which can vape any liquid available. It acts similar to a hand held unit but with individual tubes which can accommodate one or several persons.

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The VOAK liquid line comes in three flavors and are named after the birth years of Brown, his mother and his wife. This is all part of their “personal story,” which helps create solid relationships with customers.

They offer some of the classiest packaging I have ever seen and with Brown and his team decked out in suit jackets, they stood apart from the mostly t-shirt clad crowd.

“You don’t need to drive a Bentley to have a classy product,” Brown claims, “and we specifically do not call ourselves ‘premium,’ which is a lightning rod for litigation. We say that we sell ‘the finer things in life.’”

They sell a 50ML bottle, an unusual size, along with a 12ML refilling container for $35.

Fighting Warner Bros Film Studio- and winning!

Beetle Juice Vapors owner and vendor Abdel Aboabdo got a cease and desist from Warner Bros. studio in 2014 and was asked to stop using their trademarked “Beetlejuice” name for his e-liquid product.

The 1988 dark comedy starred Michael Keaton in the title role, along with Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder, and was directed by Tim Burton. The movie grossed $73 million and became fodder for a new black and white stripped Halloween costume.

“They had Beetlejuice trademarked for clothing, movies and film, but not for e-liquids,” and that was the argument that won his case he told us.

When asked if he was “scared shitless” by the suit he replied “of course,” but he is not the only person sued for copy write issues in the vape space. Aboabdo consulted friends and attorneys but responded “pro per,” which means he acted on his own without an attorney.

His initial logo design used the distinctive Beetlejuice font, which he was asked to change, and Aboabdo explained that “he cannot create any characters or represent anything related to the movie.” David beats Goliath again.

The San Diego show vendor list included a surprisingly high number of hardware manufacturers and wholesalers, which was a pleasant surprise since most show sponsors are liquid companies.

Let’s hope that year three offers more of the same.

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.