One thing that I love about the vape industry is the grassroots nature of it. It isn’t full of large corporations, but rather people with dreams, that grew their businesses from the ground up. Most of the bigger vape companies today did not start as business professionals with a huge amount of funding, but far from it. The vape industry has given so many people a platform to achieve something greater than themselves.
I reached out to a few professionals in the Vape Industry to share their stories of their beginning.
Erika Harley- Local Vape
In 2012 I finished my Master’s Degree in Business with an emphasis on International Business. I knew I wanted to start a business immediately upon graduating, and at the time, most of my friends were smokers that were interested in vaping. I personally used to smoke as well, and was interested in vaping and learning more about the industry. The industry was very new at the time, and there were no vape conventions yet outside of a few vape meets throughout the country that were put on by small groups.
The first vape store I visited was E-Cig City in Laguna Beach, which was the only vape store in Orange County, California at the time. I went to the store and saw how busy they were and I immediately knew that I needed to open a vape shop closer to my own home in Costa Mesa, CA right away.
I opened my store later that same year in 2012 and it was very busy immediately. Quickly, other shops began to open and many of them had an interest in a lot of the products I was carrying, so I began distributing quickly thereafter. At first, I started this out by doing group buys, however the demand for the products quickly became so large that group buys were not practical anymore, I had to be able to buy enough products for everyone. Soon after additional local vape meets popped up and industry conventions started to happen throughout my local area, nationally, and eventually internationally.
Once I started distributing products, I also created and co-created a few popular products lines, the most popular of which are currently the Anarchist line (juice, mods, wire, cotton, RDA’s, etc.) and the Vaper Treats juice line. In 2016 we relocated the businesses to Henderson, NV from Orange County, CA (primarily for legal and tax purposes) and we are loving the environment here in the Vegas and could not be happier with the way things are going.
EC Supply Inc.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about EC Supply’s founding is that the original plan was to open a vape shop instead of a distribution company. Co-founder Jeffrey Sun and others decided to enter the vape industry in late 2013 and saw an opportunity to open a shop in the San Gabriel Valley outside of Los Angeles.
However, after spending some time looking for wholesalers, they noticed a void in the market; it was very difficult to find one company that offered an array of products and services without having to go to each manufacturer directly. Not only that, but the minimum order quantity from each manufacturer was so high that buying from multiple companies was out of the question. What they really needed was one company that offered a wide selection of wholesale products to vape shop owners without any minimum order quantities. So, they decided to scratch the vape shop idea and create EC Supply instead.
Kurt Loeblich-Cloud Chasers Inc
I was working at a vape shop in IL called Juicy Vapor in mid-2013, and like many vapers at the time, I started with simple little ego pen setups. After a month of vaping, I started getting into rebuildables with my co-workers at the vape shop. At the time, there was not a lot of info on building advanced low ohm builds. Most people were not vaping below .5 ohm. I purchased the best batteries available at the time and started building low like around .3, .2, and .1 ohms. Out of the blue, Juicy Vapor issued this no vaping below a 1.0 ohm policy.
At that point, I decided to do my own thing. I had already started a Facebook group for CCI with a few other people about 2 months before this that was a safe haven for people that wanted to get into sub-ohm vaping without being ridiculed by the rest of the community that was against cloud chasing. I started putting a lot more time into it after I left the vape shop. I was getting really good at drilling airflow patterns in atomizers and people started noticing.
I did a group buy of Tobecoo Patriot clones without the logo for people that wanted to get their atty drilled out by me. In the first run I sold 150, and in the second run, I sold over 200 of them.
That’s really how I got started selling products to people, just me, sitting in my basement, with my harbor freight drill press, drilling holes for people.
I did a lot of other group buys including one for the VTC5 batteries.
In March of 2015, I moved to Texas to work together with this guy on some stuff. After several months, I wasn’t happy with where that was going, and I met a guy at a vape show in TX named Neal Knebel. Neal and I ended up joining together to create Cloudy Collaborations. Which became the home for CCI products and we started distributing other people’s products too. The rest is history.
Tony Brittan- Vapor Trail Channel
I was a smoker for more than 30 years, and like so many others, vaping helped me quit. The first E-Liquid I ever tried was Bonnie & Clyde by Villain Vapors in 2013 and it quickly became my all day vape for a while.
I started the Vapor Trail Channel after I have been vaping for about 8 months. When I first started vaping, my town did not have a vape store in it and I had to order everything online. There was not a lot of info out there on vaping and the products out there, so I created this channel to share my knowledge and to help people make informed decisions, especially when it came to juice. Because vape stores were not as common, you had to order a lot of your juice online “blind” before you got to try them. I wanted to let people know if the juice really tasted like it was supposed to.
I never knew the channel would grow into what it is today. I have my own business, Island Shore Productions, which is a video production company. The channel was my way to share my hobby and passion for it.
Today, the channel has over 110k subscribers and I make at least 2 product review videos a week. During my vaping journey, I have really grown to love squonking. The problem with squonking though, is that it was a niche within a niche. The biggest vape manufacturers were not producing too many squonking devices, and to get some good squonk gear, you had to spend over $200. This made it inaccessible to most vapers.
So, I started Tony B projects so I could bring the style of vaping that I loved to the mass produced market. My first product I designed was the Pulse 22 RDA by Vandy Vape. Which is a very affordable squonk or bottom feeding single coil rda. I have other projects in the works that will make things more affordable for everyone, but I can’t say much about them now. So make sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on the latest news.
Norm Bour- Vape Mentors
On July 4, 2013, I walked by a storefront in Newport Beach, California, did a double take, and went inside to ask a question that has led me on a wondrous four-year journey.
“What the hell is a vape shop?” was the question, and since I was not a smoker and had never heard of “vape” I was curious.
They told me about e-liquids and mods and modifying nicotine usage, but I asked other questions they could not address.
“How many vape shops are there?”
“WHO starts these types of shops?”
“Where did this all come from?”
These were just some of the questions I asked and upon further research I ran into dead ends everywhere. There were no metrics, no demographics and there was little to discover except that the industry was generating about $1.5B annually at that time, up from virtually zero just a few years earlier. (It’s now about $5B.)
And the industry was primarily driven by Millennials; Generation Y. They had passion galore, but little experience and even less patience.
As a Baby Boomer, and an entrepreneur for most of my life, I saw an opportunity and dug in. As a mentor, I saw a chance to make a difference and prevent failures before they began.
Since that day, my company, Vae Mentors, which has become the largest vape industry consulting company. We’ve worked with over 40 clients internationally, having developed three online training programs (called VAPE U) and collaborated with most of the leaders in the industry.
I have been the senior writer for VAPE magazine for over three years and have written almost 100 articles, plus host VAPE radio, with an international market. I have been blessed to speak at events worldwide and have been to more than I can count. As a founder of the trade association, Vape Industry Business Exchange, VIBE, I have been preaching and teaching collaboration and cooperation since Day One.
Finally, the vape space is paying attention.
Unless we all work together in the spirit of partnerships, the industry will fail along with scores of business owners.
Can your life change in one day with one seemingly random event?
Trust me, it can.”