Words and photos by Norm Bour
In 2014 Vapor Dynasty launched as the first vaping event in the state of Arizona. This year, in its sophomore class, promoters fine-tuned the program and represent what may be the direction of events in the future.
Conspicuously absent were many of the “big name brands,” but most noteworthy was the preponderance of “regional” companies.
Is Bigger Always Better?
Arizona is a significant vape presence in the nation. The city of Phoenix has an abundance of retail shops and many e-liquid companies originate there. Of the 130 plus vendors at Dynasty, a high percentage of them are located within a few hundred miles. A handful of east coast and Midwest companies exhibited but only two were at the event from outside the United States.
Many event promoters want to be the “big players” and offer grand events, but bigger is not always better. Vape Summit in Houston took place the week before this event and prior to that, the last major show was the Electronic Cigarette Convention, ECC, in Pomona, Calif., just 60 days earlier. These two giants attempt to bring in the largest crowds and the most exhibitors, but many of the vendors at both events expressed disappointment.
Greedy promoters, overpriced booths and unrealized promises are pissing off many vape space businesses, and many of them have concluded that these larger events are wasteful and do not offer a return on their investment.
In the future we may see a different business model: a few major shows interspersed with many regional one.
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Thoughts from the Show Floor
Vapor Dynasty was a smaller show and offered B2B only on the opening day and for three hours on day number two before the floor opened up to the throng of consumers.
Of the big names that were there, one was Madvapes from North Carolina. They recently completed a merger with Electra Vapor and are poised to be the largest retailer in the nation, with an expected 100 locations by the end of 2015. Mike Schriefer, the company’s chief marketing officer, brought a crew and represented Madvapes e-liquid but also highlighted a new product line, Patriot Vaper, along with its distribution company, Wholesale Vaping Supply.
Schriefer shared his thoughts on the efforts of event promoters to create true B2B value and said, “There truly is no business to business vaping event, even though many are trying. Offering a day exclusive to the business community and not inviting consumers is not the only thing we need. There should be pre-arranged meetings with potential business partners or relationships. On top of that, educational programs should be a big component. These things are offered in other industries. Why not ours?”
Vapor Dynasty did offer a speaking stage with a lineup of five speakers, including Lou Ritter with AEMSA, Joe Barnett with The Vaping Militia, Michael Guasch with Molecule Labs, Patricia Kovacevic, JD, with Nicopure Labs and myself with VapeMentors, who also acted as emcee.
The speaking stage positioned on the show floor—while the sales floor was open—was a failed experiment, in my opinion. Trying to compete with distracted vendors is a losing proposition as is the difficulty of volume control with exhibitors all trying to out blast each other.
For an educational platform to deliver it must be offered before the show floor opens and it must not compete.
From the other side of the pond was London Vapour Company, exhibiting at its first U.S. show. They specifically wanted a “smaller show” per U.K. Retail Manager Dan Gordon, and they are planning many more. “We have three dozen retail shops in England, and our e-liquid lines have been very successful. U.S. liquids in the U.K. are also huge, and we wanted to get an understanding of they operate here. We’d like to find US liquids to offer to our shops as well.”
“There truly is no business to business vaping event, even though many are trying. Offering a day exclusive to the business community and not inviting consumers is not the only thing we need.”
— Mike Schriefer
“We have three dozen retail shops in England, and our e-liquid lines have been very successful. U.S. liquids in the U.K. are also huge, and we wanted to get an understanding of they operate here. We’d like to find US liquids to offer to our shops as well.”
— Dan Gordon
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We shared an interesting conversation with Paula Johnson with Casa Grande Vapers (outside Phoenix), which calls themselves “a social group of vapers.” But what they are is a subversive underground grassroots movement of vape lovers who take the message of smoking alternatives to the masses. A similar group operates in Tucson, Ariz.
“We offer monthly vaping meet ups and invite smokers to learn about the benefits of vaping. We have about 250 people in our group and find that making a difference is just a little bit of effort at a time.”
When asked about her smoking history, Johnson spoke with candid words that should be blasted on billboards nationwide. “I’m 66 years old and have smoked since I was 12. I have tried every method I could find over the past five decades and failed with every one. I started vaping in 2010 and have not picked up a cigarette since then. Some methods I even tried twice to be sure I was using them the right way!”
“I’m 66 years old and have smoked since I was 12. I have tried every method I could find over the past five decades and failed with every one. I started vaping in 2010 and have not picked up a cigarette since then. Some methods I even tried twice to be sure I was using them the right way!”
— Paula Johnson
One of the most exciting features of vaping events is the opportunity to see new things, meet new people and try new products.
Juan Gonzalez is one of the newer Vapreneurs on the scene. He founded Vape Sling in 2014 after not finding success with any holders that he could carry without spilling or tipping his equipment. A smoker for 25 years, Gonzalez worked at a print shop that he has since left. After securing a patent on the Sling, he went “all in” and is now a full-time entrepreneur. He is 50 years old.
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors, which offers online educational programs, services and resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also host of Vape Radio, a podcast series that interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.