Words and photos by Norm Bour
That elusive target of vaping events that provide a true business-to-business environment may have gotten one step closer with Vape Nights 2015, held at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, Calif., which used to house the Electronic Cigarette Convention (ECC) for several years until it got too large. As bigger is not always better, Vape Nights had a smaller crowd than other mega-shows, but it provided a sense of intimacy, which is what business-to-business should be about.
Event promoter and founder Ray Yang, president of R2MediaHub, is a big proponent of education and made it a priority to offer top-notch speakers. With celebs like Austin Hopper, founder of REVOL Vapors, sharing his tips on taking
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an unknown product into the spotlight, the attentive crowd got what they wanted: inside information and little-known, but common-sense, secrets.
Michael Guasch, CEO of Molecule Labs, had to revise his initial presentation due to the FDA regs that were delivered to OMB the week prior. “I wanted my talk to be timely, since these regulations were worse than I feared, and I needed to let everyone know that compliance is important,” he said. Guasch spoke about the pros and cons of producing your own e-liquid, versus having a contractor do the job, and profiled what the proper lab show look like. Since the vast majority of exhibitors were e-liquid companies, this was a particularly timely subject, and their prominence was even more noteworthy due to the lack of distributors and hardware manufacturers at the event.
The always entertaining Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, spared no one\’s emotions as he drilled down the details of these new rules. “All that really matters is that we move the Grandfather Date of Feb. 15, 2007, to something more current,” he said. “Everything else takes second place to that.” His ominous words fell hard as Conley confessed, “I\’m not in the business of making people happy.”
Cynthia Cabrera, president of SFATA, was a last-minute addition, and between her and Conley, they gave the crowd the most up-to-date information available.
I spoke about “taking your business to the next level” in this soon-to-be more competitive and challenging world.
Like many events these days, this one started on Thursday with B2B and continued through Friday. Saturday was consumer day, which, surprisingly, many vendors chose to skip. In addition, many that did show up came late to the party.
The standard operating procedures of vaping shows seem to be changing. Though they are still noisy and smoky, with scantily clad babes running around everywhere, one thing that seems to be on the downswing is offering of free
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samples. Most provide on-site sampling only, and some sell retail, whereas others do not.
Stevie Blackburn from Ethos Vapers was an exception, as someone that likes consumer days and loves seeing their customers\’ eyes light up when they try something they enjoy. When asked if Ethos Vapers offers free product samples, Blackburn said, “We try not to do it at shows. We know it damages the local shops when they leave with sacks of free product. But, if they contact us afterwards and request a sample, then we know they are more serious.”
This was a great opportunity to bring major thought-leaders together with the public, so VapeMentors hosted a dinner on Day Two with all the speakers and members of the public that wanted to know how they got there. Overall, the dinner was an enlightening success, and the MasterMind dinners will be offered at future events.
This show was particularly well run, though it was smaller than others both in vendor size as well as crowd attendance. This probably will be the template for the future. The trend seems to be smaller, regional events in different parts of the nation. There is still a battle for the “bigger is better” trophy, and there are several contenders; many promoters are driven to host mega-events. Time will tell who has staying power.
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.