The Challenges of Starting a New Vape Business
Starting a new vape business, whether it's a retail vape shop or production facility, requires bold decision making, an excellent location, and a lot of perseverance. It's necessary to choose the right name, be up on all of the latest regulations, and have a solid business model in place before you move forward. Planning is key! More than likely you'll be dealing with unforeseen issues from the day you open your doors, but if you want to keep from going under, it's necessary to learn these essentials.
The key to starting a successful vape business, like any other business, rests on what you do before you open your doors. The vaping business offers many challenges based upon the type of business and the products you will need to carry. Unlike the majority of other businesses, the regulations are constantly in flux.
Know Your Regulations
Before you open your new vape shop or startup, it's necessary to know what you're up against. As the debate about vaping and its safety rages on, you need to know where your state, county, and city currently stand. Get the inside track on e-cig regulations by talking to local officials and researching online. Vaping businesses face an enormous amount of challenges with regulations alone.
Find out how your city classifies vape shops. You may have to pay extra fees, since some cities consider vape shops to be nuisance businesses. Be sure you budget in those fees when you make your final calculations. If you need to carry insurance, CALCO has insurance specifically geared towards the vaping industry, or you can go with the same coverage that states require for tobacco shops.
Know Your Customer
Every vape business is different, depending on the customer it caters to. Do you want to start a vape shop where beginners go to get their first device? Do you want more experienced vapers to come to you for the latest and greatest vaping gear? Do you want to specialize in high-end, premium products or offer more affordable alternatives. Your audience shapes everything about your business, from the marketing campaign, to the location and the products you keep on hand.
Choosing The Right Name
After you understand the regulations and know who you're trying to target, it's time to choose a name. The name that you choose will set the mood for your entire business. And, while you can name your business whatever you want, here are some guidelines to help you discover the best name for your startup.
- Simplicity – Simple names are generally more memorable than complicated ones. For example, think of the person who's going to be saying the name of your business over and over on the phone. If it's too long, it can get muddled and confused. Imagine having to repeatedly say Sample R. Vapers Smoke Shoppe and Emporium! It just isn’t going to work well.
- Timelessness – Vape 2017 is great for 2017, but it will inevitably not be relevant in the years that follow. By avoiding things that are trending or period specific, you're establishing your name for the future.
- Descriptive – You want to convey to everyone what your business does as simply and easily as possible, while separating yourself from the competition. Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to use the name “Vape Shop” or “Vape Business” and be done with it. It's going to require a touch of creativity.
- Unique – If you're starting a vape shop, you want to make sure that your name hasn't been taken by another local business. You also want to make sure that the domain name for your business hasn't been taken. The most successful vape businesses use a combination of online and brick and mortar tactics to get the most customers through the door.
- No Jokes – While names with inherent or subtle jokes are funny and memorable at first, they may not remain funny and could diminish the reputation of your business. You can make all of the jokes you want, but it's probably a good idea to keep them out of the name.
Get Your Finances In Order
When starting a vape shop or e-cig-related business, you're going to be hit with a lot of expenses right from the start. Your leasing agent will most likely require you to place a deposit on the space, you'll need to setup utilities, install fixtures, and most importantly, stock your new vape business with inventory.
Do you have the capital ready-to-go? If not, you may have to find investors or consider taking out a loan. Be sure to get your finances in order before moving any farther forward. These are some of the expenses you'll need to consider:
Rent and Utilities
At a minimum, you'll need about $25,000 to start a vape shop, and that's for a small 500 sqft space. I would recommend having at least $50,000 for 1-year of rent and inventory (assuming that you won't make any profit). The more capital you start out with, the more of a chance you have for success. Places with higher foot traffic, like strip malls, are usually perfect for opening a vape shop.
Consider that you'll also be responsible for other basic business necessities, such as point-of-sale systems, light fixtures, displays, security, utilities, etc. These may seem like minor expenses, but they definitely add up over time.
One of the biggest selling points of vaping is that it's cheaper than smoking regular cigarettes, while still allowing users to get the satisfaction of smoking. The cost of cigarettes varies wildly from state to state, so you need to investigate that before you open a vape shop and choose products. This investigation also has the potential to shape the marketing that you do for your store.
As far as specific products, it's definitely wise to emphasize juice selection over a wide range of vape pens, mods and beginner kits. These items are much like buying computer printers – it's only done every so often, sometimes only once every few years. Juices, on the other hand, are like printer ink that is bought whenever it runs out. It's a much more frequent purchase, guaranteeing repeat business from your customers.
In the very beginning, you may want to be the only person working in your vape shop. Not only will this save you money, but it also allow you to learn about the business, understand your clientele, and figure out which products are selling – and which ones are not. Depending on the amount of time that you put in, the hours can certainly be grueling; with much of it spent working on your online marketing plan and waiting for people to come into the store.
When you do decide to hire people, whether part-time or full-time, you'll need to look into a payroll program and other ways to make the process easier. Hiring people is a trade-off, and sometimes not necessarily worth it to the fledgling store owner. The payoff depends on the quality of the worker that you bring in.
Marketing & Promotion
Vapers tend to be tech-savvy individuals. Thus, your marketing efforts should start by covering the Web. Get your vape business registered with Google, Yelp, and apps devoted to finding vape shops nearby. Make your vape business easy to find online and encourage people to leave reviews to improve your reputation.
Once your online presence is established, look for alternative local papers and college newspapers for further promotional opportunities. Vaping is still a trendy activity and not fully mainstream yet. Thus, you'll need to reach people who are interested in novelty. Alternative papers are a great place to advertise your vape shop or brand to the local community.
If you keep these principles in mind when starting your new vape business, you'll have a good chance of success. Read about the experiences of other business owners as well to see what they did wrong (and right) in their quest for small business ownership. Good luck with your venture, and happy vaping!