What brought you into the industry? How did Charlie’s Chalk Dust get started?
This was never a plan I had. I never thought I would end up in the vapor space. I actually moved out to California from Ohio in 2008 to go to a rehab facility because I had an extremely bad heroin addiction. I got sober in 2010 and went home to Ohio for Thanksgiving. I was just four months sober when I went home, and a few guys from my hometown took notice of the changes I had made in my life and asked me to help them. I moved them out to California so I could show them what had worked for me and what it took for me to become sober. They stayed in my house and we worked at getting them sober together.
The house jokingly became known as the Ohio House because it was just the three of us midwestern boys living together in California. I was working in aviation at the time and started getting calls from strangers asking if I had beds available at the Ohio House. Next thing I knew, I had made the decision to take the $1200 I had to my name and make the Ohio House official. Today we have 20 properties and I have helped over one thousand people celebrate a year of sobriety. We have an outpatient facility called the Buckeye Recovery Network, a female program called the Chadwick House, and we employ close to 100 people. It is seriously amazing.
In 2014, I had a guy go through the Ohio House that I had been friends with back in my hometown and he knew how to make eliquid. This was great because I wanted to quit smoking but at the time, I was going into all the vape shops and there weren’t any brands that I liked, so it was making quitting impossible. All the flavors back then tasted alright, but by about noon every day I would find that I was smoking a cigarette again because they really were not all-day flavors. When I got into make eliquid, I spent $2000 just to get everything I needed to make the stuff in my kitchen at night. I spent hours every night for nearly five months trying to create something we would never get sick of – and finally we got it right and we quit smoking. I haven’t had a cigarette since.
After that, I started dropping off bottles to the guys at the Ohio House to help them out because vaping is so expensive, and they just didn’t have the money to go out and buy their own. Everyone loved it and one of them took it into a vape shop when he was getting a new coil on his vape and the owner asked about his unlabeled bottle he had with him. The owner ended up trying it and being shocked at how good it was and he called me up personally. I went down to the vape shop with no business cards, no samples, and no website and I sold him 300 bottles. He had asked me what my MOQ was, and I had to ask him what that was because I had no idea what he was talking about. He told me it meant minimum order quantity and the only thing I could think of was that 300 bottles would justify all the time that went into making it.
I had been in sales my whole life, and with the Ohio House I was providing a service I loved but the salesman inside me was pushed aside and was dormant. The day I sold 300 bottles I was fired up.
I went back to my office and called my bother to tell him I was starting a vape company and asked if he wanted in – he said yes. My graphic designer from the Ohio House is an amazing local surfer and artist and he created insane branding for us. That’s when things really got rolling and we knew we were going to have so much fun with this.
I put 40k into the business to get it started, but at that time in the vapor market it was such a cash grab. There were a lot of people who just saw it as an opportunity to make money, but for me I wanted to create the best brand in the world. I wasn’t concerned about money because I was making a living at my other business, but this was an opportunity to get creative and create a worldwide brand – and we did.
What is your favorite thing about working in this industry?
My favorite thing about working in this industry is providing life changing opportunities to people I love and trust to work at Charlie’s Chalk Dust. I love that I was able to create something that allows people to grow in their professional career.
It has also been absolutely amazing to align myself with other business in this industry, domestically and internationally, and watching their businesses grow. The coolest thing about selling eliquid is that I get to sell a product that helps others grow their business.
What keeps you motivated?
I love seeing people succeed. I sell a product that somebody else sells and makes money on, and so I am helping other people outside of my business create wealth for themselves and their families – and that makes me feel amazing. I love participating in other people’s success and if I can make people around me very successful, by default I am successful as well. This business is the bright spot in my life.
What do you feel have been the most important factor in your success?
There are only two reasons that I am successful. The first reason is because I surround myself with people that are much smarter than me. The second reason is because I am a really good problem solver. I don’t take too much credit for my business; I feel like God has placed me in a position to take advantage of blessings and surround myself with great people that I can give opportunities to – I have a hard-working crew. My organization is built on a bunch of loyal, hardworking family members. I have been able to solve a lot of problems which has been a huge factor in our success that has helped me and my customers, but the driving factor of this organization is my crew.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about?
Right now, I am most excited about our CBD launch. We have an unbelievable CBD product that is different from anything in the entire world. We are growing organic hemp that is all single origin and single strain and we are using a proprietary extraction method that uses nothing but heated air – it’s the only solvent free extraction method in the universe. It creates such a phenomenal product. For our recent launch we stocked up what we thought was enough inventory to last us 3 months, but it sold out 6 days. That’s just insane.
Do you have any advice for other business owners in a similar space that might be struggling?
Take care of your customers, or your competitors will.
Charlie’s Chalk Dust has recently gone public, what has that experience been like for you?
We are the very first eliquid company in the entire word to be publicly traded – which is pretty fucking unbelievable. It’s an opportunity that will help us reach new customers and share our story with a wider audience. It’s an exciting time right now for us, our customers, our crew, and now our shareholders. SVBS