Gary Wilder is the founder of Lizard Juice. He founded Lizard Juice in order to change life and truly make a difference in this world. With the help of his amazing team, Gary has grown Lizard Juice to 21 locations with 170 wholesale accounts in just a couple of years.
How did you personally become to get involved in this industry?
I had family members who wanted to quit smoking and when I started looking around at e-cigs to help them kick their habits, I just did not see anyone doing it well. I didn’t see any stores that I would want to go in or take my family to. Most stores catered towards a young crowd and I wanted to create an atmosphere that would work for everyone.
When we started our stores, we knew we could take what was already being done and do it better. Most of the stores I had been in were simply just glorified head shops. We decided to step up the game and create something that included granite countertops, bamboo floors, and oak counters. I not only wanted to create something that I wanted to go to, but also a place I could take my mother to and she would feel comfortable enough to come back by herself.
After opening stores, how did you come to start Lizard Juice?
After I introduced my family and friends to e-cigs and created a place for them to feel comfortable, I established the company motto: “Changing lives one person at a time.”’ We built this company for smokers not for vapers.
Changing lives to us meant not selling customers a mod if they were a 2-pack a day smoker because they couldn’t handle that much vapor. For that reason, beyond anything, we push to get each customer the right device, the right flavor, and the right nicotine level – because the perfect combination can really change a life. If we change one person’s life, they bring their friends and family to the shop and we get a chance to help change their lives as well. If I change enough lives, eventually I change my own life.
From there, I decided to get into manufacturing. For the same reason I was frustrated with stores, I was also frustrated with e-juice – I knew it could be better. I couldn’t find the consistency or the quality I was looking for so we did what we always do when we can’t find something we want – we develop it ourselves.
Lizard Juice is produced in quality-controlled, lab conditions. We pride ourselves in offering the absolute best of every ingredient flavor blends in which we have developed, tried, and tested ourselves. Our ingredients are Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Food Grade Natural Flavorings, Distilled Water, and Nicotine.
When it comes to developing flavors, I am not always right. But when I can test the flavors in my 14 stores and my customers are there to tell me what is right and what isn’t, the numbers don’t lie.
I take inspiration from everywhere when it comes to developing flavors. One day I was at Disney eating dinner with my wife and we were watching the fireworks over Magic Mountain and eating this insanely delicious dessert. That simple moment inspired me create a new flavor that is still one of my absolute favorites to this day. If you keep your eyes open, your ears open, and your heart open, the world will give you all the inspiration you need.
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Changing lives. That is the beginning and the end of our company. When I can put the right device in someone’s hands and they choose to quit smoking – that is the best part. Back when I only had one store, and I used to work behind the counter, I sold an e-cig to a woman who bought it for her father. A few weeks later, she drove back to the store and told me that her father was able to take a deep breath for the first time in over 20 years.
At the end of the day, that is what it is all about. This job is about getting the right device with the right flavor and nicotine level in your customer’s hands. When you spend time with each customer and get to know them, and then they find that vaping works for them, that customer will bring in their friends and family. It is a wonderful thing to wake up every day and realize that I truly help people every single day of my life just by doing my job right. We don’t sell juice and e-cigarettes – we change lives.
How do you set personal goals for yourself? What is the process like?
I have massive goals. I set my goals until they literally scare me – that’s when I know they are enough. The only thing that can really get in our way is that stupid six inches between our ears. To quote Steve Jobs, ‘The people that are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the people that do.’ I try to set my goals so big that it refocuses what I need to do in order to get them.
Why have you stayed in this industry for so many years?
I love changing lives. We spend a lot of time training our team to ensure they understand just how important their job is behind the counter. I train my employees to know that if vaping doesn’t work for someone after they have come into our shop, that it is our fault. That means we got them the wrong device, wrong flavor, or wrong nicotine level for what they needed. We work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen because the wrong combination will leave our customers thinking that vaping is a waste of time and does not work. This industry is about keeping your eyes, ears, and heart open to get people the right product. When you do that, your company will naturally grow. I’ve stayed in this industry for so long because my job is rewarding and I can make a difference every single day.
What do you feel has been the most important factor in your success?
Education. Since I can’t always ask the most successful people in the world the questions I have – I read their books instead. Someone has already gone through the trouble to put together a lifetime of their knowledge on paper and it’s there for me to read and learn from. Learning from each other is so important. We can stand on the shoulders of greatness, and reach a little bit further than those before us. We can learn things from Einstein and then expand on them and make them better. Being successful comes from challenging each other and collaborating.
What are you most proud of so far in your career?
Today I judge my success on how I can make the people around me successful as well. When I can teach people to be great at something, that’s something to be proud of in my opinion. For example, my social media team has become beyond incredible and the team that manufactures our juice have truly mastered what they do. It doesn’t even matter if they stay with us forever or we only work together a few more years, at the end of the day I have helped make them more successful and is something that is really important to me.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are your concerns?
Our future right now is all Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTA) and that literally consumes us on a daily basis. PMTA is everything that excites me going forward and is also everything that concerns me. The industry needs some regulations; we cannot have people making juice in their in bathtubs anymore. But at the same time, the monster that the FDA has put out is an incredible overreach written by the tobacco companies. If the tobacco companies can’t beat us, they are literally going to pay to change the rules. This whole situation is our government at its worst. I believe we are strongest when we have thousands of people innovating and creating incredible products and the tobacco companies need to keep up. There are thousands of people just like me that are constantly coming up with better products for the industry and yes it should be regulated, but not to such an extent that it stops the innovation. Natural competition is good for any industry, it pushes everyone to make things better and at the end of the day, the person who wins is the customer.
Do you have any advice for other business owners in this industry that might be struggling?
For starters, read. Read everything that you can. Work hard every day to further your education. I would recommend starting out with Mark Cuban’s book How to Win at the Sport of Business. Most importantly, always remember to think bigger. If you dream big enough and you set your goals high enough, you will change the world. SVBS