Spotlight On: Ashley Hansen

I’m the Director of Marketing for Daddy’s Vapor Distro, Inc. / Brewed and Bottled in Los Angeles, CA, we develop, manufacture, distribute, and market some of the world’s most flavorful and recognizable e-liquid brands available, currently doing business in over 40 countries, and just getting started. If you have yet to taste, or at the very least hear of the award-winning Twist E-Liquids, Strawberry Queen, FRYD, Banana Butt or one of our other 50+ brands, you need to do yourself a favor immediately and get a sample at daddysvapor.co.

In fact, since I’m in the business of making new friends, why don’t you bring some home on me! If you’re a new account on daddysvapor.co, use promo code TwistWithAsh and have 6 of the hottest flavors in vape headed your way!

 

How did you find your way into this industry?

The greater Los Angeles area is where I currently reside, but it is not where I am from. I’m a high-octane human from the home known for its hustle, Metro Detroit, who has used both book and street smarts to expand my horizons and get me to where I am today.

Working my way up from intern to on-air host for two of the largest broadcasting companies in the world by my mid 20’s wasn’t “easy,” but I’ve always strived to be alive with a purpose and platform. School being a priority, my educational experience at the University of Michigan was funded by a few grants, a small scholarship for exceptional attendance, all my grandmothers hopes and dreams, loans, and good old hard work; bartending weekends and even after class at some of the most notable and culturally defining establishments in Metro Detroit. Blessed and damned is the midwest work ethic, diving deeply into endeavors at the risk of bleeding out the motor oil that runs through our veins, but I believe it’s the only way many of us have come to know satisfaction.

Also, if you are a person who has ears and likes music, GO TO DETROIT. It would be my pleasure to recommend a few places. And, in the event that you’re reading this under a rock, fact check! – Detroit is alive and thriving, and it’s absolutely a place to be and see.

As deep as my love for Detroit is, I was a shiny fish in a great lake and I craved the salty taste of the ocean. This industry and I found one another when I moved to LA at the start of 2015 to take a lead marketing position for a regional onsite activation for a marketing company based in North Carolina. Our client? Big Tobacco. On my quest to conquer these activations, I noticed almost every business I was interacting with carried some type of vape product. As a former liquid pharmacist myself (AKA bartender/mixologist) I was more than intrigued.

Since the position was contract, as soon as the gig was up I declined an offer to continue on so I could spend some quality time exploring this new city of mine. That didn’t last long. Within a month I was sitting down with the CEO of a respected e-liquid manufacturing company, and he had a vision. Through his mentorship I embraced the vape industry from the manufacturer/wholesaler perspective and implemented an in-warehouse activation five days a week, while absorbing my new life in West Hollywood. Pro-Tip– Always have a side hustle. In those early stages, on the weekends I was delivering my service industry talents at a re-branded bar and grill on Hollywood Blvd. because you have to fund if you plan to fuel your dream.

By the beginning of 2016, I was the Founder and COO of Strawberry Queen Vapor. From there, I revaluated my plan of execution. I spent the next year traveling the globe and executing trade shows, while simultaneously running the LA marketing and sales office. After establishing myself as a true player in a global market, I was offered the position as Director of Marketing for the newly developed distribution company, Daddy’s Vapor.

Today, Daddy’s Vapor / B & B LA, VAPE is at the forefront of the vape industry, leading the race for excellence in our flavors, brand development, and social media execution. Our award-winning e-liquids are distributed and sold worldwide, with flavor profiles for every vaper, highlighting fruit, candy, dessert, cereal, menthol and tobacco mixes. Groundbreaking vision allows for us to progress constantly, paving the way for the growing international vape market as a top source for exquisitely packaged premium e-liquid brands, and of course, high margins for our buyers. We strive to think of our customers’ needs, and what products will best serve their interests to build and maintain a successful and mutually beneficial relationship.

What is your favorite part about working in this industry?

Creating moments, movements, and conversations that are memorable and meaningful. In the grand scheme of things, this industry is still in its infancy stage; true, it’s accelerating at a fast rate, but there is still so much room to grow. Being in the good company of genuine innovators inspires me and sparks the flame for the creation of new products that truly elicit the senses.

I love taking brands to market. It’s one thing to market an already established brand, but it’s a completely different experience taking an idea from its inception, leading an insanely talented team to create a reality, and finally, experiencing the moment you watch it leave a lasting impression. I love the creation process, and encouraging a culmination of efforts that eventually leads to witnessing the reaction of the consumer the second it meets their gaze.

Executing in this over-saturated market is not easy, I’m constantly challenging my team and myself to think literally outside of the box (enter the World’s First Patent Pending Trick Box- EZO E-Liquid) and push boundaries when necessary. How do we stand out at all costs? How do we not simply follow the movement, but become the zeitgeist itself? I don’t believe that revolutionary actions happen without taking risks and going all in.

Ask anyone who has had even the shortest of conversations with me – I’m not shy, I’m not quiet, and I’m definitely not afraid to speak my mind. That, coupled with my previous hosting experience, has landed me an on-going gig as the official co-host of the Vaper Expo UK and Vapouround Magazine Award Ceremony, alongside Johnny, man at large of BH Vape Shop. Vaper Expo UK has a reputation for not only bringing in impressively massive crowds, but for being one of the most engaging and respected shows in the world. I love being a part of this showcase, and my time spent in the UK allows me to enjoy quality moments with the people who live in one of my favourite places to visit both personally and professionally.

When helping a new client develop a brand or product, what is your process like?

Ideally, when sitting down at the “table” (or Skype/WhatsApp/Facetime) for the initial conversation, I want to define who the client is creating for. I want to know why they think it will sell to both wholesalers and consumers, and if they have real vision–a business model aimed at developing relationships with major distributors, who have already seen it ALL before. Defining the market share early on with the client saves all parties involved a lot of energy, effort, and time (and time IS $XX,XXX,XXX.00).

Let’s discuss the client avatar and single out that one person that they are creating their product for. I aim to introduce them to their dream client and discover what makes that person tick. If they are not singling out the individual they are creating their brand for, and trying to understand why that person will spend money on their product, they may as well just be throwing darts in the dark. Knowing and understanding that person, and putting themselves in the mind of their dream client is crucial to their success, and more so, the implementation strategy built around their client avatar will be crucial to whether the product sinks or flies in this oversaturated, often unforgiving market.

At times, companies take their consumers’ needs for granted. They forget about their dream client, and start pumping out brands and hardware that serve a quick bottom line on an hot emerging trend. I encourage clients to go in a direction that we mutually believe has staying power, as competitive advantage is crucial. I need to know what makes their idea unique. If they don’t know, we dissect their concept and then develop their solution.

It’s extremely helpful if I’ve spent time meeting buyers and consumers face to face in their hometown or place of business. I read the table, engage, and listen. There is so much to learn about what the buyers and consumers in a region are in need of, and vision is fueled by knowledge.

We have clients all over the world. Some want bright colorful products with loud shelf appeal, and others want simple, streamlined, clean and unambitious projects – so getting to know the client and the target region in which the product will be sold is very important.

I’ve made it a priority to continue to visit new and emerging markets and connect with the buyers, consumers, influencers, and other wonderful souls as often as the opportunity presents itself. Spending time with different vape communities all over the world has given me insight into the real culture and power of this industry, and its purpose-driven mission of giving people an alternative to combustible tobacco.

Accelling in this part of the industry is not only about knowing your “who, what, why, where, and HOW” but striving in creativity, understanding your market, and developing products that make the most business sense which can create NOISE.

How do you set goals for yourself? What is your process like?

My goals are intense, but I have no fear of putting in the work and dedication necessary to obtain them. I excessively commit when going after what I want.

I define my end goal and evaluate the steps I have to do/could do/should do to get there. Are the decisions I’m going to make going to help me accomplish my short term or long term goals? Consciously I’ll avoid “quick-wins” and shortcuts if I feel that they will not benefit my long game. I don’t jump at the opportunity for quick gratification because I know that most things with staying power take time and work. I strategically determine my desired end result and craft my plan of attack with intention.

Reaching a goal is all about having a process that is flexible and having the ability to act fast in the moments that count (which is every moment). I’ll give you a very short and sweet example. I was launching a new brand at a tradeshow and at the absolute last minute my former printer informed me that they were not going to deliver the packaging on time. I had a couple of sample boxes of each flavor that had been used for photography. I created an entire display with those boxes, the print material, some pizazz, and then lined the shelves with the labeled bottles creating the illusion of a stocked shop. The buyers saw a completed product via the sample display and the consumers happily purchased bottles, it made no difference to them as long as they could get their hands on the juice. Once home from the show, the full order of boxes had been delivered and the distributor who had picked up the brand would have never known the difference had I not been transparent about it.

Many lessons I’ve endured, but my journey has taken me to where I need to be in this moment and I’ve earned my stripes. Now, if I’m worried something isn’t going to be done in time, I plan for the worst and line up multiple operatives of recourse. I do everything in my power to never make the same mistake twice. Being able to adapt quickly to the obstacles thrown at me has given me the advantage to not only adapt to the moment, but sometimes discover an even greater initiative.

When you aren’t working, how do you spend your time?

Luckily, there are a pocket of Sundays in the year that I’m not on the road when I can roll my windows down and venture the 30 minutes West toward the water. Having grown up in Michigan, surrounded by beautiful lakes, I feel so empowered when I am close to the vast ocean. So much magic happens there. Of course, I never miss a marketing opportunity, so I always carry an array of bottles on me to snap a couple lifestyle shots on the beach. I can’t tell you how many of my tanks and drip tips have sand in them…Have you ever unintentionally vaped sand? I pray not! It’s awful.

Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns?

It’s an exciting time to be alive! Incorporating technology into the buying process has truly put the power back into the hands of the consumer. We’ve recently launched our online retail and wholesale stores (daddysvapor.com, daddysvapor.co, daddysvapor.ca) and I love having these in-house e-commerce metrics to analyze buyer trends and how our products are performing “in house.”

People are continuing to learn more about the industry, culture, and products – and they are sharing that knowledge with their friends and family. I love incorporating my experiences with others and engaging in the electrifying buzz being heard around the world. New markets are emerging very quickly and a countless number of trade shows are popping up faster than ever. I just wish these show organizers would consider the companies they aim to “grow” as well as one another, work together off of the same calendar, and allow companies to not have to choose where to be in the world when they are actively interested or already doing business in both markets. [End rant.]

As our voice grows stronger, now, more than ever, we need to work towards properly and responsibly educating people on both a business and consumer level. With all the false information out there about vaping, it is crucial to bring light to who we really are and what we have to offer.

What is unique about doing business in the vape space?

This is not the first male dominated industry I have worked in, and it’s not always easy to get a seat at the table. It happens less often now, but in the beginning I experienced this more than once at trade shows; someone approaches the booth to pitch their “X, Y, Z” service, bypassing me to seek out the “decision-maker” (read: man) of the business, only to be redirected back to me. Surprise! I’ve also experienced a unique brand of ego on my path. Aside from the battle of the sexes, competing companies are okay with seeing you do well, but not better than them. I’ve watched people go out of their way to make moves in an effort to propel themselves forward, even at the cost of sabotage. Business is business, but it takes very little energy to be a decent human. I’m always down to help others, and as someone who is happy to share what I’ve learned with those who are willing (and maybe even not willing) to receive honest feedback, they will more often than not reciprocate. Do right by your neighbor and they will do right by you. Share what you know, connect people with one another, and drop the ego- this revolution has room for everybody.

What is it like to host such large events? Is it something that you enjoy?

Coming from the radio industry in Metro Detroit, the ability to bring my energy to the vape space has been a deeply rewarding experience. I put my own spin on capturing the spirit of an event, and share it with the audience. Vapers have a sincere passion for what we do, and having a platform to engage and deliver our message in this industry has allowed me to generate new streams of consciousness.

Breaking away from the traditional means of advertising, development, and marketing, and continuing to be an innovator in the industry is important to me. These events give me the means to encourage others to do the same while staying on the pulse of emerging trends, technology, and products. I’m deeply invested in what I do, and the word around certain parts of the globe is I’m kinda good at it.

Do you have any advice for those who are just entering this industry?

Build a solid foundation, starting with the company you keep. Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you depleted and unable to focus on the bigger picture. Be a company driven by purpose, and the right people and opportunities will be ready for you. That said, you better be ready to invest either your time and/or money to go out and engage them.

Define your why- know why you are getting into business and make your story a part of your brand. This industry blew up because people were looking for a better alternative to smoking. During this process a strong global community united. So now, more than ever, we need to keep our community integrity-based. The more authentic passion you have about your brand, service, product, or event – the more people will want to get behind you.

And most importantly, commit to speaking your truth, taking responsibility for your actions, not wasting time, and always being able to deliver. (mic drop) SVBS

2018-07-11T14:32:14+00:00July 11th, 2018|Industry Professional Spotlight, Recent Posts|Comments Off on Spotlight On: Ashley Hansen