How did Mister-E-Liquid get started?
I first noticed the vapor industry in 2010 when I was in college. I was finishing up my degree in Finance and International Business, and a classmate of mine showed me his e-cigarette, and it really piqued my interest. I went to a nearby gas station and bought a cheap device that didn’t really work that well and by no means impressed me. After using the device, I wanted to see what else was out there and I began some research. I found a few products that were better than the first device I used, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy with the hardware or the flavors I was vaping. Even though the products were not great, I did find myself smoking less and less. Eventually, I decided to look into how to make my own e-liquid and I quickly realized I had a huge opportunity on my hands.
Just like that, Mister-E-Liquid was born. The business started out online in 2010, and then we opened our first store in 2012. In that location, we had about 20 employees, a production facility, and the store, all within 1,300 square feet. We continued to grow, and eventually opened our corporate facility in 2013. This facility was about 24,000 square feet and we had more than 80 employees.
In the beginning, we did one hundred percent growth every month for 24 months straight. It was absolutely insane, and we did everything we could just to hold on, and to produce the products our customers wanted. During that time, we got product into some of the largest specialty tobacco chains in the country and we started to market our products overseas. Over the years, we’ve made the right connections and protected our brand. We have always put quality first and we were one of the first vapor organizations in the country to operate out of a certified cleanroom. We put over $1,000,000 into making certain that we had a world-class production facility to manufacture e-liquid of the highest quality for our customers.
As time went on and the market became more competitive, how did Mister-E-Liquid survive? What set you apart from your competition?
In 2013, we were bursting at the seams. Sales were skyrocketing, thousands in sales turned into millions, profits were incredible. And then everything began to change: in 2015 and 2016, the market began to balloon and became very competitive. We tightened our belts and repositioned the company to really focus on the quality of the manufacturing, product testing for nicotine accuracy, and establishing overall product standards.
At the end of the day, a vapor product is meant to be inhaled into the lungs and it is a risk – there’s no doubt about that. When customers order from a manufacturer that doesn’t take the time to make their product as risk-free as possible, that’s a scary thing. For a long time, we saw a lot of our competitors completely disregard the fact that they needed make their products as high-quality as possible for their customers and instead focus on saturating the market and getting their products out quickly. We chose to put our customers first – which was a move that did not go unnoticed.
We are very active in this industry – on all fronts. This is something that we feel our competitors need to be paying closer attention to. When your only focus as a business is to make sales and create profits, it puts a real strain on doing the right thing. As a company, we are willing to take on extra expenses and spend the extra money to exceed the standards for what it means to be compliant and produce professional-grade products. We have the same mentality when it comes to our employees, as well: we offer an extremely competitive benefits package and we do our best to make sure our employees are treated fairly, and that the environment of the company as a whole is a place where people want to work.
What is your favorite thing about working in this industry?
Back in the day, it was so new and exciting – that alone was enough to get me up in the morning. Watching our growth happen and seeing our young team come in day after day and work our asses off towards a common goal was exhilarating.
Since then, we have transitioned from small startup to a successful company that works day in and day out to maintain a compliant product. Our goal now is to be around when the chips fall. I think the only way you can do that today is to have a quality, compliant product that will stand strong against the scrutiny of local or federal regulations. It’s exciting to be a part of this process and watch how far the industry has come. I also love the fact that throughout this process, we have never sacrificed our moral standards for our bottom line – that in itself is incredibly rare and something of which we are truly proud. For this reason, our customers are very loyal, and we have incredibly high retention rates with both our wholesale customers and our retail customers. To really top it off, our online business has always been the backbone of this company. We started in 2010, and we built this company to a top 4% online vapor business. Our website, www.mister-e-liquid.com, sits in the top 4% off all vapor e-commerce sales – which is something we are really excited about.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about moving forward?
One of the opportunities I have been given as an owner is to start making investments outside of the vapor industry. A focus for me personally has been to diversify against what could potentially be a pretty rocky road in the vapor market moving forward, due to the unknowns with the FDA. We have some great people in charge here at Mister-E-Liquid who can run the business very far into the future, which has allowed me to look forward to new things.
From Mister-E-Liquid’s perspective, we are working hard to maintain compliance and buying time until there is a redistribution of the manufacturing market. We are already seeing competitors fall away as regulations begin to pile up. In a flat marketplace, we are continuing to grow where our competitors are shrinking – some shrinking as much as 90% in sales. While the future is filled with a lot of mystery as to where this industry will go, we are excited that our hard work will keep Mister-E-Liquid standing strong.
Do you have any advice for other business owners that may be struggling in this industry?
My advice for any vapor company that is struggling to maintain customers, or struggling to find new ones, is to define your core competencies as a vapor company and to clearly establish what it is you do really well.
We have seen time and time again vapor companies that spread themselves too thin. This is something we have dealt with here. We have gone through some corporate restructuring and refocusing, so we can maintain our competitive edge in the best way possible. You must learn to leverage your strengths. Find out what you have to offer and form partnerships and agreements with people in the industry who can help you manage your weaknesses in exchange for your strengths. Strategic partnerships are essential in this business and have been a big part of keeping our company in a growth model. There isn’t a company in the world that can honestly say they do everything perfectly – there is always room to improve and there are always partnerships that can make your company stronger. SVBS
– all photos by Kevin Huver –