Simply Vapour is a family-owned and operated business located in Maplewood, MN that has been manufacturing and distributing e-liquid in Minnesota since 2011. Simply Vapour was created by a mother-daughter duo, Susan and Kristine Sindt, when Kristine began vaping in late 2010, she quickly discovered there were only a few options for her at the time – at least in regard to e-liquid flavors that tasted great.
Simply Vapour was founded on the idea that producing a great tasting e-liquid should be simple, hence the name. Their mission is to provide a quality product consisting of minimal ingredients that is satisfying to consumers. Using only the finest ingredients assembled in small batches in a sterile process, the Minnesota company is able to create smooth, distinctly flavored products for today’s vaporizer enthusiasts.
How did Simply Vapour get started?
Susan: During 2010, Kristine discovered vaping. She was a couple years out of high school and picked up smoking as a habit – which I wasn’t exactly happy about. One day at her work, she noticed a few of her coworkers were vaping instead of smoking cigarettes. So, a few days later when she brought a vaporizer home after work instead of a pack of cigarettes, I urged her to keep it up. I thought it was great her friends would come over and vape instead of smoke. Unfortunately this trend didn’t last long as her friends didn’t have the money they needed to stick with vaping. That is when I knew I needed to do something to help.
And that’s really how it started. I began purchasing the liquids, ingredients, and electronic devices that we needed so Kristine and her friends, as well as my friends and our family members – basically everyone that we knew and loved – had the opportunity to choose vaping instead of smoking cigarettes. At the time I was working as a high school science teacher, but after 10 years working in that field, I was ready for an opportunity to change careers. We started hanging out with the vaping community, which was very small at this time, and building relationships with vapers in our area in the Twin Cities. Many were starting to talk about opening their own shops and businesses and we knew we could do that too.
In the very beginning, I drove around showing our products to the local smoke shops and most of them just laughed at the idea and sent me away. Fortunately, one tobacco shop in particular recognized what we had was great, and began selling our product. At this point I quit my job so I could work part-time as a substitute teacher and have time to deliver and sell products during the day while Kristine and I labeled bottles and put orders together at night.
We were fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. It took about two years before we became truly stable and were able to provide us with full-time incomes. Both Kristine, my husband, and I were able to quit our jobs and pursue this endeavor.
Kristine: One of the main things we have always been concerned about since day one is the quality of our ingredients. When I first started vaping, it was hard to trust the ingredients that were being used in other products. We wanted to feel good about the ingredients in our liquid so our customers could feel good about it too. We choose to spend a little more on high quality ingredients and it makes a huge difference in our products. We are proud of the products we offer and our quality is what we are known for – which feels great.
What is your flavor development process like? How has it changed over the years?
Susan: When we first started, and we didn’t really know what was going to be popular, we had about 80 flavors. Over time, we refined that number down significantly and spent more time perfecting recipes we had already established.
Kristine: When we look back, it’s funny thinking about how we used to make our flavors. For example, we would buy whipped cream and test different flavor extracts using the whip cream as a base. Now our process is thankfully very different! A few years ago, we brought on a family friend Brady Hill, and he has been an incredibly huge asset to Simply Vapour in so many ways.
With a background in culinary arts, Brady joined the team and began researching and developing flavors. Once Brady has develops a new flavor, we take time as a team to all vape it for a few days to see if it is something we think would sell. As a family owned company we are all really close and we are always bouncing flavor ideas off of each other, but Brady is the one that can really bring our ideas to life.
Susan: After the August 2016 regulations, we have not introduced anything new to the market. Our business plan is to maintain our integrity and remain compliant. We currently are not developing flavors, but fortunately we have many great flavors we continue to sell.
What is your favorite thing about working in this industry?
Kristine: This is a difficult industry to work in because it changes so quickly, but it’s also exciting to be a part of its development. It’s fun to be a part of something so massive that we can still influence. Even though there are days that scare us a little bit because we don’t know what is coming next, it keeps life interesting. It has been really cool to watch how this industry has changed over the years.
Susan: My favorite part is all of the different people I am fortunate to meet. I have found that people who are interested in vaping are interested in being healthy, they are forward thinkers, they think outside of the box – and that is a community of people I am proud to be around. We’ve built so many relationships with people in our community, around the country, and even around the world that have truly changed our lives in so many ways.
Kristine: We get to transition people from smoking to vaping every day. It’s really rewarding to see people who have been smoking traditional combustible cigarettes for years switch to a product they feel better about using. Plus, we get to do it as a family.
What are you most proud of so far in your career with Simply Vapour?
Kristine: We have had relatives and close family friends claim their health and overall quality of life has improved significantly since being introduced to vaping. That alone is beyond amazing and makes everything we have done as a company worth it. I am also proud that we have created a business so successful that we have been able to not only quit our “day” jobs, but we provide jobs for others as well! We have built a team of the best people we know and I’m proud that we have been able to create a place for us all to work together for a greater good.
Susan: Another thing we are proud of are the relationships we have with our customers. Our intention is to form lasting business relationships working towards expansion of the Simply Vapour family.
Are you a part of any advocacy groups?
Susan: We are founding members of the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota (IVRM) established in 2013. We have been supporting advocacy efforts politically and financially for over 5 years. We have contributed over the years to groups such as CASAA, SFATA, and The Vaping Militia. We believe it is important to protect this industry and keep it in the hands of small businesses. For that reason, the IVRM hired a lobbyist who works at our state capital here in Minnesota. We are beyond dedicated to our consumers and very fortunate our Minnesota industry is just as dedicated in the effort to fight for our consumers as well. Advocacy is time consuming and a financial investment, but we have been able to keep vaping in the Twin Cities and that is what matters.
We work closely with a handful of other major manufacturers here and we get together once a month – even though we are competitors – we sit down, and work together to save our industry. This is something I don’t see happening in many other states, so I hope we can continue to be a model for how competitors can work together in years to come.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about?
Kristine: I am excited to travel to other areas and potentially expand our business around the world. I’m also looking forward to seeing what happens on a national level here in the US – we are staying optimistic. We have other ideas for the business that would not be affected by regulations.
Susan: I find it exciting that we are taking this opportunity to look at the possibility of bringing on other products. We are considering expanding the focus of our distribution to offer a variety of products in addition to e-liquid. This industry is full of opportunity and that is something that is always going to keep me excited for the future and motivated as well. We have developed such a strong business model over the years, that if we are unable to stay in the vape specific industry here in the US, there are other opportunities that we can take advantage of to stay prosperous.
Kristine: We are also excited about our flavorless flavor. We had developed a flavor that does not have any flavor at all and right now with flavor bans, we have a product with so much potential.
To what do you attribute your success?
Susan: We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Because of my background in science and my willingness to be on the frontlines explaining our products to shop owners and consumers and Kristine’s dedication to helping me make the product, we were able to grow our company very quickly. Our ability to work as a team is what made us successful.
Kristine: This business has allowed us all to shine in roles that fit us the best. I can take on the tasks my mom doesn’t want to do or can’t do. My dad can handle other aspects of the business that we may not be able to do. The business has given us all a role we are skilled in. For being a small family owned business, it’s honestly crazy how well we all fit into our specific roles without any friction among us as a whole. It’s where we belong.
Do you have any advice for other business owners in this industry that may be struggling?
Kristine: We recently had an audit done and we learned some things that we weren’t aware were affecting our business. Don’t be afraid to do the same. This industry is so new, and it can be hard to keep up with the changes. It is so important to keep up with all the information that is circulating. This market is nowhere near cut and dry so never leave the unknowns unknown. If you don’t know something, do not proceed until you find out the answers.
Susan: There are regulations at so many different levels. So as a business owner, you need to stay informed or it will catch up with you. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s every chance you get. SVBS