After graduating with degrees in Accounting and General Management from Cal State Fullerton, Mike Igo was looking for a managerial position or an entrepreneurial opportunity when he came across his first e-cigarette at a local shop in 2013. Once he had a chance to take a closer and deeper look into the product, try it out, and build his own – he quickly realized just how well it worked.
“About the same time I realized how effective e-cigarettes were in helping me quit smoking, the opportunity presented itself for me and my business partners Josh Lawler and Greg Cucchissi to open a retail location. We quickly jumped on that opportunity and officially opened the doors to Hydra Vapor Shop in late November 2013,” explains Mike Igo, Co-Owner of Hydra Vapor Shop.
Located in Oceanside, California, Hydra offers a unique atmosphere and a selection of high end vape products as well as clothing. The large bar allows customers to come in, sit down, and enjoy their time in the shop without feeling rushed or under pressure to buy something fast. There are a lot of bar stools and a big TV, the shop is open and welcoming. The atmosphere is what sets this California shop apart from others in the area, it’s a comfortable, easy-going place that customers really enjoy.
“The shop has a Star Wars theme because I am a diehard fan,” jokes Mike. “We were really known for that in the beginning, and it drew a lot of people in and really helped us establish a name for ourselves pretty quickly. The overall vibe is really laid back and mellow and that is what has kept our customers coming back time and time again. The laid back vibe is really important to our customers and therefore us as well,” he continues. The road to success isn’t always easy or free of bumps in the road and starting a business can be difficult. At the beginning, Mike, Josh, and Greg had to stick to a very strict budget to survive.
“We had to be smart. With such a tight budget, one wrong move could have been catastrophic. Although there have been some missteps along the way, we have managed to stay on budget and that is why we are still here three and a half years later. We are so happy with how far we have been able to come,” says Mike.
When customers come into Hydra, they leave not only happy with their purchase, but they also know how to use it safely.
“We want our customers to leave the shop feeling like they were treated fairly and with respect. We want them to be satisfied with their purchases and want to ensure they know everything there is to know about what they buy and how to use our products safely. In this business, personal connections are everything and we work really hard to make those connections with everyone that comes through our doors,” explains Mike.
When it comes to marketing the business, Mike, Josh and Greg have found that grassroots style marketing works the best in this industry. All three have backgrounds in music and played in bands, so they were used to promoting themselves with small budgets and used the same strategy with their business. They took to Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets to get their name out there and stay in touch with their loyal customer base.
Another way that Hydra sets itself apart from competition is that they offer larger sizes of e-liquid at lower prices.
“We try to give our customers the best bang for their buck without sacrificing quality,” mentions Mike.
The staff members Kristina Bargas, Haley Knox and Jesus Valencia who work alongside of Mike, Josh, and Greg have also played a huge part in the in the success of the Oceanside shop. The staff at Hydra today have been there almost from the beginning, they are loyal and dedicated to making the shop the best it can be. Having a core group of friendly, knowledgeable staff members really makes Hydra stand out. Customers can expect the same level of service each time they visit the shop and know the information they are getting is trustworthy and reliable.
“Great customer service and community outreach is what makes us who we are and what keeps our doors open. We have a goal to make each customer that walks through the door a return customer. Creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and relaxing is what makes that happen. The relationships we form with our customers and the community are the best part about working in this industry. It feels great to be the go to shop for many of our customers,” says Mike.
In an industry that is ever-changing, Mike stresses just how important it is to never give up.
“When times get hard, you have to really dig, give it your all, and never give up. There will always been tough times or challenges that you will face as a business owner, but getting through those makes your business stronger and you stronger as an owner. Just remember that it’s not over until it’s over. Every single day is a chance to better your business and better yourself. Something as simple as a new business contact or a great sale can make an extreme difference you may not have anticipated,” explains Mike.
So what’s next for Hydra? The Oceanside shop is always looking for ways to expand in the new environment.
“Now that the FDA regulations have largely been implemented, the market has become more limited. The new barrier of entry has really raised the stakes when it comes to opening a business in this industry. We aren’t seeing as many overnight startups or people just trying to make a quick buck, the industry is now made up of more people who are really committed and who believe in the cause and believe in what they are doing. But at the same time, those same regulations and taxes are what makes the industry really tricky right now as we try to figure out how to operate with so much uncertainty,” says Mike.
Even with the uncertainty that hangs over the industry, its beyond clear that Hydra will continue to flourish in the years to come. The California shop is backed by driven owners and knowledgeable staff who are filled with passion for the industry and care deeply about the community and the people they serve. Hydra is a shop that has proved time and time again that they can roll with the punches and that they are here to stay. While this industry is not the easiest to survive in, Hydra has done that and more as they have proven themselves to be one of best.
To learn more about Hydra visit www.hydralifestyle.com, follow them on Instagram (hydralifestyle), or like their page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HydraOceanside). SVBS