iVape Local Owner’s Corner – Vapor Villa – Catonsville, MD

At iVape Local, we love bringing you great business tips that you can easily execute in your own store. We decided that it would be beneficial to reach out to some successful vape shops and pick their brains to find out what they are doing to be so successful.If you live in Eldersburg, Catonsville, or Halethorpe Maryland, it is very likely that have heard of Vapor Villa. Vapor Villa is a small chain of vape shops making a big impact on the local vape scene. They currently have three stores and plan to continue growing. Here are some things that we learned from Vic Vega, owner at Vapor Villa.
VAPOR VILLA CATONSVILLE, MDPrior to becoming a successful vape entrepreneur, Vic Vega was a Sonar Technician in the US Navy. Vic discovered that e-cigarettes were a great tool for helping people quit smoking. Back in 2013 e-cigarettes weren’t nearly as popular as they are now and Vic knew that once more people realized that e-cigs were a great smoking cessation tool, the industry would grow exponentially.
Seizing upon this opportunity, Vic opened his first store in Halethorpe, MD in December 2013. The first store really took off and 4 months later Vic was able to open the brand’s flagship store in Catonsville, MD. Not one to slow down, Vic opened his third store in October 2014 in Eldersburg, MD.
With so many vape shop owners looking to grow their business, we wanted to see what allowed Vapor Villa to take off so quickly and grow to become what it is today.
Here is our Q&A session with Vapor Villa owner, Vic Vega:

iVape Local: What was your first e-cigarette?

Vic Vega: Kanger eVod Starter Kit – It wasn’t the best but it certainly did the trick as far introducing myself to vaping.

IVL: You opened 3 stores in very quick succession. What allowed you to this? Was it easy to acquire funding?

VV: We’ve funded each store using the profits of the previous store. When we originally began, vape shops had a relatively low barrier for entry making it possible for the average person to get a foot in the industry. I didn’t want to have a mountain of debt and even though each new store was more expensive to launch then the previous we made the choice to fund each store organically despite several interested investors. Of course building a business from scratch organically required us to really hunker down and be super conservation with our funds until sales rose to a higher level.

IVL: What type of research did you do prior to opening your first store?

VV: I looked into the local market to see how many vape shops existed. I visited e-cig stores in the area to see what they were doing. Since the business was initially funded out of pocket I knew that we had to do things right or quickly risk loosing it all. I also read through a lot of online forums to see what devices people were using and what devices people liked or didn’t like. This helped me plan my initial inventory.

IVL: Rewards programs are all the rage right now. What is your opinion on companies like Five Star Rewards? Do you think they work?

VV: I use Spot On Rewards at all three stores. Customers earn a “spot” after each purchase. I know a lot of stores do things like $1 = 1 point but I wanted to do it a little differently. The “spot” for purchase system has worked well for me and customers can earn 10ML of juice or 10% off after 5 purchases, 30ML or 20% off after 10 purchases, and 50ML or 30% off after 15 purchases. It’s essential to have some type of rewards program because in this day and age customers are accustomed to being rewarded for loyalty.

IVL: Do you hold events?

VV: Absolutely! We hold cloud contests, social events, and customer appreciation days. Events are a great way to increase sales and move inventory. During an event we will always offer some form of discount on most or all products in the store.

IVL: I’m sure managing your social media is a huge task. How do you stay on top of it?

VV: I originally was handling everything myself but have since been able to delegate a good portion of these task’s to employees who have an interest in marketing. Each store has it’s own social accounts so it’s a lot of posting. We engage with our followers and run contests via social media. Even if you’re a smaller shop, it is imperative that you leverage social media.

IVL: What’s your staff like?

VV: I was able to hire some awesome people who really know their stuff. They really take the customer’s needs into consideration when helping them select a device. It’s sort of like a consultation when a new customer comes in for their first device. We spend lots of time trying to figure out the best device for the customer so that they can successfully stop smoking. If they want to be a hobbyist down the road then wonderful, but our first goal with a new customer is to get them off of cigarettes.

IVL: What do the next 2-3 years look like for you?

VV: I will continue to improve existing locations while exploring the options for opening another store. I am also heavily interested in advocacy and I want to be able to create more time to be involved in that aspect of the vape industry. Advocacy is important and all vape shop owners need to be involved in one form or another. If you are making a living in the e-cigarette industry your livelihood depends on this business being viable long term. If big government starts regulating heavily, the low barrier to entry will disappear and prices will skyrocket.

IVL: Anything new in the works?

VV: We are launching a premium juice line with in the next month. We’ve spent a lot of time creating flavors we feel our customers will really enjoy. I can’t go into to much detail just yet but stay tuned.

IVL: Any advice for someone looking to open a vape shop?

Vapor Villa is definitely doing things right. They maintain active social media accounts, drive traffic to their store thorough events and gatherings, and train their staff how to ask the right questions to new customers. If you are a new vape shop owner or even a seasoned e-cig retailer, take a page Vapor Villa’s playbook and apply some their strategies in your own business. It will definitely be worth it!

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