Pink Spot Vapors – Interview 2 – June 2013
Pink Spot Vapors is an American Success Story in every sense of the word. In addition to being a success story I would like to personally note that PSV was also the first company to have confidence in Spinfuel eMagazine and in so doing became our first official advertiser a year ago. In the space of that year Pink Spot Vapors has grown at a near exponential rate.
A new production facility has been constructed, a new retail (brick and mortar) store has opened in Phoenix AZ, a brand new website has been launched, and they have recently broken ground on their second retail store in Las Vegas! Time waits for no man, or e-cigarette business, and Pink Spot Vapors appears to understand that better than most. We are proud to have played even the tiniest part over the past year and we look forward to being there for Pink Spot Vapors for many years to come.
So it is with much delight that I recently contacted Penn and Sandi Elletson about the new projects of the past year and the ones coming up. Penn and Sandi are hard working entrepreneurs, but they did manage to find some time to speak with us, and that conversation is included below. If you haven’t stopped by Pink Spot Vapors in a while, make sure to pop over to Pink Spot and check out all the new e-liquid flavors and remember to check out their online gallery for photos of their Las Vegas store.
Spinfuel – Penn, Sandi, what a delight it is to catch up with you! So many exciting things going on with Pink Spot Vapors, I don’t know where to start first. A new store, a new production facility, a groundbreaking ceremony and a new website, these are all wonderful things!
PSV: Hey John, First off, congrats on the success of Spinfuel. It has really become very popular. You and your team’s hard work get a big fist bump first! We do have a ton of things going on, it is just crazy. This industry is growing so fast! It is wonderful to see the progress. Everyone thought I was nuts almost 4 years ago when I sold my car and my wife’s (lol) to start PSV. They thought I was nuts to open a store a year ago with 5 employees. Now we have about 30 full time employees and it is hard to keep up most days. Working on getting more staff trained for the next store currently as well. The growth of this industry is incredible. We are truly blessed to be a part of it.
Spinfuel – About your new website. It is a beautiful, easy to navigate, terrifically organized site. How is working out for you? Has it increased traffic for you, or otherwise affected your customers? I imagine they love the new design.
PSV: -It is a major chore to change formats like that while maintaining a live website. We just thought it was necessary for the long term. We want to be able to grow and add more options and more flexibility in the future. This new format should enable us to grow with the industry.
Spinfuel – Tell us a little about the Phoenix store. Why Phoenix? How has the reception been for an e-cigarette establishment opening in the area?
PSV: -Kinda funny, I went to a football game at the Arizona stadium last year and was told that eCigs were not allowed in the stadium. I realize they did not make that rule because of extended research, they made the rule because a few people that do not know what they are complained to the right people. It is just a matter of education. I have seen the progress in Las Vegas in the past year since my store opened and wanted to push that education in the Phoenix area as well. We teamed up with some people close to me and industry friends and decided it was time to open a shop in Phoenix. Our retail store employees push to make a Vaper, not just a sale. You do that by education. The more people that are educated about vaping… the less likely you are going to find rules like they have at Arizona Cardinals stadium.
Spinfuel – In addition to the many wonderful e-Liquids you carry in the store, you also sell hardware and accessories. What are some of the big sellers in the Phoenix area and does it differ from your popular items in Vegas?
PSV: -The industry seems to change each month. When we opened in Vegas, 95% of the people that walked in the store said, “ I smoke and I don’t want to”. It is hard to shove a ProVari with all the accessories and tell them they are looking at 300 plus dollars out the door. They would turn around and walk out. So we started with a lot of basics, no knock offs but Ego C Twists, Bolts, 808s etc. We stressed to keep it simple so they succeed. Now we have a customer base that has been vaping for some time now and want to “graduate” so we are carrying more items like the MVP, VAMO v3, KTS Storm etc. We still carry the genuine JoyeTech basics that we recommend for new Vapers. They are not fancy, but they work, and they seem to not get confused or frustrated. So Vegas is a bit ahead of Phx at this point, DON’T get me wrong, there are some hard core great Vapers in Phoenix, but there are again 95% of the people walking in to the store are brand new. Where in Vegas, it is closer to 50-50 now. Which is great, the industry is growing and getting stronger.
Spinfuel – I’ve always wondered about various areas of the country and how it affects the popularity of certain types of e-Liquids. For instance, it seems to me that many people here in Florida prefer fruity blends, Pina colada, strawberry, cherry, and a dozen variations of fruits. Do you notice any flavor trends in Phoenix as compared to Las Vegas?
PSV: -Yea John, I have several flavors that do better in some areas of the country. heck some parts of the world. We wholesale all over the globe and we have flavors that sell better from country to country. I think the flavor with the largest difference would have to be Raspberry Mojito. I sell a ton in California. I sell it everywhere but it is definitely a fan favorite in California. Lol.
Spinfuel – Generally speaking, is the Phoenix area, particularly the political arena, okay with the whole ‘e-cigarette’ movement or are they constantly trying to make life harder for people in the “business”? Have any new laws gone into effect in Arizona or in the city of Phoenix?
PSV: -It is kinda where LV was a year ago. When I opened my store, I could not get any interest from the media. Now they are doing lead in stories on the local 11 o’clock news at my store. Nobody wanted to lease me a space a year ago, now stores are popping up every other day here in LV it seems. Phx is about where LV was then, there will be more stores there in a year when people realize we are not a “head shop” and the stereo types start to disappear.
Spinfuel – Are the customers any different compared to your customers in Vegas?
PSV: -There is no demographic, we have customers that are doctors and students and teachers and mechanics. Smoking does not have a demographic, it is every walk of life from 18-88. Everyone either smokes, or at least knows someone that does. It is a word of mouth deal for sure. When you change someone’s life, they will tell everyone they know.
Spinfuel – How are things in Vegas? I’ve heard your original Vegas location has become a very busy enterprise. Are you close to any of the major casinos?
PSV: The store in Vegas is nuts. To be honest with you, I never dreamed that it would grow so fast. We are about 20 min north of the “strip”. We are opening the 2nd store on the south end of town so we can cater to the entire valley. We still are an eJuice manufacturer so we sell to several other places in Las Vegas. We have some providers on the strip and “Freemont St. (old strip)
Spinfuel – The last time I visited Vegas you could smoke cigarettes in the casinos, but in 2007 the laws were somewhat changed. Have there been any other recent changes to the laws that effect e-cigarettes? Like many other cities, where e-cigarettes have been unfairly wrapped into the same laws that affect tobacco cigarettes is Vegas following the same pattern?
2007 Smoking Regulations: – Casinos that exceed 15 slot machines as well as nightclubs, bars and strip clubs that don’t serve food can allow smoking. Food does not include prepackaged snacks found at bars. Most of these places where food is not served allow you to carry your food in with you. It allows you to smoke while you eat.
PSV: Lol.. They tried to ban smoking in some places in Las Vegas. That did not work. The law “passed” but nobody stopped. I was bartending at the time and was waiting to see what would happen… Not really sure how to explain how that went down John, lets just say this IS Vegas, it has a bit of the ole wild west in it still.
Spinfuel – Do you get a sense of where e-cigarette laws are heading in Las Vegas?
PSV: I am living at my store every day so maybe I am just being an optimist. But it is growing so fast I think vaping will be the new norm. I see people all the time in the car or wherever vaping now. The more of us there are, the harder it is going to be to ban it. I honestly think they will be the standard in the future.
Spinfuel – Obviously e-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular all over the world, and Vegas are certainly no exception. However, Las Vegas has always been more accepting of smokers since smoking and gambling go hand in hand, at least with many gamblers. It would make sense that the casino owners would fight hard to allow e-cigarettes in their casinos because of all the smoking restrictions. Are they generally supportive of e-cigarettes or have they chosen to give in and allow the government to ban them in the same way they do tobacco products?
PSV: -There is still a lot of ignorance about what eCigs are. But, it is getting better; several casinos have approached us about our product. They are not “pushing eCigs” yet, but I think they will in the future. They know they exist now.
Spinfuel – You are building a new brick and mortar store in Vegas, your second establishment. How is that coming along? Can you tell anything about it? Is it going to be a satellite type store or will be a bigger one?
PSV: -Having a 3-story eCigs shop is cool but the Jacuzzi is what I am most excited about. .. Only kidding, not yet at least! It is going to be much larger than our store now for the retail customer. The second store will just be retail, no offices or production so we will have a lot more room for hardware, education etc. We are really looking forward to it. We have a lot of new projects going and really cool new plans for brick and mortar stores that have not been done here.
Spinfuel – How are customers experiencing different e-liquids you offer? Do you allow them to try out a flavor before buying it? How do you do accomplish that? I’ve heard some stores prefill 510 and 808 cartomizers with various flavors and give them to customers to try if they show an interest in a particular flavor, others hand out small 3ml bottles or sell them for a nominal fee, how does Pink Spot Vapors introduce customers to new flavors?
PSV: We sell so many Ego C Twist Kits each day that we thought it was best to have our customer’s sample on the Ego C Twist with the CE4 that comes with the kit. People are skeptical in general when it comes to this. They gum, patch, acupuncture they all do not work for the most part and I do not want to sample people on something they are not buying. I think they trust what it is more when they sample the flavors on what they are buying. Speaking about “new” customers of course.
Spinfuel – What makes a Pink Spot Vapors store different than the competition in Las Vegas and Phoenix? What is it about PSV that brings people in the door, and keep them returning?
PSV: -I touched on that a bit. We do not make sales. The sale is done when the customer walks in the door. They want an eCig; they just do not know what it is. We work hard on communicating with the customer to get the right hardware if it is the size factor of the eRoll or the convenience of a big battery mod with a big tank for a truck driver. Everyone has something that will work perfect for them if you get them the right hardware and the right eJuice. We do not sell knock offs or do any shortcuts to make that extra dollar on one sale. We think that if we really create a Vaper and change each person’s life that comes in, they will come back and bring friends. And they do. It’s all about pushing for the highest success rate for new Vapers. We are continuing to add new hardware and accessories and of course new flavors to keep our PSV family members happy and growing with vaping moving forward.
Spinfuel – Do your stores stock your complete line of e-Liquids or just the top 20-25? Do you mix e-Liquids in the store, a sort of “while you wait” thing, or can someone place an order and come back in an hour like the old One-Hour Photo Processing stores of the 80’s and 90’s?
PSV: We make every flavor at our store now and will custom create blends too. We make the orders when the customers come in the store. A lot of people like to customize nic levels, pg/vg ratios or have custom messages on their labels which we do for free. That separates us from most other stores that have pre-bottled offerings. Our customers call ahead quite often so we can have orders ready for them when they come in as well.
Spinfuel – Regarding the hardware you sell in your stores; is there any demand for higher end products, rebuildable atomizers, high end APV’s, things like that? Do you think that might change down the road?
PSV: It is growing with time. We are definitely adding a lot of higher end hardware now. We still will keep it simple for the new people for sure but we have to keep up with demand even though we are a juice company.
Spinfuel – You have a wonderful collection of photos of the Vegas location on your website. PINK SPOT VAPORS It looks to be a fabulous place to come and explore the world of vaping. Do you have many customers come in and just hang out in the “living room” environment you’ve set up?
PSV: We get people that hang out all day! Many of them have opened up stores now lol. I am a juice company so I do not care at all about “competition” as long as they are educating and doing it the right way. I know it is just MY opinion, but putting knock off hardware that breaks fast and cheap quality juice in a new customers hands is just going to lead that person to say “Vaping does not work”. I know this industry; I know my customers try other companies. Most come back, but that is just part of the business. I know if the other companies in Las Vegas do it the right way, eventually, they will try my eJuice. I just hate to think that people are turning away people from the industry just to make a faster buck.
Spinfuel – The photos reveal much about your Vegas store. You seem to stock hundreds of products, but at the same time the store looks inviting, fun, almost a “must see” attraction for people visiting Vegas. Who designed this store and how will the new store compare? Will the new store maintain the same motif?
PSV: Not sure if she would appreciate me saying so, but my sister designed the store. She does not like to take credit, but she has an amazing talent for design. She is planning on living in Vegas for a few months getting the second store together and I know from what we have discussed it will be amazing. I am really fortunate to have really talented people around me in every aspect of my life.
Spinfuel – You’ve added many new signature products to your line up. Your Pink Spot Pawn’s are gorgeous. They are so popular you restrict customers to purchasing only 2 on the website. Do the brick and mortar stores have the same restriction?
PSV: I hate to put a restriction on them, but I just do not have control over how many I get. I get a couple hundred at a time and the first shipment I had I sold out in a couple hours. I want everyone that wants one to have a shot at getting one. That is why I put the restriction. People were buying 100 at a time the first time we got them so now I regulate them. I would rather all our PSV family members get one than someone get a business opportunity re selling them.
Spinfuel – So how many flavors do you offer now? Which one if the newest flavor and how is it going over with your customers?
PSV: -We have so many that are in development. I have 2 new ones that will be “launching next” Surf Rider and Strawburst”. The most popular flavor in the storefront of the latest releases is the “Happy Ending” everyone has their own take on it. To me it tastes like fun fetti. But, I get 10 different takes on it each day. I love it though. Everyone has his or her own take on a flavor and everyone is right. Pretty cool. My favorite of the latest creations is the Banana Nut Bread I think. It really does taste better than actual banana nut bread lol. I love it.
Spinfuel – Has there been any changes to your recipes as far as where the ingredients are “sourced”?
PSV: -No changes. We still have the same sources and do not add anything to our juice other than the Pharma grade nic, US food grade PG/VG and food grade flavorings. It has been our standard since we started.
Spinfuel – There has been some concern about BPA leaching into plastic bottles. What type of plastic does PSV use for bottling? Where do you stand on this whole BPA controversy?
PSV: -I heard about it and verified my bottles immediately. I wholesale all over the globe and have to adhere to different countries standards as well. We now have the “triangle” (telling blind people not to ingest) on the lids of our 12ml and 30ml bottles that we wholesale and are working towards getting all of the bottles uniform.
Spinfuel – You now offer a huge 120ML bottle for $69.95. That’s a great price per milliliter (58 cents per ml) for a premium e-Liquid. What made you decide to go with 120ML?
PSV: – Short and sweet answer.. Customer demand. Our customers wanted a bigger bottle. We have so many PSV family members that are so loyal to certain flavors, it just made sense to go big and get a discount.
Spinfuel – Which flavors would you recommend for someone making their first purchase from Pink Spot Vapors? Do you have a top 10 you might share with us?
PSV: -That goes back to the whole “taste is subjective thing”. I have customers that think Swagger is “Ok”. And that has to be our best seller world wide. I just had a guy a few days ago tell me that I should have named my company Nutty Buddy because that is the best flavor ever created lol. We try to have offerings no matter what your taste is… tobacco, blends, fruity, menthol/minty. Whatever your likes are, we are going to have several offerings that you will love.
Spinfuel – Your brick and mortar stores sell e-cigarette hardware, such as the new eRoll, but those products don’t seem to be available on your website. Why have you chosen not to sell e-cigarettes online?
PSV: -Online is a different animal. There are a ton of people selling online. If there were a million Vapers in LV and I could just set up eJuice stores I would. I make it and I can support the quality and consistency of it 100%. I have to offer the hardware in the stores since there are so many new people that need the hardware just to start. Since I have to offer it, I figured I may as well go all the way and offer the best. I surrounded myself with some really talented and knowledgeable staff that love educating people. It just drives me nuts when customers get mad when a clearomizer is not working right and they think Pink Spot Vapors made a bad product. Pink Spot Vapors makes eJuice. I think that is why we have not done hardware online, I cannot control the quality because I do not make it. That being said, due to customer requests, we do plan to add some accessories so people can “one stop shop” in the near future. At least some basics for now like heating elements and some batteries etc. We will see, a year ago, I would have said you were crazy that I would open multiple stores. Who knows what we will be talking about next year, I feel like I am along for the ride half the time instead of directing the ship.
Spinfuel – Both of you are Vapers. Can you share with our readers what hardware you guys use for your personal vaping? What about e-Liquids, which are your favorites?
PSV: Sandi loves her GLV. She has for some time. I am a simple guy, if it works for me, I am cool. I am using a lot of different things now because I am testing stuff out for the store. I have all the basics like the ProVari, SB, and Rio Grand etc. But to be honest, I rock the Ego C Twist most of the time; I have them plugged in at my desk and in a few rooms at the house. Had them set up as back ups but I am busy and they are easy so I usually throw a bcc or some tank on it and rip my swagger while I work. Definitely not a hardware snob lol.
Spinfuel – Do you use high-end atomizers, or do you prefer carto-tanks, clearomizers, etc.? Which do you find provide a great vaping experience for you personally?
PSV: I love the ce2 dct-2 in a skinny tank. I like that at 1.7 and now I have been using the mini bcc quite a bit at the 2.4 and like the smooth hit. I am all over the place. I test flavors on so many different devices with so many different heating elements at different V & W I do not know if I have a favorite anymore. Like I said, I am simple and if it works for me, I don’t mess with it too much. Some people love the tinkering. If I had more time, I am sure I would too; I just do not have the time now.
Spinfuel – If a customer walks in, and he or she is a smoker, what do you try to accomplish, if anything, with that first visit? What do you tell them about vaping if they never used an electronic cigarette before?
PSV: -Get it in their hands and get them trying samples. They are skeptical most likely but once they get used to it then the education begins. We really educate how the unit works and how to maintain it as well. Giving the support and confidence is important too. Smoking is a trigger and eCigs address them where the gum and patches never did. Telling them stuff like that gives them confidence because it makes sense to them. When they walk out knowing they just quit smoking. They come back and bring everyone they know.
Spinfuel – Many of our readers are brand new to vaping, so naturally they are exploring their options. Do you have any general advice for our readers that are new to all this?
PSV: -There are a lot of quality products out there. Take your time and make sure that you get some quality hardware and juice. Your chance of success is so much higher when you do. Most people that think vaping does not work just did not have the right hardware/juice or education.
Spinfuel – Lastly, we love to see fellow entrepreneurs succeed, especially in the e-cigarette industry. Both of you have worked so hard to make all this great success come true. What would you say to anyone out there who might be interested in opening up a local vape shop of his or her own? Are there any apparent pitfalls one might be on the lookout for?
PSV: -Just to do things the right way. We all know what that means. There is a lot of drama in this industry. We refuse to get involved. We have customers that tell us that “this company is saying this about you” or “that company is saying that”. None of that concerns me. Nobody cares about the little guy; I take it as a compliment when I hear the “smack talk”. If you are working on your business hard enough, you should not have time to talk about anyone else. If you do have time, you are not working hard enough. I make sure my employees do not partake in that. That is not what we are about. I realize it is just the nature of business when people see what ever degree of success that you may have they are going to try to poke at it. My advice is sell a great product and work hard and this is the best industry in the world to be in.
Spinfuel – With everything you have going on now I know there isn’t much time to spend thinking past the next 6 months, but do you both ever talk about a long-term plan? Where do you see Pink Spot Vapors going over the next 5 or 10 years?
PSV: Oh gosh I have no idea. I never thought I would do a store front and here we go. I do know that we are loving every day of it and are more motivated to keep pushing forward now more than ever. Who knows what the future is going to bring. I know one thing. It is going to be a fun ride. That’s what is about right? Having a blast doing something you love and believe in?