You can read the entire four-page review for Strix Elixirs here..
When we review a brand of eLiquid for the first time we always include an interview with the people behind the brand. In the case of Strix Elixirs, Jennifer Zeares and husband Andy Schuelein graciously accepted our invitation to sit down and talk about their new venture together and their third partner Stacy. Below is that interview. Please feel free to post any comments below. And don’t forget to read the review by clicking the link directly above. Enjoy! – Julia Hartley-Barnes
Spinfuel: Both of you got your start by helping to found Vape Dudes. How long were you there and when did you leave?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Andy and I have been in the industry since 2010; we were there for three years. Initially, I only helped with shipping and customer service. Over time, I started to take on more responsibilities and eventually became co-owner. We parted ways this past fall. One thing I want to mention is that Strix Elixirs is not only Andy and me, but we have another partner as well. Her name is Stacey and she is a long time friend of mine.
Spinfuel: When did you decide to strike out on your own?
STRIX ELIXIRS: The decision to strike out on my own was not easy, but I felt it was the best choice for my long-term future. We decided to part ways in the fall of 2013.
Spinfuel: How many of the recipes you bought with you were originally sold by Vape Dudes; can you tell us which ones?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Only Blue Honey. Andy created that recipe and we just couldn’t let it go.
Spinfuel: Oh, I see. so all the other 12 flavors you launched with are new creations then?
STRIX ELIXIRS: All of our flavors except Blue Honey are completely new creations. We are determined to create a line of unique, full-bodied liquids that stand on their own.
Spinfuel: You promote your eLiquid as “pre-steeped”. What does that mean with respect to the amount of time you allow your product to steep?
STRIX ELIXIRS: One of the biggest concerns of my customers has been steeping. Many people would write or call asking why their juice didn’t taste the same as the juice that had been sitting for a while. They’d get disappointed when I told them they had to wait to vape the juice for a week or two. This type of customer service issue was constant. So, when we started Strix we decided to offer custom pre-steeped eJuice. Each of our liquids is steeped according to the optimal time that is needed to create the perfect liquid. Some of our liquids need several weeks to fully mature, while others only need a week.
Spinfuel: Does your pre-steeped eLiquid include the nicotine, or do you add that right before you bottle and ship?
STRIX ELIXIRS: All of our liquids except the zero nicotine do contain nicotine from the start. The nicotine aids in the steeping process.
Spinfuel: I did not know that. What is the shelf life for your eLiquids?
STRIX ELIXIRS: The shelf life of our liquids is the same as all other liquids on the market today. That’s about 6 months to a year.
Spinfuel: Do each of you have a specialty when it comes to developing flavors? Do one of you create the tobacco flavors while another might specialize in fruity or bakery flavors?
STRIX ELIXIRS: All of our liquids are created using a collaborative creative process. No idea is left undeveloped. We believe that no idea is a bad idea and by using the collaborative concept we can create unique liquids. We even invite our customers to suggest flavors.
Spinfuel: That’s a great idea. I know this might sound like a loaded question, but is there one thing you can tell us about what you’ve learned about making eLiquids that people respond to? You guys seem to know what people want to vape, is this learned or is it an instinct; you like it so others will too? kind of thing?
STRIX ELIXIRS Actually, I don’t love all of the liquids I’ve sold. However, I do have an instinct for what is popular and what sells. This is both learned and natural. Of course, if I absolutely love a juice it’s pretty safe to say that at least a few others might enjoy it also. In addition to instinct, I put in many hours researching popular eJuice trends. It’s important to stay informed as this industry is very dynamic and constantly changing. As an eJuice creator, I like to mimic the flow of the industry, constantly evolving and adding our personal touch to each flavor. I have certainly released juices that I don’t necessarily love. I might not want to vape the juice, but through our beta testing process that employs the help of customers and friends, we never release something that has no fans.
Spinfuel: Let’s go back to the very beginning for a bit. How long have you been creating eLiquids?
STRIX ELIXIRS: One of the first flavors Andy developed was Blue Honey and it’s still quite popular. We’ve been in the industry (since 2010) and have always had some input into the creation of eJuices. Although I (Jennifer) just started to personally make juice full time, I’ve been helping to create great recipes over the long haul.
Spinfuel: What was the first flavor you created that you thought was good enough to let others try it?
STRIX ELIXIRS: My fondest memory of an eJuice recipe I helped create is of a chocolate peppermint vape. I absolutely love chocolate and peppermint combined. I order chocolate peppermint coffee at every coffee shop I visit. This was the very first flavor that I personally thought up and to this day, I still love the vape.
Spinfuel: When did you first believe you could do this for a living?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Believe it or not, I was a stay at home mom for many years. Andy began working with eJuice and I learned by watching. As I helped ship and deal with customers I slowly began to realize that I knew as much about eJuice as anyone else. Over the past three years I’ve learned so much valuable information that I am fully confident today.
Spinfuel: I bet you are! Are you looking to begin selling to vendors, or have you already started?
STRIX ELIXIRS: We are definitely open to selling to vendors. We have had some inquiries and are exploring those options right now.
Spinfuel: How about brick and mortar stores, do you have plans on selling your eLiquids through retail shops as well?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Yes! We would love to get Strix Elixirs in as many shops as possible. Our wholesale page is ready and waiting for new vendors.
Spinfuel: I’m sure many vendors will be beating a path to your door. Can you, briefly, tell us a little about the process you go through when developing a new flavor? How long does it usually take to get from the idea to offering it on your website?
STRIX ELIXIRS: We have brainstorming sessions often, but we also keep a running concept board of flavor ideas. Anytime we think of something plausible, we record it. At various intervals we visit those ideas and make test batches. At least one of us vapes on the test flavor for some time; this can be a week or several weeks. We then send bottles of the beta juices to various people that include friends, family and customers. We get feedback, rework the flavor if needed and vape on the liquid more. This process can last for weeks or months. We never think of a flavor and put it on the site without extensive testing.
Spinfuel: I believe it. You know, safety is a huge factor in the eLiquid business today. How do you go about making sure your juice is made under strict guidelines? Why did you choose the plastic snap-ring to make your bottles tamper proof? (We love that by the way)
STRIX ELIXIRS Safety is the most important factor in eJuice manufacturing. We ensure that our liquids are made in a clean, safe environment using safety equipment such as gloves, goggles and lab clothing. We also have a HEPA filter in our juice room. We decided to use the tamper evident bottles due to our commitment to safety. We also believe that tamper evident bottles will (and should) be required in the future. By using child safe bottle tops and the tamper evident seals, we show our commitment to the highest level of safety. In the near future, our eJuice bottles will also arrive to the customers boxed.
Spinfuel: Are your ingredients all food or pharmaceutical grade? Is your nicotine American sourced?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Our PG and VG are both USP, Kosher and Food Grade. Our nicotine is pharmaceutical grade. All flavorings are either 100% Natural and/or use artificial flavoring. All of our ingredients are USA sourced.
Spinfuel: How many flavors do you have now, and how quickly do you plan on ramping up?
STRIX ELIXIRS: We currently have 13 flavors, one of which is seasonal. We plan on releasing three flavors each month. All of these flavors are months in the making, so we are always creating new juices.
Spinfuel: The FDA will probably release their regulation proposals in the next few months, what does your gut tell you about the coming regulations? Are you worried?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Although the deeming regulations are important, I am not worried. I am curious to see what the regulations entail and what the public comment period will bring. Whatever the regulations, we will definitely comply and accept anything that comes our way.
Spinfuel: What, if any, regulations do you think the eCigarette industry needs?
STRIX ELIXIRS: I believe that our industry does need strict age verification standards. This is the foremost issue in the eyes of eCigarette regulation. Also, strict safety standards are needed. It’s often difficult to ensure how and where eJuice is made. With age verification and safety standards we can make our industry safer for the consumer.
Spinfuel: Do you agree that minors should not have access to eCigarettes? What about nicotine free eLiquids? Should minors be restricted from all eCigarettes?
STRIX ELIXIRS: As the mother of a teenager, I feel that minors should definitely be restricted from using all nicotine products. I have no problem with eCigarettes being regulated so that minors cannot purchase them, similar to analog products. If this restriction keeps our industry alive, then I offer my full support.
Spinfuel: Lastly, what would you like our readers to know at this point? Is there anything you would like to say directly to them as you set out on this brand new venture?
STRIX ELIXIRS: Over the past three years I have learned so much about the eCigarette industry and community. I cannot stress enough how much I love the industry and the passion I have for my job. Dealing with customers every day has opened my eyes to the wonderful people that comprise our customer base. I like to feel that each customer is my friend. We’re in this journey together! It’s too common that when a company grows their customer service quality lessens. I am 100% committed to never letting this happen. No matter how much we grow, we will always live by the pledge to give every customer the very best experience and to make each person feel that they matter, because they do.
Spinfuel: I can’t thank you enough for thinking of Spinfuel eMagazine for one of your first reviews. I do hope you’ll keep us in mind as you develop new flavors. We really enjoyed vaping each and every one of them.
Julia Hartley Barnes
READ THE 4-PAGE REVIEW HERE