Eleven Spinfuel Choice Awards, Five Store Locations, Vapor Craze is quickly becoming a major player in the e-cigarette marketplace. To find out how it all started, we sent our own Julia Hartley-Barnes to find out. This is the Spinfuel Interview. Enjoy.
SPINFUEL: Welcome to the pages of Spinfuel. We’ve been looking to talk to you for some time now. Would you like to introduce yourselves to our readers?
Vapor Craze: First and foremost we are Vapers. To borrow a line from our Mission Statement. “The founders of Vapor Craze are e-cigarette enthusiasts committed to educating, growing, and supporting our community.” Contrived? Maybe… but it is what we enjoy and what we believe. The three of us may have come from different backgrounds, but we made the leap and started this company because we saw potential in this community of which we were already a dedicated part.
Jon: I built my first box mod by hand in my garage! Before the industry grew into what it is today, I was looking for anything to satisfy my enthusiasm, so I started experimenting and building myself. *proof* – pictures attached.
Vapor Craze: Almost from day one we were sampling, mixing, and DIY-ing on our own juices. After vaping many of the top sellers in the market, looking for that perfect all day vape, we set our minds to making our own personal flavors, that we enjoyed. When we knew this was going to be our career as well as our recreation, we planned on producing our own line of e-liquids for the public as a way to keep cost down and let the community know that Vapor Craze was out there.
The market has changed, it’s incredibly saturated, but we are still here making the juices we enjoy everyday. We haven’t had to change much, but we strive to create and do our best to innovate. We take flavors out of production; add new ones into the mix. We don’t want to have 100 different flavors just because we can.
SPINFUEL: Where are you located? What’s the local and state level situation there with electronic cigarettes? What’s the “attitude” of the people there about eCigarettes?
Vapor Craze: Vapor Craze is headquartered and has its flagship store in Long Beach, California. This year we were fortunate enough to open up five additional locations across Southern California and we hope that this is only the beginning.
The California Senate has already passed California E-Cigarette Usage Ban — SB 648 which would essentially regulate electronic cigarette use in the same manner as analog cigarettes. This bill will be heard by the State Assembly August 14th and we encourage all California Vapers, as well as Vapers across the country, to take action and write their State Assembly member about the issue.
While we view this decision to be both hasty and shortsighted, we are not worried, when the jury is finally out on vaping and what a real good thing it can be in changing the lives of analog smokers, the country will have to reevaluate and change its views.
SPINFUEL: What makes a good eLiquid? In other words, in what order of Importance is flavor, vapor, and throat hit in a VaporCraze eLiquid ?
Vapor Craze: All three. No wrong answers right? Flavor has to be the most important. You are going to be tasting it all day, if it is not delicious and you get tired of it, why buy it? Vapor next, it is going to depend on the device you’re using, but going back to your other question, create the juice you would want to vape, and see if other people agree. Throat hit is subjective, that’s why we make all our flavors in the major nic strengths.
SPINFUEL: When you launched VaporCraze how did you decide on your first “set” of flavors? How many flavors did you launch with?
Jon: Even before we fully launched 310vapers, the three us [Joeffery, Jon, and Matt] were DIY ‘ing our own juices, just for our own personal use. I remember we left all the supplies at Joeff’s house one night and the next day we went from two flavors we loved, to five. It was World Vaping Day and we were giving away samples of the juices we made, and we were saying to ourselves, “wow people actually like these.
Joeffery: By the time we were ready to launch the Vapor Craze line we had maybe 20 different flavors ready that we thought were great. We didn’t want to just go with 20 because we said so… we tested, let our friends and early fans test them. In the end we cut the list down by half because that seemed like a stronger commitment to the brand than having dozens of flavors we knew were not our strongest.
SPINFUEL: It seems that no matter how many eLiquid vendors we review, they all have their own “signature” recipes, an amazing feat when you think about it. Each brand is different, and we find that remarkable. With just a handful of ingredients each company is able to create their own specific traits. How would you describe your signature?
Vapor Craze: Not too overpowering… We prefer trying to make smoother flavors by adhering to a less is more mixture. All day vapes don’t need huge, sticky, flavor in each hit.
Joeffery: It’s like cooking; a little bit of seasoning goes a long way. The right amount of flavor in each bite.
SPINFUEL: We steep all the eLiquids we receive for review purposes, even if we’re told there is no need to do so. It’s become a habit I suppose. Do you steep your eLiquids before they are shipped? If so, how long do they sit before you ship them out? If you do not, do you suggest that customers ‘home steep’ them before vaping?
VaporCraze: We do not make a conscious effort to steep. Some fans are not going to like it that way and those who do can easily do so themselves if they prefer.
Vapor Craze: We wanted our labels to be bright and fun. Something eye catching without being cluttered or over the top. We have a talented graphic designer who is an awesome addition to our marketing team.
With the actual bottling, we went with the standard drip bottle for a while, but we wanted a better standard for packaging, so we switched to a childproof cap with a tamper seal.
SPINFUEL: There is a lot of concern these days about how and where eLiquids are being made. Could you describe your ‘mixing’ area? Where do you do your mixing?
Vapor Craze: Our mixing facility is located in out HQ building in Long Beach, where we have dedicated a closed room. We purchased all of the materials when we constructed our bottling room to comply with what we expected FDA standards to be once regulation comes along.
A fully enclosed and climate controlled room, stainless steel tables, glass storage containers and mixing equipment.
SPINFUEL: How do you make sure your mixing tools and containers are kept clean and sterile? Would you call your mixing environment a ‘clean room’?
Vapor Craze: We sterilize all our equipment with alcohol and adhere to general FDA standards with protection; gloves, masks, hair and clothing covering. Sanitation is important, so hands are washed before entering and new gloves are used each time before entering. We have a full time team of mixers working in the facility so they are the only ones who are allowed access to the room.
SPINFUEL: Do you mix everyday? Bottle by bottle, to order, or in batches?
Vapor Craze: We mix everyday Monday through Friday in batches. With a rotation of our flavors to keep a consistency in our stock and time between batching. Special orders are generally taken care of the same day. If a fan walks into one of our retail locations with a request we will do our best to accommodate for 120ml orders or custom blends and flavor mixtures. We do have some dedicated fans that prefer to order in larger quantities.
Spinfuel: It is said that if you love your work it’s not really difficult to work around the clock. Having said that, do you and your employees find time to relax, get away from the world of eLiquids, and clear your heads, reenergize, etc.?
Vapor Craze: We have a business to run, that being said; some of our employees are family and friends (chosen for education and talent and not just personal connection) so that does cultivate a more relaxed environment. It is not uncommon to find someone’s children watching cartoons in the break room when family comes by to visit. While day-to-day operations are still a requirement, we do have a full sized pool table in the middle of the bullpen, and it goes without saying we are a vape friendly office. One of our mixers is a retired cook from the Philippine army, so we provide free lunch to our employees Mon-Fri and encourage those who work in our nearby retail locations to stop by on their lunch if they choose.
SPINFUEL: Do you have a specific audience in mind for your eLiquids?
Joeffery: When I started making the juice I made only what I wanted first, and hoped that our fans would receive them warmly, but over time you have to think about changing, growing, and getting flavors out to the fans that you might not necessarily like yourself. Do something different and see if it is a hit by testing it out first, we are not afraid to try, but we do not sell anything that does not meet our standards.
Matt: We use a number of different strategies for new flavor concepts. Marketing will poll, we pay close attention to what our fans might be requesting at the shops and online, and we look at what everyone else is doing and try and think of flavors or combinations that no one else has out in the market yet.
SPINFUEL: What types of hardware (mods, tanks, cartos, etc.) do you use when testing your liquids? Is there any specific hardware that provides the best ‘vape’ for your eLiquids?
Vapor Craze: We use RBAs and cartos to test. But we find it is always best to vape our liquids in RBA’s for the best of flavor, vapor, TH.
SPINFUEL: How do you make sure that your flavors are always consistent, that each batch or bottle delivers the same flavor and nicotine levels time after time? How long will your eJuice last if properly stored? By the way, how should a customer store their eLiquids before they open them and after they’ve been opened?
Joeff: Consistency is important; we use exact measurements, absolutely no guesswork. 1-year shelf life, 2 if stored cold. It’s really the nic that has a short shelf life; over time the potency will diminish if kept warm; so basically, don’t leave your juice in your car.
SPINFUEL: Something that has always had me wondering; how does a professional eLiquid artist like yourself make sure that their flavors taste the same no matter what the PG/VG ratio?
Vapor Craze: We only use 50/50 blend for our juices. I feel I have a lot of experience with mixing, if someone were to ask for a special blend, a friend or a dedicated customer, I have experimented enough to know how to keep the flavor the same.
100% VG -it will taste more and 100% PG -tastes less, it’s as simple as that.
SPINFUEL: Were you a smoker before you switched to vaping? If so, what made you decide to quit smoking? Was it difficult to quit?
Matt: I never really thought about quitting smoking, but I learned that their was a healthier alternative that, when I tried, delivered the same satisfaction. That’s why I vape. Yes, the only difficult part was there was no locally available source for juices, and when I had difficulty finding a reliable source, it was too easy to fall back on analogs.
Joeff: Yes, got tired of it, the smell, the congestion in the morning, my wife didn’t want to kiss me anymore. After quitting, food taste better, sex is better; my wife doesn’t have to do my laundry separately. It was not that hard, it was right after eating; I’d want a cigarette. Honestly, the last cigarette I smoked I threw it out after only a couple of puffs, it was so nasty.
Jon: Started at 15. It was a life change and a career move. I joined the military, then I was in the ROTC, I smoked heavily the entire time. Right before graduation I had a bronchial spasm, a complication due to cigarette smoking, which lead to a military discharge. Cigarettes ruined my military future and my intended career (criminal justice.) It was one day, after the gym, I had run out of cigs. I walked down to the local 711; concerned about my future I saw they were selling electronic cigarettes so bought the device. It took about a month, using that same type of device, then discovered a forum online, did research, learned everything I could, and started to really be passionate about the community, the rest is history.
Matt: Janty Ego then Jon got me to buy a ProVari.
Joeff: Jon took me to buy my first; ProVari
Jon: xhale o2 (at 711) then Rio Grand w/ ikv 901 got me completely away.
SPINFUEL: How long did it take to completely leave analogs behind?
Matt: I went back and forth for a while, I smoked since I was 17 and living in an environment where those around me smoked, the influence was always there. Once I had a steady supply of juice and a good device it was only a matter of months.
Joff: I got my ProVari Sept 26 and I stopped completely Oct 2nd of the same year. I was a smoker for 20 years!
Jon: I took about 1 month.
SPINFUEL: How often do you vape? How many hours per day?
Matt: Every waking hour
Joeff: All day
Jon: As often as I would normally smoke, I was a pretty heavy smoker.
SPINFUEL: Do you have a “favorite” flavor? What is your favorite category of eLiquids for your personal vaping? Fruity, tobacco-based, sweet, and so forth?
Matt: Monkey business! I like something sweet and savory. Also, Potion XXIV Sin.
Joff: Yes, Monkey Business… anything with a creamy flavor, that’s my favorite.
Jon: Dessert flavors, my current all day vape is potion XXIV Sin.
SPINFUEL: Do you have a favorite mod or APV that you use or do you use more than one?
Matt: I stick to my Noble 1 baby!
Joeff: Fav is hellfire + Caravela, but I have multiples in my rotation including the Noble 1 and Hana DNA 20.
Jon: Way more than 1! I have my hana modz v2 with a Zen atty universal, Noble 1, RM Pulse, and Juggernaut.
SPINFUEL: Where do you think the eCigarettes industry is headed? Are eCigs the future of smoking?
Matt: Absolutely the future, as long as we are not strong-armed out of business by over regulation.
Joff: For sure!
Jon: E-cigs are the future. I see them in every gas station, pharmacy, before long they will be the dominant product for use as cessation devices by the medical and Pharma industry. More acceptable, more effective, and the more successful alternative.
Spinfuel: Are you concerned about the FDA ruling coming soon? Do you have any gut feelings about which way the FDA is leaning, toward more taxation or banning?
Matt: Of course there is a concern, but as far as a gut feeling, there will be a tax but nothing is going to stop the industry cold.
Joff: No real concern, they won’t ban the devices. I think they will regulate e-liquids and that is fine.
Jon: They’re always a concern, having to do with regulations, not necessarily with the liquids but if they go after the devices too… I think the FDA is concerned with the liquids only; what’s in it, where and how and in what environment it is being produced, there must be a set of guidelines, legal guidelines for quality control. That is why we are moving in the direction that we already see standards shaping to control the industry.
SPINFUEL: Why should our readers buy their e-juice from you?
Matt: We try to have flavors that are unique, that deliver high quality flavor, for an all day vape.
Joff: Our juices and our mixing capabilities are top notch. When the time comes we are already FDA compliant and honestly I think the flavors are beautiful.
Jon: We only use the highest quality based products, FDA approved, coming from well know supply companies here in the USA. We hope our fans will recognize the complexities of our flavoring and that we look for 50/50 as optimum for TH and vapor.
SPINFUEL: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers while you have their complete attention?
Matt: I started this business in my living room and have poured everything I have into growing it into what Vapor Craze is today. My partners and I really believe in this community and will continue to work hard to educate, grow, and support vaping and Vapers everywhere.
Joff: This is a 100% homegrown in the USA, handmade product. Guaranteed mixed by my team and me. Give our e-liquids a try!
Jon: Now that you know a little about us, about what we do, let us earn your business… come see what the Craze is all about.
SPINFUEL: I can’t thank you enough for talking with us today, even if it through email. We really enjoyed your eLiquids and we look forward to arranging a “sequel” down the road.
photo credits by respective photographers – photos from yelp.com
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