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February 2017

ECC Review: The Last Big Show?

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By Norm Bour

The ECC convention held their fourth event  recently and this may prove to be the line of demarcation between “what was” and “what is” as the face of vape conventions has transformed over the past year. With shows dwindling over the past year, a return to ECC brought with it high hopes and expectations — as always.

The event took place outside at one of the most famous horse racetracks in the country, Santa Anita Racetrack.

Since the beginning, most vape events have been contained inside, either in a convention center or hotel. This was the third outside event I have attended and each is fraught with perils and risk. Rain is one risk; wind is another. During the winter months, cold temperatures are also a problem, even in perpetually sunny Southern California.

The Electronic Cigarette Convention Story

Since launching in 2013, ECC was in the right place at the right time, and brought in over ten thousand attendees. That was the largest vaping event to date and several big liquid brands were launched there, including Space Jam. The following year, 2014, they doubled their attendance and had to secure outside floor space at the already large Ontario Convention Center. That year Propaganda and other brands were launched.

Last year, 2015, was challenging as they moved from Ontario to the massive Los Angeles Fairgrounds and took over six large hangars. Bigger has been shown to not always be better and this year’s event may change the future of ECC.

The county of Los Angeles, along with many other counties, will not allow vaping inside. When trying to house 100,000 square feet of noisy vapers and hundreds of vendors clamoring to get in, that becomes problematic. The answer this

year was to take it outside and several hundred exhibitors and many thousands of attendees were brought to the infield of the race track. That caused some logistical issues as the distance from the parking lot and the exhibition space was considerable.

Since all the spaces were outside, the morning of the opening B2B day proved to be an ominous sign as the heavy “Santa Ana” winds blew through the night before. Some quick work and tie downs had most everything back together when the gates opened.

The beautiful and massive racetrack in Arcadia, California, covers 320 acres and has a ginormous parking lot that rivals major league and college lots. The track also abuts the majestic San Gabriel Mountains which tower over the track and in the winter can bring hot desert air into the Los Angeles basin.

And right through the racetrack.

The Exhibitors Reactions

Coming into Day One and seeing signs and banners down and dust everywhere led many to think this might be a disaster. But fortune smiled and most thought it a good, but not great event.

Josh Horton from Cosmic Fog, is a veteran of ECC and in years past they have exhibited within massive towers and blasting music. This year Cosmic Fog was more subdued as they had several 10×30 foot booths joined with Liquid State and other lines with which they are associated.

“Being outside definitely made it more difficult,” Horton shared. “The turnout was lighter than we’re used in B2B day but better than expected. We’re really hitting the consumer (B2C) day heavy and expect to sell a lot of product.”

Which they did.

Of course, with new regs in place, the fervor over free juice was gone and no one came in expecting samples.

Some of the largest booths were manned by Ruthless and Charlie’s Chalk Dust. Charlie’s rep John said that “Day one was good, but when the sun dropped down the temperature dipped ten degrees very quickly.”

Of all the enclosures, the largest was the ZampleBox family.

Housed in a massive military style tent, ZampleBox had over 20 of their signature products under one roof along with others that are part of the family. Founder Tony Mandarano was pleased with the event.

“For our brands, the show was absolutely phenomenal and we sold more product during the B2B days than prior shows. Saturday and Sunday (B2C) had less foot traffic than previous years, probably because we lost the 18-20 year old crowd (thanks to new California age laws), but it made for a more fun and intimate setting.”  

Though the major brands were well represented, some leaders were missing, including Space Jam and Five Pawns.

Some of the suggestions offered towards making this event better included adequate signage directing attendees into the massive parking lot along with information on the ECC web site telling which gate to enter.

The Future of Events

What the future holds is hard to predict. For new or experienced promoters, the risks have never been greater as they must seek out a venue that allows vaping and remains affordable. Las Vegas has been a dominant player and since anything goes in Sin City, they will probably remain a prominent location.

In 2016 the number of events grew significantly and amazingly small cities hosted them. Most were utter failures.

Any event with less than 100 exhibitors is void of energy and will have a hard time garnering a crowd. The debacle of Vape Summit in August 2016, may remove them from the agenda, and that leaves just a few major players.

Is exhibiting a “good value” for liquid companies?

As the market shrinks over the next few years there may be less market share to split, but significantly fewer companies to split with.

Some say that up to 97 percent of all vape companies will close by August 2018, and that includes retail shops as well as liquid companies. Considering how many rags to riches stories have been created over the years this is sad as many entrepreneurs banked their savings and their futures on the Vape Space.

I do believe there are opportunities yet to be seen. Yes, the market will be different. It will be more professional and it will be run by many less companies. The key to success is to find a need, a pain, a want, and find a solution that people will pay for.

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. They offer services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than 1.3 M downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.

February 2017

Vape Shop Events reveals the Present and the Future

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Vape Shop Events reveals the Present and the Future

By Norm Bour

As 2016 draws to a close, we make note of the many changes in technology, new companies launching (and closing) and of course, the release of the deeming regs which will change everything.

Vape Shop Events, which holds quarterly B2B closed-door events throughout the country, is seeing those changes and adjusting to them.

And one of the best things that comes from these events is bringing together a group of 50-60 industry leaders for two days and containing them in a beautiful hotel where they get to network, party, eat and drink together.

Some of the companies that attend are worldwide leaders, like VaporFi, JSPR, Pancake Man, and others.

Interesting Thoughts, Observations and Factoids

As I sat in on several meetings, one of the conversations was about e-liquid bottle sizes and which would prevail in the future; the 30ML or the 60 ML sizes.

The supporters of the smaller size believe the 30ML will be the de facto standard for a while, and that the 60ML cuts into profit margins and decreases the buyers’ reordering cycle, which it does. The 60ML fans says that the larger sizes are more in demand and will stick with them. Time will tell which side is right. But one thing no one disputes is that the 15ML is on the way out barring any modifying FDA requirements on sizes.

Hien Bui, with major distribution house Vape Genie, sees a transition towards smaller and more discreet hardware and many are shying away from the 200-watt box mods.

“The satisfaction of smaller units seems to work for many in the vape world. The cloud comps are gone or less common than they used to be,” Bui shared.

“It appears that the market and the users are growing up and maturing,” he concluded. And it’s about time.

Some predications are yet to be determined, but one fact without dispute is that vape shops are closing and will continue to do so. Most say the estimated 7,000-9,000 retail shops will be reduced by 80 percent or more. One of the show attendees from San Antonio, Texas shared an observation.

“San Antonio had about 110 shops just a few months ago, but I’m hearing of one or two closing every week.” This is probably a nationwide trend. The upside of that is the opportunity for successful shops to pick up these failed or failing shops for cheap or even free. Many shop owners are walking away and selling their inventory for cost.

The Future is Now

A partnership going the other direction is a new one forged between VaporFi on the east coast and Cosmic Fog on the west coast.

Cosmic Fog has been an e-liquid market leader for the past two years and are based in Orange County, California, the hub of liquid production in the US. They are one of the top sellers worldwide.

VaporFi is a wholly owned subsidiary of International Vapor Group, Inc. and has one of the largest footprints in their home state of Florida. IVG also owns Direct Vapor, Motley Brew, and South Beach Smoke.

This new partnership is a sign of things of come as those that are committed to change and adaptation are seeking out collaborative partners.

David Epstein and Scott Alwine with VaporFi were in Scottsdale and got a lot of love from buyers who raved about the new flavors that this partnership created.

Epstein ventured his thoughts: “VaporFi has almost 70 locations on the east coast and until recently we only carried our own branded products. We decided it was time to expand and looked for potential partners that had clout and market share. We joined with Cosmic Fog.”

“It took us about six months to develop our new flavors,” the guys from VaporFi said. “Cosmic is the manufacturer and we are the exclusive distributor.”

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream, the end result, was met with glowing reviews and response at the show.”

The one thing we can count on in the vaping world is that things will change, just as they have been doing since it began.

The glory days of easy money are behind us but there is still money to be made. It will be reaped by those willing to change, adapt and partner.

Will that be you? If you have a story to share please contact the writer.

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. They offer services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than 1.3 M downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.

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February 2017

Rabbit’s Foot Custom Brews Takes a Global Approach to E-Liquid

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Rabbit’s Foot

Custom Brews Takes a Global Approach to E-Liquid

…The Asian media, just like the American media, have distorted the truth about vaping.

In the US, we are often spoiled with the literally thousands of e-liquid lines that pack the shelves of our stores. But international manufacturers are seeing success, as well.

Rabbit’s Foot Custom Brews is a German company with a sales hub in Malaysia. Team members are selected through a rigorous process and speak a plethora of languages including Mandarin, Hindi, Tagalog, Russian, German, English, and others.

When a niche market opened up in the Asia Pacific region, this company went after it. They wanted to hit the brick and mortar shops, but soon found themselves opening to online sales via a  distributor. Rabbit’s Foot makes a combination of 200 flavors using Capella’s, Flavor Art and other flavor companies products.

So, what are the most popular flavors in Asia that a vaper can find in a vape shop? Complex flavors seem to be the best such as a mango, coconut cream and sticky rice combinations, summer berries, and any bubble tea flavors (especially taro bubble tea.) Basically, the flavor combinations appeal to local taste.

On the legal and lawful side of things, vaping (just like in the U.S.) is monitored by the government. The Asian media, just like the American media, have distorted the truth about vaping.

Unfortunately, most people dare not question what the government says because most people are afraid of the government and encourage their children to smoke cigarettes because they have been around longer and are considered safer than vaping.  In countries like Singapore and Brunei, vaping is totally banned from both sale and usage.

In Malaysia, there are a few places where there is a public ban on vaping. In fact, the government has even encouraged some vape shops to either change their name to a tobacco shop or add tobacco to their shops so vape products won’t be confiscated. Yet, looming bans do remain. In India, a seller was hounded for three years before a national ban eventually was issued. In Indonesia, while there may be a ban on vaping products, the public can still use and talk about them.

Because of the various Asian laws, Rabbit’s Foot has found itself in a bit of a bind. Considering that this German-based company is merely a guest in Malaysia, they dare not question, but instead counter attack with their own brand of media information with the help of Clive Bates and Dr. Farsalinos within the confines of the Asian media. They focus more on the individual benefits and try not to go against the grain.

In addition to this, there are organizations out there such as Malaysian Organization Vape Entity (M.O.V.E) and the Taiwan Vape Association which have been a great help to vaping advocacy. Just like in the United States, tobacco corporations are trying to silence vapers in Asia and at the end of the day, it’s all about denying those who will never have a chance to vape as a means of smoking cessation.

Having said all that, one major concern from Rabbit’s Foot has been the packaging and labeling of e-liquid.

Along with the advocacy, doing business in Asian countries as a whole is not easy.

With the restrictions this company has to face, social media and the online community has been key in getting the word out including using Google and Facebook ads. The greater community is also encouraged and persuaded to go online and get the word out about vaping.

Along with the advocacy, doing business in Asian countries as a whole is not easy. As consumers, Asians don’t want anything explained to them, they just want to get their product and go. So, when it comes to describing custom flavors or complex flavors, that customer is at a bit of a loss. Thus, the business has a challenge. This is why in some stores they have a teaching session and give a hands-on approach to making e-liquids.

If you are interested in learning more about Rabbits Foot Custom Brews and the Asian vaping scene, visit them online at:

www.rabbitsfootcustombrews.com

www.facebook.com/myvapologists

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February 2017

Underground Mod and Mose’ RDA, MCM Mods Philippines

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MCM Mods

Underground Mod and Mose’ RDA

By Chris Mellides, Photos courtesy of Allan Kwasnik

This box mod is manufactured in the Philippines, which is a country known for producing some excellent vape devices that usually sport unique features and a pinoy flair that’s uniquely their own.

The Underground is a fully mechanical mod that’s commonly known for its capabilities as a hard-hitting dual 18650 series box. When utilized in this way, the mod is capable of delivering roughly 8.4 volts of serious power.

Keep in mind that voltage drop will play a role in the device’s true voltage output, which will determine how “hard” the device will hit, but if I’m being honest, this thing will sock you in the mouth with no quarter asked and non given. It’s an absolute beast when it comes to just how strong a drag it offers.

Don’t want to run the Underground in series? No problem. Just insert the included delrin dummy battery adapter for a single battery option. In this mode, the box will run as a single 18650 mech and will deliver 4.2 volts before the battery drains and needs replacing.

The Underground is a hybrid device, which means that your atomizer will need to have a 510 pin at the connector that extends far enough to make contact with your battery. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of shorting the device.

However, an included adapter that’s boxed with the mod will turn its stock hybrid connection into one where a contact stands between your 510 pin and your 18650 battery, which makes the Underground safer overall if it’s run in this way. This feature can be utilized in both dual battery and single battery configuration.

The Underground has a detonator style fire button that’s a combination of brass and delrin. The button is extremely responsive, and regardless of where you apply pressure with each push, the mod will fire. The delrin does a great job at displacing heat and sits above a spring, which offers a tad bit of resistance each time you fire the button.

The mod itself is made of a resin that ranges in color. No two are the same, and a lot of these finishes are absolutely stunning and make use of a very wide color palette. There are some very trippy color combos out there.

There are also Underground mods that have polished mirror panels on either side, others are constructed of wood and still others are offered in solid color options as well. They all do, of course, perform in exactly the same way.  

Since the mod I received is mostly constructed out of delrin and resin, it doesn’t heat up as quickly as something like a metal mechanical tube mod would, and this is a huge plus in my book.

A badge displaying both the MCM Mods logo and branding is affixed to one side of the mod, and a unique serial number and additional branding can be found on the underside of the mod that houses two screws that can be removed for an easy cleaning of the device’s contact and internals.

Vent holes are located on either side of the device at its base to protect against injury in the rare event that your batteries should vent on you.

At just 73mm tall and 50mm in length the Underground is super compact and tiny. You’ll have to adjust how you hold the mod, particularly if you have large hands, but overall it’s pretty comfortable in the palm.

The Underground is not without its faults. I have found that the firing switch can back out during repeated use, which had me needing to tighten it here and there. Additionally, the switch that shipped with the latest version of the Underground mods was prone to sticking and getting hot.

This was quickly addressed by the owner of Dragon’s Den Vapor, the official authorized U.S. seller of MCM hardware. He went ahead and sent me a replacement button that will now be shipping with the latest Undergrounds and it has worked without incident.

Complementing the Underground box, MCM Mods also released a rebuildable dripper called the Mose’. It has been on the market for a number of months now, but that in no way takes away from the atomizer’s ingenuity and innovative design.

Available in stainless steel, copper, brass and a black version, the Mose’ is a 24mm RDA with bottom-to-top airflow design.

The device is capable of delivering bottom, side and top airflow at the same time, which is adjustable at the top cap and makes for a very flavorful vape with the option of having a good deal of airflow to boot.

Broken down, the Mose’ is comprised of five pieces, six if you count the 510 drip tip adapter.

The stainless steel deck sports a 6mm deep juice well, with a negative post that’s milled into it and a positive post surrounded by peek insulation around its base.

This is a two-post deck with ample room for bigger builds and post holes that measure about 3mm in diameter. Two big Phillips-head screws fasten down firm and trap the leads of your coils for a secure and easy installation.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pin at the 510 connector is silver plated and peek insulated with excellent threading throughout.

What’s really interesting about the Mose’ is that despite all of the airflow options, it is relatively leak-proof.

There’s a lip on the the deck that stop it from traveling up the barrel. At the lip is where the inner sleeve of the device is fitted onto the deck, which accounts for a reduction in the chamber housing your coils. An outer barrel fits over the inner sleeve and hides the bottom and side airflow, and the top cap that’s threaded into the outer barrel makes use of its own airflow and it’s there that all of your airflow is directed.

So long as the o-ring at the edge of your build deck holds, the Mose’ doesn’t leak. It simply cannot from a design perspective. However, the o-ring on my review unit isn’t the snuggest and so I have at times experienced very minor leaking, particularly when I over drip.

I can’t say that this weaker o-ring is typical of all Mose’ RDA units being sold, but that’s been the case with mine.

Other than that, the Mose’ is a huge win. I’ve never seen an atty like it, and the impeccable threading and quality of machining on this thing are second to none.

Overall, the MCM Underground and Mose’ are an excellent combination and really stand out in my mind when it comes to quality, style and exceptional performance.

Both pieces of hardware can be purchased online directly from Dragon’s Den Vapor at: dragonsdenvapor.com.

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