VapeMentors has helped found over 30 vape shops across the country. We’ve worked with first time business owners and seasoned business experts from all walks of life. Anyone can start a vape shop if you have the motivation and will.
Knowing how to start a vape shop is not as complicated as you may think. Here is what we learned from opening 30 successful shops since 2013.
We’ve also put together an amazing online course for new and experienced “vapreneurs”.
Join Vape U III – The Best Training For Vape Shop Owners
In June of 2016 we held an online summit with 30 of the top minds in the vape space. We turned the summit recordings into an online course called Vape U III.
Vape U III is the best training you could hope for on how to grow a vape shop. We brought together not just the top minds in the vape industry but also in retail and business. Whether you are just starting out or a multi-year vape shop veteran, you won’t find better training on how to properly manage a vape shop.
There isn’t a college in the world that can prepare you for life as a vape shop owner.
Knowing Your State’s Regulations on Vape Shops
State regulations on vape shops pose a much more immediate threat to your new shop than federal regulations. After the August 8th regulations we now know what the FDA demands from us, but there are plenty of state regulations to worry about too.
Indiana, Iowa, California and many others are handing down regulation faster than we can keep track. While we can’t detail every legislation we can suggest some resources to do your own research:
How to research vape legislation in your state:
- CASAA is a great resource for local legislation and political action
- SFATA provides amazing tools to keep you informed
- This list of resources is the best around: http://sfata.org/resources/
- Use MuniCode to lookup your city’s municipal codes
- Every city is different. MuniCode is a database of your city’s municipal regulations, tax codes and zoning laws. Lookup your city and assume you are a “tobacco” business unless vaping is explicitly mentioned.
- Reddit is also a poplar resource.You can start on this Reddit thread about ecigs
- Visit the VapeMentors Business Forum and ask your question to the community. Get expert answers from Norm Bour, Jesse Plautz and other vapreneurs.
Don’t forget to use MuniCode to research zoning! There are many restrictions on proximity to churches and schools.
Working With Your City to Obtain The Proper Licenses and Permits
Most cities require a business license to operate, and some may require a tobacco license, special use permit or conditional use permit.
“Special use permits” AKA “conditional use permits” are what cities give to bars, night clubs and other “establishments of ill repute” to impose a sort of “nuisance” tax. Because some cities don’t know how to deal with vaping they tend to categorize them in the same place as these “nuisance” businesses.
Obviously this is unfair but nonetheless you may run into this. If you do you may need to address your city council with your concerns. Special use permits often come with hefty fees so you don’t want to be required to have one.
Tips on working with your city
City councils meet regularly to discuss new or pending regulations in your city. They often have public hearings on new legislation, giving you the opportunity to offer your input on the regulations or on your specific problems. Get a schedule from your city to learn about the next public hearing on vaping.
If you do go, please follow these tips. Remember that you don’t just represent yourself, you represent the entire vaping community.
- Be professional and dress as such
- Don’t vape in city hall or at city meetings
- Prepare a solid argument. Don’t just rant and complain
- Be mindful of public perception
Picking a Vape Shop Location
Perhaps the most challenging part of starting a vape shop is picking the right location.
The best guide for picking a good location is our ebook “How to Pick a Vape Shop Location”. Look for the download link in the sidebar.
For now, here is a quick summary of how to pick a location.
Anatomy of a successful shop
500-1500 square feet is the sweet spot. Stores that are too big are more expensive to operate. Too small limits the number fo customers you can service and the amount of product you can hold.
Spend the time needed to create a solid brand that will resonate with target market and location. Successful stores craft and communicate a consistent brand image from top to bottom. From the name of the store to the location to the décor and experience they deliver, customers know what to expect when they walk in the door. This is no accident.
Make sure your sign is visible from the street and there is plenty of parking.
Look for anchor stores
Anchor stores are things like grocery stores, gas stations and movie theaters – basically anything that has built in foot traffic and widespread appeal.
For instance grocery stores and gas stations attract steady foot traffic all day while movie theaters attract a late afternoon crowd.
Don’t count on your store bringing in foot traffic on tis own. Align yourself with other stores in the area that you can borrow traffic from.
Research your market
Don’t skip this step! Even with a perfect location a vape shop cannot be successful if it does not match your market.
Here are our top tools for researching your market:
- VaporSearchUSA – Search for all the vape shops in your area to understand your competition
- Yelp – Another place to get information on your competitors
- Google Earth Pro – Provides detailed demographic information for your market. Use it to understand age, sex and income information
- CityFeet.com – The “Zillow” of commercial property listings
How Much It Costs To Start A Vape Shop
This is a difficult question to answer with one blog post. Every shop is different, but here is what we say in general:
$25,000 for a small shop
$50,000 for a large shop.
There are lots of expenses involved in starting a vape shop. You’ll have to factor in the cost to design and build the space, your rent, licensing and insurance. One of your biggest expenses is your inventory – starter kits, mods, parts, e-liquids, etc. This can add up very fast. But you don’t want to skimp on that, because after all, that’s your primary product and the entire reason people will visit your store.
To see a detailed guide on how it all breaks down, see this post:
Financing Your New Vape Shop
One of the biggest challenges in starting a vape shop is getting the financing you need.
If you try to get a conventional loan for a vape shop, banks will put you in the riskiest category and charge you exorbitant rates. That is, if they’ll even give you a loan.
We recommend Ventury Capital. They have helped launch dozens of vape shops and will help you access the financing you need to get started and grow.
You also may want to look at non-traditional funding sources. Check out this list of new funding sources you may not have thought of:
- Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, KickStarter, and IndieGoGo – you may not get funding from strangers but you can send your friends and family there to get started
- Peer-to-peer lending sites like LendingClub and Prosper – much like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending sites hand out literal loans with somewhat higher interest. You are more likely to get approved from one of these places because it’s not from a traditional bank
- Online loan providers like SoFi, LendingTree and QuickenLoans
- Personal credit cards – not the smartest use of credit cards and certainly the most expensive forms of credit, but if you have nothing else then you may need to take this risk. $30,000 is not an impossible credit line to obtain with multiple credit cards.
We also have an extended post about financing here
How To Open a Vape Shop With No Money
Point of Sale and Merchant Account Services for Your Vape Shop
Most merchant account providers put vape space businesses in a “high risk” category and charge high rates upwards of 3 percent or more.
TransAct giving us their low-risk rates (well below 2 percent), and offering the same bulk pricing rates reserved for large trade associations. Check out their rates here>>>
As for a good POS system, we recommend ShopKeep, Lightspeed or NCR Silver.
All of these POS partners are very friendly to vape shops and are widely respected among brick and mortar owners. They have sleek iPad-based interfaces and great inventory management capabilities.
Wholesale Vaping Supplies
Whether you’re just getting started or are frustrated with your current supplier, we have a hot tip for you. Use VaporBeast for all your vaping hardware and e-liquid supplies.
One of the fastest growing wholesale vaping suppliers in the U.S., VaporBeast will do their utmost to get you started on the right foot, with low minimum order quantities and valuable guidance on the hottest selling products.
Insurance for Vape Stores
Insurance is not one of those things you want to ignore. The risks are just way too high.
We heartily recommend CALCO Commercial Insurance because they are one of the very few insurance companies that specializes in our industry. They offer General Liability (with or without Product Liability coverage) as well as property coverage.
Other insurers view and rate e-cigarette and vaping businesses as tobacco companies and apply the exact same exclusions to their insurance policies.
CALCO pools its vaping clients and uses the insurance premium as security, which results in preferred rates and expanded coverage that addresses the needs and exposures of manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.
Jesse is the Digital Marketing Director at VapeMentors and Chief Technology Mentor. He is an ecommerce and internet marketing expert with a background in business and technology.