Real Organic Vapors is a specialty online vape shop featuring only premium, natural e-liquid lines. Based out of Clearwater, Florida, this e-tailer is on a mission to revolutionize your vaping experience. We checked in with owner James Makan about the driving forces behind his business, navigating the regulations as an online vape shop, and what the future may hold.
You launched your business about 1.5 years ago during the vape industry’s peak. What inspired you to create an online marketplace specializing in natural and/or organic vape juices?
JM: I come from a family of smokers. We’re from New Jersey; my extended family is large and smoking is just part of the “sit and chat” culture I’m sure many people are familiar with (along with the long Italian goodbyes). We all eat pretty healthy, try to eat as organic as possible… and smoking was kind of the one guilty pleasure. My fiancé wanted to quit and I wanted to be supportive so we switched to vaping, which I was honestly a little leery of at first. So after much research we went to a local shop and tried some flavors and eventually I came across the Vape Organics brand which was the only brand that was USDA-certified that I could find… plus Caffe Latte was the first e-liquid I could find I actually thought I’d be able to vape with any sort of regularity. I thought it was a great product!
I personally knew a ton of people who would probably be interested in it and considering my background in web development and online sales it seemed like a good fit. I think it’s a great alternative for people who are looking to substitute their smoking habits, and to do so with a product that is natural and organic. Later I also decided to add Bare Naked e-liquids to the site, a natural line, to give customers even more variety.
What does your vape store offer that others do not? Is there a market specifically for certified organic e-liquid and how has this grown or otherwise shifted since your launch?
JM: I only ever intended to stick with organic brands, or, at the very least, all-natural, from the start. There are definitely people in search of all-natural and certified organic e-liquids and many customers tell me we are the first online retailer they find carrying such a product. Many people with sensitivities reach out before buying and ask for test results and I think it’s really cool to be able to have that transparency, show them an analysis and know that they really are getting superior ingredients. Over time I would say there has in fact been a steady growth despite the promotional challenges the industry faces.
How has your business and level of sales been impacted by the FDA’s deeming regulations? Which unique challenges do online vape shops specifically encounter?
JM: There has been an impact, for sure, but it hasn’t been too bad when all is considered. We have implemented a more thorough method of age-verification from a third party source, which goes beyond the generic “I am of legal age” pop-up, and this has definitely been met with a relatively small number (less than 5%) of customers who do not wish to complete the verification process and don’t follow through with their order. This also comes with its own monthly and per-verification cost but it’s not a huge cross to bear in doing our part as the merchant to try to prevent underage purchases.
Can you share with us how you have adapted your business model in accordance with local and state regulations? Although you are outside of California, your online vape store likely sells to customers in California; how have you responded to the various regulations impacting your business?
JM: On this point I am still researching the legalities and working with our accountant. We are considering using a third party and integrating our website with their API to help manage this aspect as the laws vary from state to state. For the time being, we are relying on consumers outside of our nexus to report their use taxes.
Do you see any significance in selling organic vape juices especially when the vape industry as a whole seems under attack? How would you evaluate the importance of certified organic products in a newly-regulated industry?
JM: I think transparency and clear communication about your product is important and having empirical data defeats black PR and questionable opposition. I think it’s admirable and fortunate that Vape Organics was able to acquire certification long before any regulations were really decided on; I feel that this shows serious passion and dedication and that the manufacturer is interested in ensuring they have a superior product that they, and Real Organic Vapors as an official retailer, can stand behind.
What are the top three best-selling e-liquid flavors offered on your site?
JM: Blackberry + Mint, Caffè Latte and Menthol + Ice, all from Vape Organics.
Which tools and resources have you found most helpful in guiding your business decisions surrounding regulatory compliance?
JM: Honestly, the website and newsletters administered by Vape Organics. A few other forums have had useful information but the internet is definitely one of my main tools to find data.
What does the future hold for Real Organic Vapors? Is there anything you’re excited about moving forward, despite the regulations?
JM: At this point the majority of the Real Organic Vapors “workforce” are family members and friends, and I am so thankful for their help. However, I am excited to continue expanding, enhancing our customer support and maintaining a service-oriented mindset.
Thanks so much for the opportunity; I am most thankful of course to Vape Organics for all of the hard work and initiative put forth!
Thank you, James, for sharing your experience with us regarding running an online vape store in the post-regulation era!