United States vape store owners have been waiting for months to hear how the FDA will regulate electronic cigarettes. It’s an era of uncertainty that is causing many entrepreneurs to face an uphill battle. Starting a vape shop can be a smart financial investment, but it can also be one of the most difficult businesses to pursue. In fact, some business owners claim it would be easier to open a marijuana dispensary than an ecig shop because the regulations are still so uncertain.
Stacey White and Brendan Darby opened Thunderbird Vapes less than a year ago and they have faced constant challenges and obstacles along the way. From finding a landlord to a willing insurance agency, nothing has come easily for the couple. “We had three insurance brokers working for us for two weeks before they could find something,” Darby explained. “They didn’t know what to do with us,” White added.
It seems that vaping stores fall into a grey area and officials just aren’t sure how to handle the new business venture since the government is yet to issue any official regulations. “We’re not tobacco, we’re not a dispensary. It would have been actually easier to find insurance if we had been a (marijuana) dispensary. We had the same thing with merchant processors. A lot of them just wouldn’t work with us.”
Store owner also have to overcome emotional hurdles. Vincent Hornby, co-owner of Lucky 8 Vapes, said his biggest struggle has been with public misconceptions about vaping. “The problem we’re having is a lot of noise,” he said. People often confuse ecigs with cigarettes and believe both carry the same risks despite the fact that ecigs are tobacco-free. This is largely due to conflicting reports from researchers.
Health agencies have taken a hesitant approach to ecigs in most cases. The Canadian Medical Association would like to see vaping banned until there are long-term studies. At the other end of the spectrum, Public Health England not only endorses ecigs for smoking cessation, but they report that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking. In the United States, the FDA has not taken any actionable steps regarding electronic cigarettes despite years of regulatory debate.
Even with all of these hurdles to cross, many entrepreneurs still believe vape shops are a smart investment. So far, the majority of ecig stores are owned by people in their 20’s and 30’s, but that is likely to change soon. Samuel Boucher, owner of Premium Liquid Labs, expects the age gap to close once older investors see that vaping isn’t just a passing fad.
“The guys wearing the suits, they don’t realize how much money there is in this,” Boucher said. “But once they see it and once this industry gets regulated, that’s when people will bet their money on it, because right now it’s a high-risk investment.”
Hornby said that business has been good for his store and he anticipates a very profitable future. “We’ve had a very successful year,” he said. “We’re getting inquiries all the time about people wanting to franchise.”
Despite the challenges, opening a vape shop definitely seems to be a good investment. Research and Markets recently predicted that the ecig industry would be worth $50 billion annually within the next ten years.
Do you think vape shops are a smart investment? If the FDA makes a move to regulate ecigarettes, will it hurt these small businesses?