Normally we profile a “shop of the month,” but for October we’re doing something different: a profile of a vape liquid company that started small, just two guys, both 25, who have grown the company to become a worldwide powerhouse. As we see many in the alternative or cannabis space trying to do the same thing, let’s take a look and see how they did it.
“We really had no ‘plans’ when we started, beyond growing a company and making money,” said co-owner, Gabriel Laurant.
Like many entrepreneurs, his needs were personal since he wanted to stop smoking and started vaping instead. So, he and his school buddy, Thomas Vo (Tvo for short), started Vertigo liquids in Vo’s home, like many did back in 2014. They were well connected in the Bellevue Washington area and had many smoking and vaping friends and had “smoking huts,” which were really just places to hang out and vape.
They developed and made flavors in Tvo’s home with the blessing of his dad, Ted, who also wanted to stop smoking. They had friends with vape shops who carried their lines and soon hired their friends and developed “cigar shop” type models to replace the smoking huts.
I specifically wanted to focus their story on expansion, since that is usually the most challenging step in growing a business.
With bottles of vape juice in their backpacks, with labels printed at home, they trudged from vape shop to vape shop selling their juice. Two years later they finally got their own lab, primitive as they were back then, and survived due to the generous profit margins in e-liquids.
They were profitable from Day One but drew no salary until just a few years ago.
Vo’s father saw their success and brought in additional capital and experience, and they changed their name to Baton. They focused on the popular nicotine salt market and added hardware to their line, which was an unusual move for liquid companies. Later they added disposables, another big move.
“At the time they seemed like obvious steps, but not everyone thought that way. In hindsight I’m glad we did, but it was definitely a big risk,” Laurant added.
Their first hardware was private labeled, but they found quality control a problem, so had to step up and develop their own. A vape show in Shenzhen, China helped and they got lucky due to some personal relationships.
“We looked at the long-term picture from the start,” Laurant said, “And when we saw regulations getting tighter, we realized that we had to be serious to stay in the game.
There were (and are) a lot of companies that are short time players. They’ll ride this out until they close or are forced to close, and they don’t have the dedication to follow the regs. If we’re going to play with the Big Boys, we have to follow the Big Boys’ Rules.”
I asked them when they thought they “made it?”
“When we took our first salaries, we felt we crossed over, but we never really thought we ‘made it,’ so we never got comfortable or relaxed or thought we could kick back. It’s only recently that we recognized that we hit a critical point”
Some advice they offer:
Don’t be afraid of growing organically and take it slow. Slow and steady will be your best friend.
Teamwork is critical and our team is always evolving and has been for years.
Be proactive instead of reactive, and that is important in this industry.
Be open to new people and new ideas and put ego aside.”
Laurant concluded: “This year will be our best yet and we plan on keeping this upward trend going as long as we can.”