Written by Salina Mahoney, originally posted on My Honey and Co.
Something I absolutely love about March’s Boss Lady Jeannette, is how open she was to talking with me about the inner workings of her small business! This interview marks the first time My Honey & Co. is going international, with Janette’s business, Vape Club International being housed in Malaysia.
I don’t vape, but as my exploration of “becoming boss” continues to grow, I keep meeting women who totally rock their own worlds within their niches. I can’t help but to keep asking questions and learning everything I can about this idea: you wake up in mornings and instead of going to your 9 to 5 job, you work (and pay yourself) entirely on your own schedule, doing what you’re passionate about, surrounded by creative people. How cool does this sound?
The more Boss Ladies I meet through my blog, the more possible this totally seems.
What was the driving force behind beginning your own business?
I was actually working as a content marketer for a tech company when I switched to vaping and I thought it was an exciting industry. One of the things that really stimulated my interest was that vape products are classified as tobacco products on most advertising platforms which meant that we couldn’t use paid ads. This meant that we had to come up with creative ways to market our brand and products, including the use of content marketing.
Let’s talk about vape culture. Here in the US, there are certain stereotypes surrounding vaping and vape culture. What is the vape scene like in Malaysia?
The vape scene in Malaysia was very vibrant in 2014/15. Vape expos were big events where people would come to hang out, participate in competitions and try/buy the new products available in the market. At the time, I was quite new to vaping — having just switched over from cigarettes — and I can understand why people formulate stereotypes. It was a lot of loud music and vapour, which I’ve been told doesn’t happen at vape expos in the US.
Sometime at the end of 2015 — which was incidentally about two months after our business began running — the Malaysian Health Ministry announced that they would be looking into regulating the industry and before any real announcement had been made, they began raiding retail stores and confiscating products. This caused the local industry to slow down quite a bit — some companies even had to shut down. It’s a lot quieter these days but there are still quite a number of vapers.
On that note, what do you like about vaping?
I love the fact that there is no end to the flavours available and that very much like whisky or wine, there are little nuances in each flavour that distinguishes it from others. For example, there’s a blackcurrant flavour that’s one of my go-to flavours for vaping. Even though it’s marketed as blackcurrant, I can taste hints of lychee that really round out and bring up the flavour of the blackcurrant.
Really good vape juices have more than one layer of flavour and how the brewer creates and mixes them is truly a combination of art and science.
On your site, you categorize vaping not only by flavor and mint level, but by brand as well. How do you reach out to brands in order to advertise them on your site?
We actually purchase the e-liquids from those brands. We usually go to vape expos to hunt for new products and if we like them, we place orders with the company that manufactures the e-liquids. More often these days, we also get brands contacting us on Facebook to list their vape juices in our store.
How do you grow your business in terms of popularity?
In the early stages we set up booths at vape events and expos. We also reached out to the media, as well as social media influencers, and we received some coverage from both. Since our audience is more receptive to visuals, we placed a lot of importance on growing our Instagram following (@vcinternational). On top of all that, we try our best to provide great service so that our customers are super satisfied.
On that note, when did the webzine become a part of your vision? This part of your website is super personal. Like the “inside scoop” for your clients!
I come from a media background and having the webzine was always part of the plan as it’s a personal passion. It’s also a good way for us to share information eg. new flavours to try, industry-specific news etc. with vapers.
We’re looking to expand this side of things even more in the next year. We’re setting up our studio now so that we can create even more video content!
Walk us through the day to day of how you get things done at Vape Club International.
Our customers are from all over the world, which means they’re in different timezones, so very often I wake up to find that we’ve had quite a number of orders. All the packing is done in the morning so that the packages are ready for pickup by noon; we aim to get the items to our customers as quick as possible.
As our team is still quite small at the moment, I am still very involved in the marketing and content creation part of the business. Every day is different and some days I might be working on scheduling social media posts or writing articles. Other days I might be working on optimizing our system emails, or creating content for our weekly newsletter.
What is the biggest goal you’ve reached in your business?
We set a target monthly revenue to achieve by the end of the year and we’ve already surpassed it! Now we’re pushing towards our stretch target.
Any hard calls you’ve had to make?
Most of the hard calls usually involve spending money. We didn’t take out any loans or receive any investments; we are pretty much self-funded, which means that at the beginning, we were often strapped for cash. Sometimes we had to sacrifice certain things so that we could upgrade our software or increase our inventory. But these calls have almost always paid off and helped to improve our business.
Do you have a team supporting you or is Vape Club International a one-woman show?
I have a business partner, Jeremy Ong, who runs the business with me. We also have someone to help us with operations, as well as some freelancers who assist with content creation for the webzine. We’re planning to grow our team even more in the next couple of months (Nov – Dec).
Lastly, what is your advice to “Boss Ladies” creating companies around communities they love, as you did?
Despite the love you have for it, getting jaded is still a possibility. Running a business is very different from maintaining a hobby and there may be days when you feel like you don’t love it as much anymore. It’s normal — just keep at it and it will pay off. And even if it doesn’t, you would have learnt truly valuable life lessons along the way.
Thanks for our morning inspiration, Jeannette!