For the third interview in our influencer series we’ve called on another good friend of Simple Vape Co to give us their perspective on vaping and the industry in 2016. Introducing Billy Webb from Prohibition Vapes Co.
It was back in 2015 at the Vaper Expo NEC, in Birmingham that we first met Billy and his team. It was a meeting of minds and marked Billy's first encounter with our products. From the word go it was clear that we shared a connection for quality vape products and liquids, design aesthetics and customer service. The Prohibition Vape Co set-up is one of the best vape stores and environments we have experienced in the UK. The attention to detail and customer service is second to none, and we are delighted to see Simple Vape products stocked there. Not only do Prohibition Vape Co have a rapidly growing number of stores, they also run unique events that take the vaping experience to another level. Late last year we sponsored one of their vape nights in Maidstone to launch the new VG Line and it was a huge success.
Hi Billy, thanks for joining us today, for those who don’t know Prohibition Vape Co can you introduce yourselves and your team to the community?
Hey, what’s up Simple Vape! I’m Billy from Prohibition Vapes Co. Incase the readers don’t know us – our vision is community based vaping lounges themed in 1920’s Prohibition era. We currently have two stores in the South East of England, our flagship store in Maidstone, and our newest baby in the heart of London’s coolest area, Hoxton.
I have spoke to you on a number of occasions regarding your own personal journey into the world of vaping but can you elaborate on this story for our readers.
We thought you would never ask. We started our journey into the world of vaping in 2011 when my Mum was researching for an easier way to kick the traditional cigs. After purchasing many rubbish cig-a-likes we stumbled upon a solid brand from America. Our family being from a import/export background immediately saw an opportunity as there wasn’t many ecig companies in the UK at the time. We flew to Miami to meet the CEO of this huge American brand and overnight we were importing into the UK. A year later and business is flourishing; we get called back over to Miami for another meeting. Long story short we were now asked to pay a royalty fee of 100k per year, for continuing what we had already been doing for this company. With that said, we flew from Miami to China (at this point I got food poisoning on the plane – was not a great journey or week for me). Over the course of the next two weeks we created our own brand of first generation ecigs, SmartCigs, which we still continue to distribute to pharmacy chains and convenience stores all over the country to this day. 2015 was upon us and I really lost the love for the industry. We were a two-man team working from offices in a converted stable block on the back of my Dads land. We needed something that was going to change the face of the company, something a little fun, and something that didn’t look pharmaceutical and clean for once. We started toying with the idea in January of opening a coffee and vaping lounge like no other. Something that was themed strongly and gave the customers an experience every time they came into the shop. (At this point I’ve got Harry Potter moving staircases, floating products and all sorts happening in my head). We were now a team of three, TPD was being mentioned on a daily basis, and a member of staff said what if nicotine gets banned? My reply was ‘It will be pushed underground, smuggled and be like the Prohibition period in the USA.’ (At this point I’m all dressed up as Al Capone in my head, with a Tommy Gun). So Prohibition Vapes was born. I found my passion for vaping again, employed some great people along the way. We are now two shops and seven members of staff strong.
We know how important your personal vaping story has been for the growth of Prohibition Vapes but can you explain how your customers vaping journey is even more important and what you do to aid their experience or transition from smoking to vaping?
Most people are just looking for a way to kick the cigarettes, by the time they have entered the shop and sat in Willy Wonka’s factory they are ready to eat chocolate. For me there are two different types of customers. People that want to replace there smoking with something very similar, and pack it up completely within 4-6 months, and then, the same happens in every industry, you have your extremists i.e. Me. I am somebody that lives, breathes, eats and dreams vaping. It’s part of my daily life, as it is now for millions. Having a simple chat with somebody you can learn a lot about his or her lives and why they want to make the change. We stock everything from basic starter kits all the way to advanced regulated mods, mechs, hybrids and a huge range of juice. Learning about your customer is the easiest way to find where on the scale you would place them.
What drove you to open your first in Maidstone, Kent?
Maidstone was an easy choice as I live there. It’s a big town, it has six vape shops currently. There were already four other vape shops when we opened, and they had grown the market for us already. We offer something different to our local competitors, as we don’t look like a traditional vape shop. Offering our customers the idea of Coffee and Vaping all under one roof grew our community very quickly.
What are Simple Vapes Co’s top 3 products for you and can you explain why you love them so much.
Ok, starting from my first Simple encounter. Birmingham Vape Expo 2015, I tried the full range and it was the first time I had been faced with British made e-liquid where the flavours actually meant something and told their own story. My first love for Simple was the Elderflower and Pear. Not my usual ADV I must say, but the flavour changed the game for competitors in the UK and certainly made a impact in our store. My second love for Simple came when you brought the VG range out. Peaches and Milk? Hell yeah! This had my name written all over it and I still vape it today. My third love for Simple, I only found this two weeks ago. The Simple Vape Cotton. I’ve used other brands of cotton for the last X amount of months but the Simple cotton was flavorful, easy to work with and all round amazing cotton. Amazing job on that guys.
We’ve noticed you stock some fine vape hardware, what’s your favorite Setup, mod and E-Juice, which you stock?
My all day go to mod is my Sub Ohm Innovation Short Switch in Matte Black with (you guessed it) the Sub Zero RDA in Matte Black. 0.1ohm build, hits hard, great flavour and in my opinion one of the nicest mods on the market. I have just got myself a Noisy Cricket, which is amazing too – but in terms of quality SOI wins all day long. Peaches and Milk is the only flavour I can rock all day. I am partial to a bottle of donuts, and a few other super sweet and sickly flavours every so often.
What are your thoughts about the upcoming TPD regulations?
It’s a very interesting time for the industry. Changes are ahead but I can already see huge potential loopholes moving forward. In certain areas I think vaping as we know it won’t change an incredible amount. I think the idea of the TPD is working towards a safer industry, so hopefully in the next few years there will be safer regulations, and therefore less (to none at all) people being injured from ill treatment of advanced vaping equipment. I think alot of this could be helped by shop owners like myself; investing time into each customer to ensure they understand how to use certain products and showing them the rules of what not to do.
Where do you see the UK e-cig industry being in 5 years time?
Well, 5 years ago I didn’t see the industry advancing as quick as it has already. My gut feeling is the industry will continue to grow; more people will be made aware that vaping is the future and smoking is dead, but I think the TPD will slow things down. We have a new liquid, new mod and new tank being released every day currently, but with the new administration process starting in June that will slow things down by 6 months. (Of course that’s if it’s covered in the TPD.) Where would I like to see the industry in 5 years time? As big, if not bigger than tobacco. With more research, and safer regulations it’s achievable.
If you could change one thing about the Vaping industry what would it be?
I have touched on this before in another interview but it’s something I will repeat over and over again. The industry is still growing. People tend to work against each other to beat their local shops on prices etc. But we find that working with your competitors makes such a difference. In Maidstone, we work with a few other vape shops and help each other out. If the other shops run out of batteries etc we will all help each other out, as there is enough custom in this town to warrant doing so. We are also working closely with a few brands and shops on creating cloud circuits, local events and even have gentlemen’s agreements in place to stock different liquids from each other. Working together as one industry is what will grow it, after all this is just a hobby that got out of hand for us!
You have just opened your second store in Hoxton. London. How has that been received in one of London coolest areas and do you have any plans for more UK stores?
Yes! Hoxton is awesome. We had some great press from a few local magazines. Made in Shoreditch also posted on their Facebook about us, and even some great press in the Daily Mail. It’s unreal to see the amount of people who are still anti vaping commenting on these posts and I wonder if we will still be perceived in this light in 5 years time. In terms of growth, we have a plan up our sleeve. You can expect more stores to be popping up in the South East this year, starting in the next 2/3 months. We have some great location ideas, some untouched with vape shops and some saturated but not seen anything like Prohibition before. Watch this space!
Whats is the best advice you could give to someone new to the wonderful world of vaping?
Spend time in your local vape shop, learn about what you are buying and be safe. The more knowledge you have of a product the safer you will be. It’s also a cool place to hang out, lets be honest, we just stand around talking, drinking coffee and blowing o’s!
Wave Saver. If you ended up stuck on a desert island and all your mods, RDAs & juices where being washed away in the waves what would be the 1 mod, RDA & juice you would kill yourself saving?
I can’t begin to tell you how much I would love to be left on a desert island, but that’s a different story entirely. I would be gutted if I lost my Limited Edition 2Puffs HexOhm V1. So I would be in the water saving that above anything else – and I would have to save a 1-gallon bottle of our own Black Crack for that trapped on a desert island weather!
Who would you like us to profile / interview next?
Leonardo DiCaprio – he’s got all the gear and no idea.
Quick Fire 10 Questions
1. Clouds or Flavour? Clouds
2. Mech or Chip Mod? Mech
3. 10ML or 100ML? 100ml
4. Tequila or Sambuca? Tequila
5. Kanthal or NiCr? NiCr
6. Desert or Fruit? Desert
7. Maidstone or Hoxton? Hoxton
8. Prebuilt or Build? Built
9. Christian Or Mario? Christian – as Mario can’t handle his drink.
10. Simple or Complex? Simple.
Thanks a lot for including us in your series, it’s been a pleasure. Here’s to a great, but Simple, year.