When the discussion comes up about “How vaping changed your life” most people will bring up the obvious. Yes, of course feeling better, being able to breath, not smelling of smoke, and saving money are all incredible changes in my life since the switch to vaping. But, starting to vape, working at Vape Dojo, and the industry in general has impacted my life much more than just the benefits listed above.
So, let’s start at the beginning. I was 15 when I had my first cigarette and 16 when I started smoking regularly. At the time cigarettes were just an out for me. I was irritated that my co-workers would get multiple breaks a day just because they needed to smoke, and I only got one fifteen-minute break per shift. I was having a stressful day and needed a break, unfortunately I had already taken my lunch break and still had several hours left in my shift. I decided to ask my manager for a cigarette. He pulled out a lighter and his pack, gave me a funny look, and said “You don’t smoke”. I looked him in the eyes grabbed the pack of smokes and lighter from his hand and simply said “I do now.” From that point forward I was trapped. At first, cigarettes were just an excuse to get away. Over time I saw myself smoking more and more and the addiction set in. Fast forward about a year, I was smoking close to 2 packs a day at this point and didn’t have any intention on quitting. I saw an EGO style vape pen at a flee market (keep in mind this was sometime in 2011) and decided to purchase one just so I could “smoke indoors” and use it at times where I could not light up a cigarette. I lost it shortly after and didn’t think much of it and continued to smoke.
Let’s fast forward to where my journey into vaping really began, January 14th, 2014. A buddy and me were walking around the town of Bel Air and saw a building that said “The Vape Lounge” on it. We were both curious and decided to check it out. We stepped and side and were immediately greeted by a gentleman named Russell. I explained to him that we were just walking around town and happened to see the shop and wanted to stop in to check it out. He asked if we were smokers, which we both were, and then preceded to go into detail about how vaping could help us quit. He was extremely helpful, explained products in a way that we could easily understand, and let us try out some great eliquids. We both wound up buying Ego twist batteries (A pen style device that had a twisting bottom which would change the voltage output) and simple Evod tanks (cartomizers), along with our 24mg ejuice to get started. Because of the great experience I had and the knowledge I gained I decided to throw my pack of cigarettes away and try to use my new vape to help me quit smoking. Day after day I found myself hanging out at the Vape Lounge when I was not working. The employees there became great friends of mine and taught me new things about vaping every day. About a week went by and I had not had a single drag of a cigarette and I felt amazing and felt extremely proud of myself. At time, I was working as a car salesman. One of my co-workers who I regularly took cigarette breaks with stepped into my office and I could not believe how bad the stench of the smoke was. To make it worse, it lingered for a half hour or so after he left. It was mind boggling to me that I smelled that way to people that did not smoke. This made me even more thrilled I had decided to give them up. As time went on I got increasingly more into vaping. Seemed like every other day I was checking out a new shop or buying new device. I went from my little Ego style pen to a mechanical mod (Nemesis with UD Igo-w4 dripper) within 2 weeks of being off cigarettes. I was jealous of employees in vape shops blowing huge clouds of vapor when I was only able to get a little puff. That being said, a mechanical mod and RDA (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer) was my only option at the time. At the time sub ohm tanks did not exist!
This is the part where vaping really started changing things in my life. Not only was I feeling better than I had in years, but I had become part of a whole new community! I was going to different states to check out vape shops in other areas, going to vape conventions that I could find within driving distance, and learning new things everyday while doing so! While taking these adventures I made many life long friends and visited areas I typically never would have went. In March of 2014 (2 months after I started vaping) I saw a contest of Facebook hosted by Space Jam eliquid. They were having an event called “The Amazing Vape Race” which was an all-day vape related scavenger hunt through Orange County, California. The contest was for an all-expenses paid trip to California for one team anywhere in the country to take part in this event. I convinced a good buddy of mine to make a video with me and to submit for a chance to win the trip. Low and behold we won! I had never been to California before and words could not describe how ecstatic I was that our video was chosen out of all the submissions. In 2014 vaping was just starting to pick up in Maryland (there were a few shops but nothing like it is today). But, California on the other hand, now that’s a different story! It was absolutely insane! There were vape shops on every corner. Everywhere I looked somebody had a vape in their hand. Unfortunately, we did not win the scavenger hunt, but it was still one hell of an experience. The CEO bought us each a mod of our choosing from the last shop of the hunt and supplied us with plenty of delicious ejuice to take home with us! I keep in regular contact with all the friends I made while there still to this day.
When I got back home I continued to visit The Vape Lounge almost daily. I would hang out with the employees, help new vapers with their products (Building coils, troubleshooting problems etc.), and would always give eliquid and product recommendations according to what the customer was interested in. On June 2nd, 2014, I began working at the shop as a store associate! Around this time the name had switched from “The Vape Lounge” to “Vape Dojo”. I absolutely loved every second of being there and still do to this day! Helping people making the transition from smoking to vaping is such a great feeling. The fact that I can help someone better themselves makes me feel absolutely incredible! Here I am today, almost 4 years later still with this company. Over the past few years I have worked at many difference locations, held many different positions within the company, and learned so much. A few months after being hired at the Bel Air location I was promoted to assistant manager. Not long after that I received another promotion to manage our Middle River location. It was around this time I was asked to go work at my first vape convention, NVE (National Vape Expo) in Richmond, Virginia. As I stated earlier I had attended quite a few of conventions previously but being able to work at one would be a completely new experience. This convention was both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to consumer) sales. Now while I was used to dealing with consumers, working with other businesses was a whole new ball game for me! This was an amazing experience, talking to different shop owners and eliquid manufactures about business strategies, what things did well in their shops, what kind of things they were looking for to better their shop and just general conversations to get to know each other. At this time Charlie Noble was our first premium line that we had just released. We got great feedback from both consumers and other businesses about the juice and got it into the hands of many future customers.
As time went on I continued to go to more and more trade shows with the company. Eventually I was asked to join the Marketing team and also be a wholesale account representative for the company (Which is the position I currently hold with the company). Throughout being employed by Vape Dojo I have learned so much and business relationships, sales, customer service, management, marketing, woodworking (Helping one of the owners make high end stabilized wood mods called the JMFD), and business in general. This is what I meant in the opening paragraph when I stated vaping has done much more for me than just help me quit smoking. It has given me a career, helped me gain a ton of knowledge and work experience, introduced me to lifelong friends, given me the opportunity to travel places I had never dreamed of going, and has just improved my life in general.