For Mark Dennis, the decision to launch DIY Vapor Supply, a retail store that sells vaping products for anyone who wants to jump from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, was a cinch: he says he wanted to save lives.
"I truly believe that cigarettes are just horrible for your health," says Dennis, the chief operating officer of the company.
A former smoker himself — at one point, Dennis smoked upward of two-and-a-half packs per day — he says his personal transition has been remarkable.
"Within a month, my lungs were much cleaner," and when he visits the doctor "they can't even tell I was a smoker," he says.
DIY Vapor Supply launched in 2014 with seven partners; the conceptual idea of the company was "to bring vaping supplies and do-it-yourself e-liquid components as propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, liquid nicotine, and food flavorings to the Michigan public," Dennis says.
In March of that year, the company launched its wholesale line of premium blends called "Black River," which Dennis says features 48 different flavors. The following month, the retail store along a stretch of Dixie Highway in Waterford Township opened, with the Black River products, along with hardware for the newcomer: tanks, accessories, starter kits, mechanical mods, and more.
Dennis says the impact of vaping cannot be understated.
"The FDA doesn't let us market this as a smoking replacement device, but everyone in the industry knows it truly is a silver bullet for quitting smoking," he says. Studies on the effects e-cigarettes have on getting smokers to quit in Europe and Asia have shown a success rate as high as 90 percent, he says.
As the vaping trend has continued to catch on, DIY Vapor Supply has grown in tandem. By the end of last year, its juice lines were featured in 75 stores across Michigan and the nation. The company is now operating a 7,500 square foot bottling facility, with 19 full- and part-time employees, as well as the founding partners. In May, it launched online ordering for retail sales; Dennis says the intention is to expand that to include wholesale purchases. The company has generated a $1.5 million economic impact for metro Detroit, he says.
Anyone who's struggled to quit smoking and wants to find a new outlet to make it happen, the prices at DIY Vapor Supply can be a benefit. Dennis says the company's motto has been to make a quality product affordable.
"In the past, it's been premium products that have always cost the premium prices," he says. At DIY Vapor, people "don't have to spend that money to get that kind of value."