It's 2020, and Mister-E-Liquid's been in business for ten years. From humble beginnings, to where we are today, we've got quite the story to tell you. My name is Dan Lawitzke, and I'm the owner and founder of Mister-E-Liquid. In the next few months, I'm going to talk to the people who helped us make this happen, and find out why they helped us make this happen, and I'm going to share that with you!
This is our 10 year anniversary. I think back and get caught up in the nostalgia of the past, and growing up with the vapor market. All of the amazing things that we've done, all of the wonderful places that we've been - Beijing, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and all over the United States - it's just crazy to think about.
So where did this all start? I get this question all the time. The story goes like this: I was a senior at Grand Valley State University, and a friend of mine was vaping in between classes, and I was mesmerized by the situation. I was a smoker - I'd picked the habit up in college; you're drinking, you smoke cigarettes - and that was a thing I wanted to change. So when I saw my buddy vaping, I was totally intrigued.
A week later, I decided to give it a shot. My buddy Chris and I went to a smoke shop, and we bought these little tiny cig-a-likes...and they didn't work hardly at all. But it definitely sparked the interest: a few weeks later, I bought an eGo-type device online, and refillable e-liquid - which was this strange thing that I didn't quite understand at the time! But that was kind of the start.
Fast-forward from there, I didn't have any money - I was still in my last year at Grand Valley - so I decided instead of spending money on pre-made e-liquid, I would figure out how to make my own. And that's how Mister-E-Liquid started.
I started making e-liquid in my apartment building - shout out to Ramblewood in Grand Rapids - and I thought, you know, this is a really great opportunity to share this with the rest of the world. There was a little 10 x 10 loft space in this apartment that we had, and I got a couple of little folding tables and had some shelves, and I learned how to build a website. Mister-E-Liquid.com, and Mister-E-Liquid as a business, was started in these apartments, and the rest is kind of history.
Some of my first interactions with customers were at Ramblewood. Customers would call or email, and these were local people, who had found our website online and they would call and pick up their website orders locally! We didn't have a retail store, so they would just stop by my apartment. Vaping was so new that it was this super-exciting thing to talk about. It didn't matter who you were talking to, you were all learning about vaping at the same time.
The Ramblewood Apartment
Most people had no idea what vaping was at the time, and that blows my mind to contrast today and ten years ago. Everyone knows what vaping is now: it's all over the news, and the government's regulating, and there's millions and millions of vapers in the United States. And to think that one of the first vaping companies in the United States happened right here in Grand Rapids, in the Ramblewood Apartments, is just really exciting.
The Perry House
So then I graduated from Grand Valley, I was pursuing Mister-E-Liquid full time, and I moved out of Ramblewood into the place where Mister-E-Liquid really started to get its legs and really grow. Everyone in the MEL circle refers to this place as "the Perry house". It's not far from Ramblewood, and there are some incredible times and stories that happen in this place and at that time. It's where we took Mister-E-Liquid from a small online retail store to something closer to what it looks like today.
Our old-style bottles of vape juice!
We rented this 3-bedroom ranch in Wyoming MI - a suburb of Grand Rapids - and people started to drive from all over West Michigan to come to this place to pick up their Mister-E-Liquid orders. The company was in the basement for a little bit, and then eventually moved upstairs into the living room. We had the lab there, the inventory for hardware and liquid product, all the raw materials in terms of labels and bottles and fluids and everything like that. At some point, my really good friend Dave Doud bought into the business. He bought a minority share, and we used that cash to fuel the growth of the company.
I met so many people locally who went on to have so much impact on our trajectory as a company and our growth process. Our first wholesale account, that deal was struck in that living room on Perry. So many employees I met in this place.
I actually met my wife in this house, which is just...when I think about that, man, it really gets me in the feels. She was a customer, we'd chatted a lot through email, just general customer service, and developing a friendship. We had a customer appreciation party at the Perry house. We cooked out, and our closest customers and friends were all invited, and we just hung out. It was this really tight-knit, fun experience. Roo was one of those people, and she came to Perry, and I met her, and today we're married. This company changed my life, and I owe everything to it.
At some point, it became problematic that there were so many people showing up. On a busy day, there would be 10 or 15 people showing up. People would park in the driveway, ring the doorbell, and come in and pick up their online orders. We worried that the neighbors would think we were selling drugs! So we talked to the neighbors and let them know what was going on. But we knew that in order to continue, we would need some real space. So we started looking for our first retail store.