At Mister-E-Liquid, we're celebrating our 10 year anniversary, so today, I want to talk with someone who has their fingers in all the operations side of the business, our Operations Manager, John Waldmiller. John is responsible for managing the production flow, from receiving, through production, to shipping, from raw materials in to finished goods out. He also coordinates with the quality department, helping to reach mutual goals between operations and quality, making sure that the product that goes out the door is traceable and we can know what raw materials were received when, and by whom, and what testing was done, keeping track of every step of the production process, and making sure it happens efficiently and effectively.
His story is kind of interesting, coming up in the business. One of the things I always wanted to do was to promote from within, to find people with specific skillsets that can grow in the organization. Throw challenges at them and then see what happens. It's kind of fun, in a way, at times, but it's also very rewarding. Not only for the individual, but for myself. And John's is one of those Cinderella stories.
When he first came to my attention, John was working a non-career job - not something he was planning on staying in - and also singing and playing guitar in a band. He and the lead singer had started vaping because they didn't want to keep smoking, and they'd run out of e-liquid. Rather than re-order from whatever anonymous overseas producer they were purchasing from, they did a Google search and found Mister-E-Liquid, just a couple of miles down the road.
John says, "So we ended up ordering - it was Menthol - we both got Menthol 12 nic, I think. And we ran over to what was your apartment at the time, where you were working out of, and you came down the stairs with a paper bag. We gave you some cash, and you gave us some e-liquid, and we were on our way. And it was like, 'That was strange.'" He laughs. "I wonder what other people thought, when they saw that."
From there, John started to get more involved in vaping evangelism, selling kits through me to people he knew, to try to convert them to vaping. Basically, he was acting as a salesperson for the company, but in an unpaid capacity! Finally, with all the growth in the vaping industry, and mindful of John's success as an informal salesperson, I let him know I was looking for some part-time help on Saturday. John put on a polo, stepped up, and has been working for Mister-E-Liquid ever since. After a month and a half of working Saturdays, he came to work full time. When we moved our headquarters from our Division store to our current location on Plymouth Ave, John was tapped to help build the lab: assembling tables and shelves and remodeling the storefront. Since he had the experience, and was there anyway, we made him retail store manager.
John grew with the company. In a way, none of us knew what we were doing: the market, the industry, was too new for people to know what to expect, how to perform the most essential functions of a business, but as our needs grew, John learned how to keep up with whatever we threw at him. That's one of the things I noticed almost immediately about John, was his willingness to just tackle a situation. Remember how I said I like to throw challenges at people and see what happens? What happened in the case of John was that no matter what challenge we threw at him, he learned, adapted, and just handled it - at a high level.
Over the next several years, we threw a lot of challenges at him - opening and remodeling more retail stores, managing all the retail stores, eventually managing retail stores and internet sales, including customer service and wholesale sales. We started doing more external manufacturing for other companies, and we recognized John's skills could be essential to building that side of our business. John took our contract manufacturing from zero to industry-leading, virtually overnight. This built his understanding of project management, supply, logistics, and e-liquid production, in a way that was to become absolutely essential.
Given his position in the company, and the skills he'd gathered, John was a natural for being heavily involved in Mister-E-Liquid's PMTA application. That meant lots of long hours, a lot of time with just a couple of people in a room, hammering out documentation. While we were in some industry organizations that helped get the process kicked off, eventually the time came when we needed to manage our own application. From May 2020 through submission in September 2020 was 12 to 14 hour days, four or five days a week, sometimes until midnight or later. Lots of science, lots of research, in-house testing, external testing, sending our products off for stability testing, testing for harmful constituent components...we had one deadline, but 100 things to do. John was able to help shepherd the project to completion with a couple of days to spare.
Not something John - or Mister-E-Liquid - could have done 10 years ago. We had to grow to where we are in order to be able to get that done.
And what it really did was let us take a second look at our production. We've always operated in a very structured way, to be able to say we know what's in our product, we know what it does, how it works, how it's made, what specific base ingredients went into it, but the PMTA process let us take operations to a level we could only have dreamed of a decade earlier. We'd always been very, very good, but we're even better now. You could hand a bottle of e-liquid to John next year and he'd be able to tell you who signed for the delivery of every flavor and component of that bottle, even who provided the bottle itself, when it was manufactured, its nicotine content.
Mister-E-Liquid has always been at the forefront of the e-liquid industry in terms of compliance and data and manufacturing process. Our cleanroom has always kept us in another class of production. We're founding members of AEMSA. That puts us in a position to feel really confident in our PMTA submission, and our PMTA flavors, our new MEL brand collection. We're really proud of MEL, which is a departure from our previous product lines' "ultimate customizability", because our new manufacturing process will allow us to fill orders directly from backstock, with minimal overhead, for faster turnarounds and an even more consistent product, with less of a confusing array of options for the uninitiated. Getting more product made, for less effort: that's our goal.
It's all thanks to our employees that we've gotten where we are today. Efforts like our PMTA application and our new MEL line simply wouldn't be possible without the tireless efforts of employees like John. His story is genuinely special, but he's absolutely not alone, and Mister-E-Liquid is happy to be moving into the future putting personnel before profits - because we knew we'll receive those profits tenfold, with a dedicated, informed, experienced, hardworking team of people like our Operations Manager, John Waldmiller.