Charles Bloom is a serial entrepreneur/Angel Investor pioneer in the vape industry for over 8 years. He has 30 years business development.
“I had a step-father who was a 60 a day smoker, at the age of 66 he died from emphysema. I remember the doctor telling us that we would have to be very careful, the passive smoking that we’d been exposed to could be just as dangerous as the first-hand smoke that he experience.
“To me e-cigarettes are so much more than just a product to sell, they can be used as a tool to get people off cigarettes. It was this that gave me the drive to get involved in this fledgeling industry and do my bit.
“Within the space of a year and a half, we had product in over 3000 independent pharmacies, to me that was a milestone and showed what could be achieved”
What problem are you trying to solve?
I want to educate people on the benefits of vaping and help them make the switch to e-cigarettes.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
Current vapers are around 3m, some being dual smokers and vapers, leaving around 7-8m pure smokers who we want to convert. Within all the business I co own online, retail and distribution I believe we could own over 30% of the market within the next 2 years
How do you make money?
I operate four different vaping businesses, that range from distribution to direct online retail. 10 vaping retail stores and plan to launch 30 more in the next 18 months, giving us coverage across southern England. I also invest in property.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
To begin with, it was myself and Vlad Vassiliev, I was an investor and he had a lot of drive and experience relating to the business, as well as the back end systems that keep things ticking. these systems are what set us apart from other retailers. After a year and a half, we brought Dan Marchant into the fold as the third managing director. Obviously, there’s more to a company than just the management team, and all our staff are integral to making the business what it is.
Who’s bankrolling you?
The business I own, assets and my investments bankroll me. My monthly spend is quite high with three girls in the house as well! But hey what else is it all about, how many fast cars can I drive?
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
Research is essential before you venture into any business. When it comes to raising capital you need to be realistic with your projections and forecasting. When you get started you’re selling a dream as it were, but you still need to have a basis in reality.
Entrepreneurs should also consider the benefit of crowdfunding. I co-own a company called Clouder who reached out to one of these types of companies, who specialise in seeking high numbers of investors. In two rounds of campaigning, we netted 700 investors who were interested in our business. rather than going to a bank or a small number of third parties, we instead have 700 people with 0.15 of a share each. As well as providing an investment they’re also talking about your brand, word of mouth is a very powerful tool in its own right.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
You need to have your finger on the pulse, you need to spot trends and quickly move with them. In our industry I always pay close attention to the American market as they are a direct influence on us. If I spot a fast-moving product, I’m on the phone to the manufacturer within 24 hours telling them that I want to be their UK distributor. One needs to be proactive and adapt to the trends and keep up with the changes in any industry.
What metrics do you look at every day?
Sales stats paint the clearest picture of revenue, but I also keep a focus on customer reviews and satisfaction. Supporting and treating our customer base well is one of the main USPs of our business.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Through my experience, I’ve discovered that for the initial investment, crowdfunding can be far more beneficial than visiting a conventional bank.
You also have to believe in what you do, If you don’t believe in then you will struggle at what you do.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
With my first business, I needed a big investor and I gave away 50% of my business, if you want to keep control and a real sense of ownership, you need at least a 51% share.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
Growing support from the NHS, the government and independent health bodies has led to vaping being considered as an effective alternative to smoking. This message is starting to resonate not only with smokers but their friends and loved ones, helping to encourage them and the people they care about to quit. this has boosted the popularity of vaping and has led me to focus more on the retail element of the business.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?
Clouder, they offer a 1-hour eliquid delivery service in and around London. it was a startup I was involved with two years ago, and is really starting to gain traction.