Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jason Tamplin, Owner of Steamist, located in Fort Worth, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business partner and I started our vape store in May of 2013 in West Fort Worth, just outside of Rigmar Mall. In 2018, we re-branded to Steamist Vape Supply. We're coming up with a decade of service to the DFW area. Our customers come from any & all walks of life, and each of them is an invaluable part of our success. We teach each employee that the customer comes first and that each one should leave as happy or happier than when they came in. I think the reason we have such long-term regulars is entirely thanks to that commitment.
Tell us about yourself
Michael had actually been trying to quit smoking for several years when Ecigs finally came onto the market. He was finally able to kick the habit for good, thanks to this new and wonderful technology. We were already sharing office space for our separate businesses and began discussing a business we could start together.
Given the new arrival of Ecig technology and his now personal experience, we decided we would start a vape store together in 2013. The thing that keeps us going every day is the desire to continue helping adults give up cigarettes and transition to a non-combustible alternative. From there, we can also help cut their nicotine usage down to 0 as well. It really is a remarkable technology and the best chance we've had in a generation to put a sizable dent in Big Tobacco usage.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Well, I would have said making it past the three-year mark. However, we now have our sights set on ten years! Besides that, I would say our biggest accomplishment is navigating the murky and ever-changing landscape of regulations and rules. When people ask me now what kind of business they should start, I always say anything that isn't wrapped in red tape.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Cash flow management is probably one of the hardest right out of the gate. You're going to make mistakes, and that's ok. The key is to recognize the mistakes and be brutal in stopping any major blood loss. We've been understaffed and overstaffed. We've had a thin inventory that turns customers away and a bloated inventory that cost us dearly in the dead loss. It's a bit of trial by fire, but having done it for as long as I have at this point, my best advice is to not flinch when it comes to changing course. You'll know pretty quickly how much needs to be in the bank every week and how much needs to be available when the A/C goes out. If you need to thin down payroll, order less, or stop providing free soda, then do it. At the same time, always remember that you wouldn't be here without your customers. It can be a tightrope at times, but as long as your eye is on the ball and you're not afraid to put in the hours, you'll be fine.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Firstly, I'd say they need to be ready to put in some pretty long hours for not a lot of pay. It'll be worth it down the road, but there just is no substitute for getting as far off the ground as possible under your own power.
Secondly, I would say that you need to find the things you love in a business. Don't limit yourself to only starting things that are already a hobby. Every type of business has multiple arms doing work at the same time. Maybe you'll find satisfaction in the e-commerce side, customer interactions, or payroll. It doesn't really matter. The point is you need to start a business that solves a problem or currently underserves your community. That might mean it's not a huge passion project for you, but that's ok. You can find things within that business to be passionate about, and that work will give you satisfaction.
Lastly, I would say don't be afraid to take on some debt. Most people did when getting started. Just remember to keep on top of the books, and if things start to look bad, don't hesitate to make adjustments. Eventually, you'll feel comfortable with a certain amount that can be taken at any time. This could give you a huge advantage over your competitors when a new technology comes to market, or perhaps for a Black Friday inventory push on the retail side of things.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'd like to remind everyone to shop small. It's easy to get stuck in the rut of getting everything online. Just remember that your local shops give you not only the chance to see and interact with a product but also almost always have better customer service and warranties than you'll find online. Mainstreet Mom & Pops only stay in business if they put their customers first. We, as shoppers, should make sure that isn't a thankless sacrifice.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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