Start a vape shop by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your vape shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a vape shop?
Unlike many start-ups, you can open a vape shop with a fairly low amount of capital. Industry leaders estimate a budget of $25,000 for a small shop and $50,000 for a large one.
The following items should be included in your budget:
- Lease - this will vary, depending upon your location
- e-cigarette kits and accessories - $7,500
- Accessories - $20,000
- iPad and point of sale software - $2,500
If you are considering franchising as an option, budget for an additional $10,000 to $20,000 in franchising fees.
What are the ongoing expenses for a vape shop?
Your estimated monthly costs are between $7,500 and $10,000 and include the following:
- Lease - $2,500 to $5,000 per month
- Insurance - $150 per month
- Payroll and taxes - $3,700 monthly
- Miscellaneous fees - $250 per month
- Marketing - $100/month
This estimate does not include replenishing of inventory. While this will be your largest expense, the numbers vary significantly, based on a number of factors.
Who is the target market?
Your preferred clients will be broken into three different groups. First, try to appeal to smokers who are considering breaking the habit. This will require more than educating them on the benefits of switching to e-cigarettes. Break it down and show them how they will save money in the long-run. Your second target audience is current e-cigarette smokers. To engage them as customers, carry a wide variety of quality products, at an attractive price point. Lastly, make sure your shop is easily located for vacationers. This could offer a steady flow of customers that many vape shop owners tend to ignore.
How does a vape shop make money?
Vape shops generate revenue from the sale of their products.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices will vary, depending upon the products sold. Accessories run as low as a $3, while some items sell for as high as $300.
How much profit can a vape shop make?
The average vape shop reports approximately $26,000 in monthly sales. If your monthly expenses are $10,000, your business would realize an annual profit of $120,000.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are a number of opportunities for increasing your enterprise’s profits:
- Open kiosks in well-trafficked areas
- Host an e-Commerce site and sell your products online
- Manufacture your own e-liquids
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Vape Shop Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your vape shop is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
Though vaping is a form of "smokeless tobacco", the FDA regulates e-cigarettes and vapes in the same way as other tobacco products. Manufacturers, retailers, and consumers must each follow their respective set of federal regulations. Here is a link to an overview of FDA tobacco retailer regulations.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a vape shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A vape shop business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a vape shop business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your vape shop business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a vape shop
The vape community is tight knit, yet rapidly growing. Reach out to others in the community. Research the marketing staff of the brands you carry and find ways to connect to them. Regularly attend trade shows and vape conventions to further strengthen those relationships, as well as your position within the community.
Search engines like Google and Yahoo will not allow e-cig companies to advertise. This means you will need to get creative. Maintain an online presence by having a simple, yet informative website. Create social media pages, such as Twitter and Facebook. Reddit is another effective way of advertising your vape shop. Some online advertising services, such as eCigMedia, specialize in the e-cigarette industry.
To target the out-of-town customers we mentioned earlier, make sure your business is listed on Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Yelp. While you cannot advertise on search engines, you can make sure the shop is listed. Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo listings are a great way to increase your online visibility.
How to keep customers coming back
Provide exceptional customer service at all times. Carry quality, affordable products. Encourage satisfied clients to spread the word and always ask for feedback, both negative and positive.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Vape Shop In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
An increasing number of entrepreneurs are now opening vape shops, increasing industry competition. Successful shop owners are knowledgeable and passionate about educating their customers. They must enjoy researching an ever-evolving market and be dedicated to delivering strong customer service.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a vape shop?
There are a number of duties you will be tasked with from day to day:
- Interact with customers - answer questions and educate them on their options
- Research industry trends
- Network with others in the industry, particularly representatives of the manufacturers
- Check inventory and place orders
- Ensure workspace is clean
- Administrative tasks
- Oversee staff and delegate
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful vape shop?
This profession requires owners to be personable and able to connect with both customers and others, within the industry. For long-term success, focus on continuously researching industry trends, inventory, budgeting, and what makes your customer happy. The Smoke Free Alternative Trade Association is a great resource for keeping up with the latest in legislative changes. Additionally, there are a number of courses that offer guidance in putting it all together.
What is the growth potential for a vape shop?
This is a fairly new industry that flourished from its inception. For business savvy owners who are dedicated to achieving their goals, there is significant room for expansion across the globe.
TRUiC's YouTube Channel
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a vape shop?
Industry leaders offer the following advice:
- Spend time developing a brand that your target audience can relate to. Remain consistent with that brand image.
- When initially stocking your inventory, use the following formula, adjusting as you get to know your market better: 50% starter kits, 40% mid-level kits, and 10% high end hardware. Additionally, stock an assortment of replacement parts.
- In this industry, brand loyalty is paramount to your success. Find the manufacturers you believe in and stick with them. If you take care of them, they will take care of you.
- Ultimately, price is what will turn prospective customers into loyal clients. Carry quality products at competitive prices.
- Offering your clients the option to customize their e-cigs will cut down on your need to carry kits. This will help reduce ongoing expenses.
How and when to build a team
Veteran vape shop owners recommend you be present as much as possible, to ensure your business strategy is adhered to. To avoid burnout, however, your shop will require a team of one to two people. Each employee should be personable and knowledgeable about the shop’s products. If they do not have the answer, they should make it their mission to find out. Once you have gotten a better feel for the demands of the store, you can adjust the number of team members you employ.