When Others Pulled Back, This Founder Went Full Throttle
By taking risks and always putting clients first, Vape Guys, a wholesale vape distributor, achieved exponential growth amid a global crisis.
In 2020, travel came to a halt, the U.S. economy shrank, and Vape Guys, a global distributor of vape and hemp-derived products, experienced its first revenue drop since its founding in 2014. Rather than playing it safe and tightening spending as many competitors did, founder and CEO and Yan Gleyzer took a gamble: he purchased an additional $1 million-worth of inventory in a matter of weeks. “I realized everybody else was scaling back, so there was not enough supply. Somebody had to fill that void. I wanted to be that somebody.”
The risk paid off. In 2021, Vape Guys increased revenue by nearly 100 percent. This year, the company earns a place on the Inc. 5000 for the fourth time. Gleyzer credits the achievement to strategic risk, a steadfast focus on nurturing client relationships during challenging times, and a strong and resilient team.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Gleyzer’s clients are small business retailers, and he invests in their success. “Clients are more than a revenue line item,” he says. Each store owner is appointed a dedicated account rep. Gleyzer acts as a mentor, making product recommendations and advising on “how to operate their retail stores to drive revenue and profitability.” Before Covid-19, he traveled the world to meet clients and observe their operations. When the pandemic made travel impossible, he stayed connected through email, phone calls, and video chats, ensuring store owners still felt supported.
“A key factor in recovering from 2020 was staying in contact with clients experiencing state and country lockdowns, which essentially halted all their sales. I personally traveled to visit key clients once borders opened to revitalize and strengthen our personal relationships,” he says.
A STRONG TEAM MITIGATES RISK
Gleyzer felt comfortable increasing spending in a down market because he anticipated customer demand and believed in the strength of his client relationships. Another factor that mitigated the risk was the strength of his employees. “I owe everything to my team,” he says. “My employees are my greatest investment.” Vape Guys attracts and retains talented people by creating an exciting work environment that includes opportunities to attend industry events worldwide. These events allow employees to network and keep up with a heavily regulated, ever-evolving space. Vape Guys also participates in industry trade associations to ensure the company understands evolving guidelines and to work with other companies to impact regulations and lobby for consumer safety protections, particularly for the safety of children.
When you understand your space and believe in your employees and clients, betting on your business doesn’t seem so risky. Besides, without risk, there is no growth, Gleyzer says. “If you don’t take risks, your company is not going to grow. If you don’t try, you won’t ever succeed.”