This is an interview-style post with Fred Cassman from Mist.
Hey Fred. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hey, I’m Fred and I am the founder and Director of MIST. I live and work in Brighton and I’m conveniently an avid vaper!
When did you discover vaping and how did you enter the industry?
I discovered vaping in around 2008 after my mum saw a piece on electronic cigarettes on BBC News.
She purchased one from China and it arrived a week or so later. The product wasn’t amazing, but I found the proof of concept fascinating. I began undertaking lots of research, which led me to sign up to an electronic cigarette forum.
At that time I didn’t have much money, but I knew there were better products out there. So I began asking vendors to see if they would like to send me free samples so I could review them on the forums.
I was also a smoker and genuinely looking for something to could help me quit. When it arrived, that’s exactly what happened. I left the review, and the journey begins.
I began to review more devices, and liquids, read the latest studies, and answer users’ questions.
Before I knew it, I had unknowingly built a reputation. People came to me for advice, a 16-year-old in his bedroom!
You believe e-cigarettes can change the world. How has this product helped you?
I believe e-cigarettes have already changed the world.
I quit smoking on the first day, and I have never looked back since.
What was the stepping stone to turning vaping into a business?
I noticed a huge gap in the market for good vape gear, as there were hardly any sellers in the UK.
The prices were extremely high and there was a growing demand for the product. I found a wholesaler and the margins were good, but I had no money to fund a purchase to get a business going.
I decided to start a thread on the forum to see if anyone was interested in doing a group order from China to save some £.
I would organize the order, offer very low pricing compared to what was out there, and take a cheeky commission for organizing the order from China to their doorstep.
To my surprise the response was incredible. I ended up with around 15k in my PayPal account of stranger’s money!
The amount of trust I must have had on the forum is quite shocking. Forums can be extremely powerful in building trust.
I think I charged around 10/15% commission so ended up with a profit of around 1.5/2k.
With this money, I began to import myself. I set up an eBay shop, ordered a stock cabinet for my bedroom, promoted on the forums and off I went into the world of business. It was all very unintentional.
What is it like to run a business from a student house?
It was pretty hectic. It was a 9-person house, and people were constantly coming and going.
Luckily, we had a spare bedroom which is where the stock was kept.
The benefits were students always need some extra cash! My housemates often helped me pack orders on busy days.
It was a laugh but I don’t think I want to be doing it again! The challenges were making sure I remained disciplined when my other housemates wanted to go out and party!
What problems are you trying to solve with your business?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is figuring out ways to grow without being able to do any paid advertising such as Facebook ads and PPC.
Right now we’re focussing on incredible content that provides value to our customers. It’s a very competitive industry now, so everything we do has to be great!
Read also: Why Vaping is Healthier Than Smoking
How did you build a brand for Mist?
I’ve always been a massive fan of IKEA. I know it’s a very different industry, but I love their products.
I’m also a big fan of Tiger, now known as Flying Tiger. They provide effective products, that look great, without a huge price tag.
This is very similar to the MIST philosophy.
Since inception, I have always been trying to offer the customers the very best products, that are user-friendly, effective, and look great. This is at the heart of the MIST brand, and I think it has helped to grow our brand a lot.
Without being able to promote via paid ads, word of mouth is very important, so we need to make sure the experience received is amazing. Forums were very important in the early stages, as mentioned above.
What’s your vision for the company?
MIST have a tried and tested product that helps people remove cigarettes from their lives.
In 3 years time, I would like you to be able to find a MIST product closer to home, at your local newsagent.
Aside from this, my dream would be to go into production and become the willy wonka for the vape industry!
How has the vaping industry changed in the last few years?
Firstly, It’s grown exponentially customer wise. With that comes greater competition.
I believe there are over 12 vape shops in our hometown, Brighton now. Online is another story, with a new vape company popping up every day!
Secondly, the quality of the products has vastly improved.
What are your top tips for those looking to quit smoking?
Simple, buy a vape!
If you do decide to take my advice, I would take the time to visit a local vape shop to make sure you’re getting the right nicotine strength, flavor, and vape device as this is crucial to its success.
What’s your advice for 18-year-old aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t know where to start?
Find a forum in your industry and ask questions…Lots of them!
Ask what’s missing from the market, ask how they think you could do it better, ask them about your new ideas to see if there’s a demand.
Don’t be afraid that people are going to steal your ideas, people are lazy! Become an expert in what you’re doing.
When your business is in its early stages you can be extremely agile – take advantage of that. This is something that will separate you from the bigger players.