Member Spotlight: Joost Vapor Brings Professionalism to Michigan’s Vape Industry
Although many might consider the vaping and e-liquid industry to be controversial or unprofessional, Joost Vapor operates and prides itself as a legitimate and professional business. They do this by prioritizing the safety of their customers first and foremost through practices like manufacturing all their products in state-of-the-art clean rooms and having strict ID policies to prevent minors from using them. They even stopped selling their products online for this reason. “We got a lot of flak from our competitors in the area for that decision, but those are our values,” said Michael Ames, Chief Operating Officer for Joost Vapor. “We want to be guardians in our industry.”
The company began with Founder & CEO Paul Borkowski manufacturing e-liquid in his basement. Eventually, he and his brother, Daniel Sears, opened Joost Vapor’s first location in July 2013. Today, they are opening their 19th location and have about 150 people employed under them (when you include staff from their wholesale supplier company, Mod Fuel Wholesale.)
Joost Vapor offers a wide variety of authentic devices in every price range – from e-liquids, tanks, mods, all the way to batteries. Mod Fuel Wholesale, on the other hand, supplies hundreds of vape shop owners with their over 7,500 varieties of e-liquid flavors. “We try to keep our inventory with the times and the trends,” said Ames. “But we’re also very strict about how we sell our products. If you don’t have a quality product made under controlled circumstances, like a clean room, we don’t do business with you.”
Besides priding themselves on their quality products and safety precautions, Joost Vapor is also proud to be a second chance company. “The biggest reason young people become repeat offenders is that they’re not given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and become successful members of society,” Ames explained. “A good 40 percent of our staff are second chance employees, and because of that, they haven’t reoffended, they’re my hardest workers, and they contribute a great deal to our organization.”
Q&A with Michael Ames, Chief Operating Officer of Joost Vapor
How did you start your career with Joost Vapor?
I actually started off as a customer! I was Assistant Manager for a restaurant, and one day one of my employees was using a vape pen in front of me. I was a heavy smoker for many years, so I asked him about it, and he introduced me to Joost Vapor. I went there, the environment was warm, everyone was friendly, people were just hanging out on the couch. The employee that helped me out introduced himself as Yoda! I had such a fun experience that I bought my first vape device and would often visit Joost Vapor just to hang out. Eventually, Yoda, whose real name is Jason, encouraged me to apply for a Sales Associate position. I came into my interview overdressed, and Paul hired me. I rose the ladder pretty quickly, and here I am today!
Why is Joost Vapor so passionate about keeping its products away from minors?
We were actually one of the first shops to start carding for age verification before it was a law. To us, it just does not make sense to make our products accessible to minors. That’s why we stopped selling them online.
What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
For many of our employees here, it’s their first real job. Our goal is to provide them with the tools for success and to help them develop their skill sets. I can name at least three employees that worked here and have moved on to bigger and better things… and make a lot more money than I do! That makes me proud.
Joost Vapor is a President’s Circle Chamber member! That’s the highest membership level. What value do you find in it?
We initially joined because of the Government Affairs team. With everything that goes on our with our industry and the FDA, it made sense to become a member for that. Once we got more engaged with the Chamber, I started attending your networking events like the Business Exchange Luncheon. I do that mostly to lessen the fear that people have about my industry. Because vaping is an unknown environment, people fear what they don’t understand. It can be challenging to operate as a professional and legitimate business when we represent an industry that many see as unprofessional and illegitimate.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I love acronyms. I have acronyms for everything, and I use them at work. My staff can’t stand it. I even have an acronym for the word “acronym” about the value of acronyms: Acronyms Can Recognize Other Needs You Missed!