My wife and I got up nice and early, leaving Plymouth for Shrewsbury on Friday 5th August. An impressively easy 4 hour drive up saw our arrival at the Greenhous West Mid Showground, joining many other vendors at Vapefest 2016. After getting our spot in order we put up the trusty marquee which has seen us good at Vape Collective in May. Feeling a bit smug that it only took twenty minutes to set up, we talked with our neighbours who were still getting sorted. The fabulous Forbidden Flavours. I'd never spoken to or tried their product before but remembered their technicolour logo from Adam's Great British Vapes review. Anyway, swapping similar stories of our journeys through this industry, Thom and co were very cool people with a lovely full colour banner to be envious of, to be sure.
As we'd been on the road most of the day, we went off to check in at the hotel 30 mins away in Oswestery, confident our early pitch popping up would save us hours of time come Saturday morning. Sitting down to a relaxing pint and listening to my wife say how she was glad not to have to drive anymore that day, I got the email from Ric, one of the Vapefest organisers. I was on terrible 3g coverage and it read cryptically, and yet worryingly "Slight issue mate" and what I thought was nothing more. Replied back and Ric suggest I look at the picture he'd sent which was still loading from a blurry mess into what turned out to be a blurry mess where my tent used to be. Bizarrely, a sudden gust of wind had managed to completely total, snap, wrangle and bend the metal supports of our marquee into an unusable heap!
We went to see the damage for ourselves and it was indeed as bad as we feared. Even with the helping hands of the Forbidden crew, we still failed to erect our tent. New plan: find an Argos nearby, get tent and go set up Sat morning in a mild anxious panic.
Another 30 min drive later, making many Viagra jokes, we sat over dinner scouring the internet for any appropriate gazebos and places nearby where we could get one (we had no idea, we are from Plymouth, Devon, over 300 miles away...thank goodness for Google). Obviously, all of the tents I thought looked any good were all out of stock or a million miles away in somewhere you might need a passport to get into. So I settled for what was clearly the marquee equivalent of a Fisher Price dolls' house and set it aside to pick up at 9am when they opened.
All set up and open to the glorious public a little late (but open!) at 11:00. Saturday at 'fest was an incredible mass of blazing sunshine and steady stream of people! As a tiny little company at our first Vapefest we were not sure what to expect. Reaction was good though; the Coil Nut box and Crunchy Nut cornflake bowl as well as the hastily purchased lemon cake with cherries display seemed like a good shout, with our little set up of tanks and juice for testing.
Early reception seemed to favour Sweet Salt and Samic Berry, but the star juice would be quite different by the end of play. Then first to come see me was Jon the Coil Builder from instagram. He very kindly popped a frankly amazing alien build on my dot mod petri. The flavour from those coils are superb and I couldn't thank him enough to chucking that in for me. After that, James, the Everyday Vaper popped by. A long term friend of ours and the juice, James was one of the very first we selected to review us last year when we started. Then Hendo (Alan) of Vapebase fame with partner and their little sock-wearing Jack Russell made a surprise show (I honestly thought he was on holiday somewhere) as nice as ever, with nothing but praise on our newest flavour, Lemorello!
Damon, resident Grumpy, leader of the Vape Collective, VTUk celeb, survivor of insect attacks and all round lovely chap popped over for a much delayed bottle of Lemorello (review coming soon!) and that was all before noon!
In the afternoon, I was very happy to meet a long term fan of Tokenvape: Miguel, the diving vaper from instagram, one of our only overseas customers from sunny Portugal! A real pleasure to meet and introduce him to our newest flavour too.
I also met Ohm My Goth from instagram and her friends, again fans of the juice. It is always a pleasure to meet people you follow online in real life as they become much more than just a name.
All in, day 1 of Vapefest was a great success, with many new customers made, new friends met and generally a good feeling in the belly! However, because we are complete idiots and believed bad things wouldn't happen again, we left the shell of our marquee still up ready for day 2. I left my mobile number with Poppy from Forbidden Flavours in case disaster should strike once more.
No calls in the middle of the night. No texts of doom. A feeling of relief. So off we ventured, confident that Sunday would be a good day. Literally, as I got in the car at 9am however there was a call. My gazebo had once again snapped. It collapsed in a generally unusable mess. In less than 24 hours our new Argos tent had utterly failed. We went to 'fest a little shouty and upset in truth, unsure if we could even rescue our pitch.
But...the kindness of strangers and the vape community was alive and well! We were offered to share with no less than three other vendors at the show! From our new friends at Forbidden Flavours, the great Scots at Vape Emporium and Cloud Chasers Club, who were our neighbours on the other side. Hurriedly removing a little seating section with hay-bales, CCC very, very generously let us take over a part of their tent. They are a UK based mech mod maker, who make frankly beautiful pieces, all handcrafted and glorious. Thankfully, they didn't also sell juice, so no toes were being stepped on and we all got along just fine, having lots of laughs throughout the day!
Sunday was a quieter day than the Saturday overall, but the customers that did stop over were as kind and pleasant as those from the day before. We received so many nice comments it reassured us once again that we are doing something right. More than a handful of people said that Sweet Salt and Lemorello were the best juices of the entire show! Given there were 74 other vendors there, a great many of which had some amazing juices, this was some praise indeed!
We also met a big fan of Coil Nut Flakes: Kev from Telford, a fan of mine on Twitter who has reviewed us and purchased everything from us, more than once. A real pleasure to meet the enigmatic terror of Telford himself, whom I was again told would likely not be able to make it to Vapefest, but did so anyway!
The real surprise for me, personally, was the shock showing of Mick the Tokenvape chemist and his lovely wife, Mandy! This was a true pleasure and long overdue. Amazingly, (and this sounds faintly ridiculous as I type it) despite me starting Tokenvape in January 2015 and developing flavours with Mick until ready to sell at the start of Sept 2015, I had never actually met Mick in person until that day! With Mick living in Stafford and us in Plymouth, phone and email had been our main method of communication. Finally meeting one of the very key elements in how our eliquids are made was a real joy. It is funny how you can know someone without really having ever met them before though. It was a really nice surprise to see them both however and already we are plotting some new things for Tokenvape as we move forward.
Loads of potentially interested wholesale partners were made, impressing a fair few stores who had not seen or heard of us before as well as meeting so, so many friendly new and old faces alike. Vapefest was a roaring success for us. It may not have had the capacity turnout of last year, but it was very special and an absolute honour to be part of the historic UK festival. A personal dream of mine was always to get Tokenvape ready and able to pitch at Vapefest, which we realised that weekend. As well as that, I saw the sheer kindness and goodwill of the vapefam too. Sometimes it's too easy to believe no-one cares and everyone's out to make money in this industry, but Vapefest totally proved to me, actually, there are plenty of companies out there doing this purely for the love of helping others stay vaping and off tobacco as best they can. If I have missed anyone out in this blog, I do apologise, but rest assured I appreciate every single one of you stopping by to chat and try our juice.
So long Vapefest, and vapefam, you were both awesome.
You must be aged 18 or over to use these products.
Tokenvape e-liquid may contain nicotine.
Nicotine is classed as toxic.
Very toxic if swallowed.
Very toxic in contact with skin.
Keep locked up and out of the reach of children.
If you feel unwell when using these products, stop and seek medical advice immediately.
May contain traces of nuts.
Only to be used with e-cigarettes.