Three Surrey-raised siblings are juiced about their early successes as e-liquid makers in the emerging vape industry.
The Daya brothers operate VanGo Vapes in the Bridgeview area, not far from where they grew up and long dreamed of money-making enterprises to call their own.
Khizer, the middle brother of the three, is the company’s chief operating officer, while older brother Saadiq serves as CEO and the younger Saabir works as marketing manager.
“My older brother and I, we started off with a paper route but wanted to do something for ourselves, so we started a lawn-mowing business when we were 12 or 13,” Khizer explained.
“We both used to smoke cigarettes when we were a bit older,” he continued, “until someone showed us this vape. I was around 21 and he was 23, and we just kind of took a leap into this, and it grew from there.”
Today, their office/factory complex is filled with the smells of Cactus Jango, Ophelia, Frozen Tropix and other blends they’ve created since entering the business in 2014.
“We started off just small-scale dealing with a couple of Surrey stores and branched out, got bigger and bigger, into Alberta and moved out east from there,” Khizer told the Now-Leader during a tour of VanGo operations, from which they sell approximately 20,000 bottles a month.
In June, their Vanilla Custard e-juice earned Best in Show honours in the tobacco category at Canada’s Vape Expo, held in Toronto.
“We have a pretty strong presence across Canada now, and the next campaign we’re dealing with now is into Washington and into the U.K.,” Khizer explained. “We started in the U.K. last year and have been to two conventions in London and in Birmingham, and we just came back from West Coast Vape Expo in Bremerton, and in Toronto, so we’ve been travelling a lot.”
VanGo employs close to 15 people in an industry that continues to grapple with health questions and marketing regulations.
In May, the federal government passed legislation that gave adults easier access to e-cigarettes and vaping supplies, while prohibiting the sale of vape products to minors and banning flavours aimed at young people.
Some experts cheered the vaping regulations, saying they give legitimacy to something that could prove a boon for smokers who are trying to quit — a market VanGo aims to target, according to Khizer.
“Tobacco is what we really focus on, because I think it’s helpful for people who want to quit smoking, so we really work hard to get the flavours of those, to help them make that transition,” he said. “So, to get that award for best tobacco in Canada, it’s amazing.… It was a public survey of those who were at the expo, the general public, so it’s a good sample of those who were there.”
Dealing with compliance is one of Khizer’s jobs with VanGo.
“The U.S. has its own labeling and bottling rules, and they’re different than in Canada,” he explained. “Things like that, keeping up with compliance, is actually a big part of my job, personally, and it consumes most of my day, just making sure we’re following all the rules. This is a fairly new industry, and it’s still all so new, especially some of the rules that are drafted. That’s all so new that nobody has come up with a guide, sometimes, so it’s a lot of sitting around and reading these dense laws, legal stuff.”
VanGo produces close to 75 e-juice flavours, each made from liquids stored in hundreds of bottles that line shelves at the plant.
“Each one is broken down into milligram strength, so if you want no nicotine you can do zero milligrams all the way up to 18,” Khizer said. “So there are 75 flavours and then seven variations of each flavour — there’s a lot.”
VanGo’s glossy wholesale guide showcases flavour series that include Bakery, Coffee Shop, Candy Lane, Tobaccoland and Soda Pop.
“I think we’ve tried pretty much every flavour combination, but it really comes down to the right mix, the right percentages,” Saabir said.
Added Saadiq: “We’re working on one with pink grapefruit and guava right now, so we’re pushing the unique flavours a lot of time — things you normally wouldn’t find, beyond the staples.”
Khizer’s favourite, as listed in the guide, is called Ophelia, one that mixes strawberry, mango, kiwi and cactus flavours.
“It’s really simple,” he said of the manufacturing process, “because we take food flavours and make a good recipe, then we dilute it with vegetable glycerine. It’s thick, almost like honey, a sweetener almost, a filler, and then we optionally add nicotine, and that’s basically all it is.”