“Whether you’re a juice maker, a mod maker or regular vaper, we speak the same language.”
“I’ve had full conversations in foreign lands just through hand signals. I’ve made friends that last a lifetime over vaping.”
Wes Brown started vaping in 2010. His home state of California was a place where the vape trade hit the ground running and now he has too. It took him only two weeks to stop smoking. With experience in building businesses from his time in the tech industry, Wes’ new mission was clear. By 2014, Barista Brew as a vape shop and liquid line was born.
Wes is the barista of Barista Brew Co – the friendly and familiar face as ubiquitous in the vaping industry as the server who gives you your morning coffee. In its brief but rapidly growing existence, Barista Brew Co have been trying to provide a product as universally needed and recognisable as coffee itself. Their liquid range already reflects the rich variety of choices found on the menu in your high street chain or specialist shop, containing fruit, nut, chocolate and spice flavourings that provide something different yet comforting every time.
This effort has paid off, as Barista Brew Co’s Salted Caramel Macchiato won the Best Tea/Coffee category at the third annual Vapouround Awards in May.
Wes has described his company as the “Vice News of Vaping” – owing to its candid, on-the-road, gonzo-style of promotion, always in tune with the fast pace and lively energy of the vape trade. On Saturday morning at the Vaper Expo, hours after his Vapouround Awards triumph, Wes commended the work of Phil Martena – a vape industry marketing photographer and founder of Vappix LLC, for how he has cultivated this brand.
“Phil and I decided that we were best off fleshing our brands out to the masses by being mobile. We wanted to be a pair of recognisable, relatable faces behind the brand that not a lot of people get to see. I had the ability to get us to multiple trade shows around the world because that was our calling from the beginning. Showcasing in the US is as ordinary to us as waking up in the morning. Showcasing around the world, on the other hand, is the true step up to the next level. We wanted to remind our clients and partners that we’re just regular people you can go out and have a drink with.”
The focus on coffee flavours goes beyond good marketing and sweet taste; the popularity of coffee speaks to the value of a shared, global product that we can all bond over.
“If you really step out into the world you’ll find commonalities in every country. Beyond language, we all hold common ground: the device in your hand. It’s not like being around the poker table during the glory days of smoking, saying ‘try my Marlboro!’ – whether you’re a juice maker, a mod maker or regular vaper, we speak the same language. I’ve had full conversations in foreign lands just through hand signals. I’ve made friends that last a lifetime over vaping.”
Wes never listened to the sceptics when it came to travel.
“People have called us crazy for going to Russia or Colombia. Despite the warnings, you experience so much love. Don’t allow your parents or your media to tell you where you can and can’t go. Get out of the standard cubicle. You may say to yourself: ‘I work a job I may or may not like, I’m grinding myself down.’ If you have just a little time for vacation or some R&R, step out of your comfort zone and see the world. Go somewhere filled with beautiful aromas and interesting people.
“The whole point of Barista Brew Co is transcending lines that divide. Coffee – no matter what country you’re in, no matter how it’s brewed or how the marketing creates the bond between cup and person, or drinkers in a shared space, the bond is there. People go to a shop just to do a bit of work. It’s been said that all great ideas begin on a napkin, and that’s how we designed our company.”
Barista Brew Co is also noted for its unique packaging: their stand provide cold and heat-sensitive coffee cups that display the company logo when filled. It allows consumers to market the brand to bystanders wherever they go, and hopefully start a conversation on not only coffee but vaping, and another smoker can be saved.
In his award acceptance speech in May, Wes thanked his family for their indispensable efforts in helping him get where he is.
“There is always a quiet, seldom-told story behind a successful company. My wife Yen was five months pregnant when we decided to go on the road. Myself, my colleagues, all those models out there promoting us, they’re family people. We all started on the path of entrepreneurship from the simple desires to quit smoking. Some of us wanted to be around so our grandchildren could enjoy our company mor or run that extra mile with our kid while they train for soccer practice.
The day my wife and I were going to hospital for the birth of our child, we did an Instagram shoot to show that Barista are family people – ‘We’ll get your orders out, right after we finish packing this box we’re going to the hospital!’ People really ate it up, because life is all about family.”
Wes loves not having those thick barriers between work and family life.
“We barely call it a job, travelling around the world, meeting great people and seeing the good purpose of our products. It’s indescribable.”
But entrepreneurship comes with sacrifice, and Wes counts his blessings daily.
“I missed my kid’s first Easter. I missed Father’s Day. I made a conscious effort to work harder than ever because once he was old enough to travel, I had two years to get free tickets for him, so he could be a lap baby. Now he has thirteen stamps on his passport. Now I get to work with him there in the warehouse in a kids-only area. I may be the face of the franchise – people call me Mr Barista, but my wife runs the organisation; everything from warehousing to finances. Most importantly, mom and dad can raise their kid, and a big beautiful company under one roof.”