Gerald (Ed) Williams is the CEO of three companies and managing partner of Vapor Systems L.L.C. He has spent much of his adult life managing, owning and developing franchises. He was responsible for the development and design of the Vapor Galleria concept. The first half of his professional career was in the restaurant and hospitality industry. He began his career with Wendy’s Hamburgers when it was just starting to take off. He held the position as a regional manager at the age of 22. He later went on to become a franchisee of the company.
In the ninety’s he sold his businesses and moved to Michigan and bought a franchise from Union Carbide in the marble and stone restoration industry. After one year he bought the parent company which now operates 50 franchise units in 7 countries. Related to the stone business, he owns a restoration company that operates in the Philadelphia and DC markets.
Franchise Expo: Tell us about the beginning of Vapor Galleria franchise and how it got started?
Gerald Williams: It was started in mid 2013 when one of my partners, who owns a retail center was negotiating with a possible vapor store tenant regarding a space in his center. He was impressed with his sales numbers in such a small space and brought it to my attention. After researching the industry we decided to develop a concept with a more professional image then what was currently available. By the end of 2013 we had developed our concept, created 100 flavor profiles, built-out and equipped a manufacturing facility capable of bottling almost a million bottles a month at full capacity and opened our first company store. By the end of 2015 we opened two more company stores, a corporate training and support center. We also sold and opened five franchise stores.
FE: What is Vapor Galleria franchise opportunity all about?
GW: There are few retail businesses that can generate the type of sales per square foot that our concept can. Our average sale is close to $40.00 per customer with one of the lowest startup cost for any brick and mortar business.
FE: What are the qualities you look for in your ideal franchisee?
GW: Personal or business success with the desire to win. We look for candidates that exude professionalism and are excited about the opportunity.
FE: What have some of the challenges been in growing Vapor Galleria franchise opportunity?
GW: I would say our biggest challenge has been overcoming the negative stigmatism surrounding the industry. That’s why we built a modern, upscale store without the shoddy lounge feel that is typical in the industry. For the same reason it is sometimes hard in securing a location in a upscale retail center although this is usually overcome by directing them to our website to view one of our stores.
FE: Do you feel that franchising is a great way for individuals who wish to start their own business?
GW: Absolutely, as far back as I can remember franchising has always greatly increased the odds of success. I believe it’s like 85% chance of success verses 15% going it alone. I have been both a franchisee and an independent in other businesses and the franchised businesses always did better. One of the most important reasons to be a part of a franchise is that the exit strategy; as the brand name increases so does the value of the individual franchise.
FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Vapor Galleria franchisee?
GW: First our upscale design and layout sets us apart from the rest of the industry. We have a complete operating system in place from start up to the day-to-day running of the business. All of our E-liquids are made in our clean state of the art lab in Oklahoma City, and sold to our franchise at a wholesale price significantly below our competitors. We have complete operating manuals and marketing programs to help insure our franchisees success.
FE: Tell us a little about the Vapor Market?
GW: The business is one of the fastest growth industries and according to Wells Fargo securities the industry is expected to reach over 10 billion in the next three years and actually eclipse the combustible, tobacco cigarette in as little as ten years. As more celebrities are seen using E-cigarettes, and proactive information regarding its healthy alterative to smoking is being promoted, it is becoming more socially acceptable and growing in popularity.
FE: Do you belong to any associations or networking groups?
GW: EASAA a smoking alternative association.
FE: As a franchise executive, who has been your greatest inspiration?
GW: Not any one person or business has really influenced me although I was part of the original management team of the Wendy’s hamburger chain. I think it’s being involved in the franchise industry for my entire career and having witnessed the success it has brought to people that has impressed me the most.
FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Vapor Galleria would be a great opportunity for someone?
GW: One word, timing. This is one of a few new opportunities with such great potential and we have the right concept to help our franchisees take advantage of it.
With no serious competitor in the industry we have the ability to capture market share and build an incredible brand. In addition there are few business that has a $40.00 per customer average that gives the ability to generate a million dollars a year in only a 1000 sq ft of space.
It is also a business that can be operated with only a few employees and needs little space for inventory.