We Chat with the Founder – an Admin and the YouTube Star!
The Approved Vapers Facebook group won the coveted ‘Forum of the Year’ in our 2016 EcigClick awards.
In keeping with its ‘controversial’ beginnings – more on that later – that result certainly ‘miffed’ one of the more established forums out there to say the least.
However we won’t be going into all that nonsense.
Instead we’ll meet the founder John Bold and one of the founding admins Chris Leonard to find out what makes them tick and of course the secret of Approved Vapers success.
But first that controversial beginning.
As one of the country’s best known vape wholesalers John Bold had picked up quite a large social media following.
Folks knew that he was able to under-cut the prices charged by some of the larger vape stores and would turn to him first when looking for that new tank or vape mod.
It became the norm to ‘tag’ him on the numerous Facebook groups most of which he wasn’t’ even a member of!
However it was his ‘banning’ from one particular group – despite not being a member nor ever visiting it – that inadvertently led to him forming Approved Vapers alongside his close friend Stephen Bradley.
John explains how and why it all began:
This has quite a story. I had built up quite a reputation of being a vape wholesaler in the UK who also supplied the general public at prices much below average online prices.
My name spread through Facebook and many people started to tag me in different groups as being someone who could supply them at a great price.
I was added to many groups but I was really only active on a couple. One day I got a message saying that I had been tagged in a group, I went to see the tag and found that I could not access the page because I had been banned.
I had been banned, even though I had never posted on that group and reason was that other vendors had complained that my prices were too low.
This also resulted in any other person tagging me or mentioning by name was also banned.
A very, very silly situation. That was the time I set up Approved Vapers in the middle of 2015.
John is extremely proud of the groups success and praises the guys and girls behind the day to day running:
I have a fantastic admin team. Some of the current admin team who were also in at the beginning are my son Kieran Bold, Chris Leonard (Approved Vapers Videos), Carl Richardson and Kerry “Kizzy” Lloyd.
We also have another half a dozen great admin team members helping to keep the group running smoothly.
John is a regular vaper and has been since he saw a small article about e-cigarettes in his local newspaper.
I have been vaping for 5 years. I was a former smoker who had tried, like many, to give up the habit many times. I saw an article in a local newspaper about ecigs.
I googled where my local vape shop was, found it was located in Chester Market. Went down that day, purchased a Tornado T Set up from Totally Wicked and have not touched a cigarette since that day.
Since then John’s wholesale business has gone from strength to strength to the point where he has now opened up an online shop – Bold Vape – where – as I can attest – the prices are remarkably low.
Back to the Approved Vapers Facebook group and in a world seemingly filled with zillions of vape related sites I asked John what he thought was the ‘secret of the group’s success’:
When AV started there were quite a few groups running at the time. A lot of the groups were full of spam from Chinese factories and the like and also in my opinion were letting anyone and everyone advertise on them.
We wanted to create as safe an environment for our members as possible. For a vendor to be able to advertise on AV they need to provide us with some business information, like if they hold liability insurance, if their juice is compliant, if they have a safe and secure website, etc.
They also have to follow a few rules, no spamming of the group being one of the biggies. Approved Vapers is also the only Facebook group I advertise members only deals on products from my company Boldvape.
The formula must be working because when I last looked the Approved Vapers grouped was well over 24,000 members and seems to be positively thriving.
John and his family recently faced a devastating personal tragedy and he wanted to thank the members for their support:
Myself and all my admin team continue to be so very proud and humbled by what Approved Vapers has become. We have a great membership with members all over the world.
In July 2016 I lost my wife to Cancer (Lung Cancer) and the warmth and support of the group helped myself and my 2 young children greatly.
I along with my admin will continue to bring all we can to AV and look forward to expanding the near 24,000 membership we have now. Thanks for being a valued part of Approved Vapers.
I think I can speak for all the team here at EcigClick and offer our deepest condolences to John and his family.
TPD and the Future of Vaping
As to the future of vaping and how the TPD will affect us John is reasonably optimistic – but like me sees ‘bigger and more powerful’ not necessarily better!
TPD will of course have some effect on our business although many of the items we sell are out of scope of TPD, mechanical mods and the like.
The size of e-juice bottles are an annoying part of the TPD, which hopefully will be looked at again sometime in the near future.
Legislation was of course needed. For the safety of the public e-juice does need to be tested. Some of the other parts like max 2ml tanks, in my opinion, not thought out properly.
Vaping will continue to evolve, there are now better mods and tanks out there and the choice is enormous.
I do question whether we need 300w mods though…maybe slight overkill there lol.
Vaping remains and will continue to be a choice for the smoker to switch too.
Current Vaping Set-Up?
Despite having access to the very latest mods – tanks and mechs John knows what he likes and is sticking with it – despite people teasing him about his preferred set-up!
Do you know what…I am still using an 18 month old Sigelei 150w.
Although I am now using it with a Freemax Starre Pure tank. I am a firm believer in using what works for you.
I always get teased for still using my Sig 150w, but i have no plans to change it…yet lol
If it works why change it mate 😉
Approved Vapers Videos
The success of the Facebook group gave John an idea about ‘live videos’ and the like.
However he decided not to be the front man and instead ‘convinced’ a couple of his admins to get in front of the camera as he explains:
Facebook came first. Then one day i had the idea to create an Approved Vapers Live show on YouTube.
After a little bit of time convincing Chris Leonard and Carl Richardson to “run” with the idea…Chris created Approved Vapers Videos.
Approved Vapers YouTube Channel
With over 3,500 subscribers – the groups’ YouTube channel is growing steadily and attracts a knowledgeable bunch of vapers.
The friendly face of the channel is Chris Leonard whose lilting Welsh accent and obvious passion for vaping makes for an enjoyable watch.
A former DJ Chris is a natural in front of the camera and it’s his easy uncomplicated style that for me at least is so refreshing.
Unlike some YouTube presenters out there the item he’s reviewing is the star of the show and not him – which I reckon only adds to his presenting skills and the overall enjoyment of the videos.
He also looks the spitting image – and I mean spitting image of my little brother – which freaked me out a little the first time I saw one of his vids!
Anyway Chris hails from the Welsh Valleys in South Wales and says he loves the laid back atmosphere of the area – a mood that seems to shine through in his videos.
He works for Barracuda Vapes by day and the shop can be seen as the backdrop to many of his videos.
Married with 3 kids Chris was a 60 per day ‘roll your own’ smoker and realised five years ago that if he wanted to be around for his family he had to quit smoking.
Speaking to Life On Vape he said:
Well I’ve been vaping for 5 years now and it was more of a lifestyle change for me to be honest , I was a 60 roll up a day smoker and my health was suffering do to this.
I’ve got 3 children and wanted to make a change so I could be around to see them grow up to be honest there my life and nothing is more important to me than making sure that there dad is there for them.
So I toddled off to a local vape shop and picked up my first kit and never looked back.
As a result my health has improved dramatically and I’m doing things now I never could do before , as soon as I started vaping I got the bug looking for new and exciting flavours and the hardware aspect really excited me .
As to the success behind the channel Chris says it’s all about ‘keeping it real’:
The way I format the channel is that I like to tell it as it is, if I don’t like it I will totally tell you that’s for sure, so I don’t edit out the mess ups, or bad bits to make it real, something I don’t like is that a lot of reviewers don’t tell it as it is.
And it certainly seems to be working as each video certainly gets a ton more ‘views’ than the channels current number of subscribers.
The Vaping Community
Chris says he absolutely loves the ‘vape community’ and is extremely proud of the success of both the videos and of course the Facebook group:
Its a community there is no other community like it at all, were all one disregarding, race, age, gender, religion were all here for the same thing, to keep us smoke free and enjoy sharing experiences, knowledge, likes and dislikes, we all seem to come together like a unit to spread the word that we can all live a better, healthier life and enjoy tastes that while smoking just simply was not possible.
I don’t think you could say it any better than that!
I’d like to thank both John and Chris for taking the time to chat with us.