Dear BEAA Members:

The BEAA is coming up on its 1 year anniversary, and I wanted to take this opportunity to update and thank everyone for an incredible year. We should all be proud that we came together to protect our industry in Alabama. Our funds, time, resources, and presence were able to defeat a state tax and two in-store vape bans in major municipalities. In doing so, we educated lawmakers about our great industry and elevated the discussion by bringing science, public health and financial data to the table. Through our efforts and physical presence, we also established a name for ourselves which will serve us well as we move forward.

Now we have to be stronger this year. The state legislature is currently in session, so we have to be ready for anything. Also, if any member is experiencing an issue locally, please contact us immediately.

Advocacy groups like ours are crucial to the success of our businesses, because we have seen these groups directly guard against laws that would have ruined businesses. Being a part of a trade organization is an accepted investment for almost all business types. In our industry it’s absolutely vital. We have seen states suffer (Arkansas) who were not organized.

By now, you should have received your packet containing stickers, brochures, and cards with all our contact info on them. We are counting on your renewal and involvement again this year. If you would like to be more involved personally, keep in mind we are having a big meeting (3/13/16) and board position elections over the next couple of weeks (see below for more details).

We are receiving many new member requests lately. We are also actively recruiting new members to join. Here’s what we’re telling them:

Joining the BEAA is like having Political Insurance and Representation.

The price of a BEAA membership is total bargain for being part of a group of aligned businesses who have each others’ backs. Also, a lobbyist cannot technically represent a business which is not a member of the organization that has filed with the Ethics Commission, so if your store was by itself in a municipality that decided to ban vaping in all public spaces (including ALL businesses), you wouldn’t have anyone to help you fight that.

2015 in Alabama saw state taxes and local ordinances threaten our operations, but our group (BEAA) worked to kill each piece of legislation. These local ordinances which ban vaping (along with smoking) in public spaces are becoming more and more frequent. Direct action from the BEAA positively affected the results of two proposed bans in the Homewood and Trussville areas of Birmingham.

BEAA members stay engaged, are kept in the loop, and are made aware of the steps leadership and our lobbyist are taking as they happen. Being organized and unified as a group of over 3 dozen stores gives us the power to elicit rapid, blanket engagement/response from our combined staffs and customer bases should a situation arise requiring individual action (signatures, posting, sharing, public hearing attendance, survey completion, FDA comments, etc).

Show your Leadership. Establish your Reputation.

It’s important to have a liaison/manager at each store tuned into the legislative climate (city/state/national levels) and to be responsible for posting/sharing BEAA calls-to-action and collecting petition signatures, etc. There are many vape “community groups” (most have Facebook pages) who help some in these advocacy call-to-action efforts, but who also are prone to distractions and unproductive discussions. Become a beacon of truth for your customers. Be a go-to source in your area for direction on action to combat impending legislation.

Membership into SFATA and the state groups gives you voting rights for decisions steering the direction of the organization.

Be able to tout 100% commitment to all aspects of the industry you work in. Become a go-to company for news about advocacy activity.

Joining the BEAA is healthy for your Marketing.

Being linked (and reciprocally linking) on one another’s vape-related websites is wonderful for SEO.

Issues going on locally or federally are helpful in generating social media content. The conversations are healthy. I’ve noticed that these close scrapes with legislation actually have positive affects on sales. They promote positive rapport and camaraderie amongst customers and staff, thus customer loyalty. Conversely, ignorance of ongoing issues can hurt you. (Example: A store can’t make the mistake of posting a “salesy” Facebook post, “Hey check out this new mod” when meanwhile, the other stores are sharing/posting an important call-to-action that everyone should be focused on.)

In non-crisis mode, the BEAA is focused on continued public education by way of strategic media, data collection, and positive study dissemination. This also generates good ongoing social media content and positive association for members.

Joining the BEAA is positive for your Public Relations.

In the face of negative publicity or legislation, associating with an advocacy/trade group gives you good talking points and the ability to shift the story to the advocacy group and away from your actual business location.

Your store will have a good perception within the vape community if vapers can see you are involved in advocacy. Good “street cred.”

It is strongly recommended that each member business have a dedicated person (jf different from owner) in your business who can oversee the membership and monitor our activities, calls-to-action, etc.

 

OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS:

 

SFATA.

Many of you have asked about our relationship with SFATA. The BEAA is in close contact with SFATA due to the fact that many members are also members of SFATA at the national level. At this time there is no official SFATA Alabama state chapter formed. This is something some members are considering/weighing independently of the BEAA, however the BEAA is able to help to facilitate. We can certainly discuss this topic more at the upcoming meeting and on the BEAA Member Facebook page.

Lobbying.

Angi Stalnaker has done a highly professional job for us over the last year with life-saving results, and she is interested in working with us again. Our plan is to renew our contract with her firm this month.

Tax Status.

Tax exemption for memberships is our goal this year. Our legal team is guiding us through the paperwork for 501-c6 non-profit status.

Payment Plans.

We are working to have it set up so that members can pay in automatic monthly installments should they choose.

DC Trips.

Members of the BEAA Board have twice visited Washington, D.C. along with advocacy representatives from neighboring states (also SFATA members) to attend talks, meet with the OMB, and get face time with Senator Sessions’ staff and other key officials, while officially introducing the BEAA and presenting documentation about the financial and legal realities of the vape industry in our state. These efforts in conjunction with our ongoing lobbying efforts have resulted in securing an Alabama co-sponsor for HB-2058.

Electronic ELECTIONS 3/6/16.

Monday 2-15-16 we will send out instructions for nominating people for BEAA board positions. If you are looking to get involved and/or take a BOARD MEMBER POSITION. . . NOW IS THE TIME. The voting date will be 3-7-16 (a week before the meeting). Voting will done electronically.

BIG Meeting 3/13/16.

This date marks the one year anniversary of the BEAA’s formation. Put this date on your calendars to meet in Birmingham at 2pm on Sunday, 3/13/16. Location TO BE DETERMINED.

THANK YOU. 

As you know, my business partner and I sold our operations to Vapor Corp back in November. Vapor Corp is a retail chain based in Florida operating under the name “The Vape Store.” To protect their interests, Vapor Corp of course plans to remain engaged in advocacy at the state and national levels. You will find good/helpful contacts at Vapor Corp. After March 13, I will no longer be directly associated with the BEAA, but everyone knows they can call if my help is needed.

It has been a true honor and pleasure working with such a fun and dedicated group of entrepreneur/activists. Thank you for letting me serve as president the first year. We can be proud that we came together, got the job done, and established something that will last. I look forward to seeing the BEAA accomplish much more, and hopefully while not under fire, this year.

KEEP FIGHTING FOR VAPE. 

This industry is saving lives, generating revenue, employing a lot of people, creating entrepreneurs, and boosting innovation. Saving lives, though. That’s all you need. Keep fighting for it. It’s a wonderfully revolutionary industry that will completely prove itself soon.

Sincerely,

Jake Waitzman