Anyone can become a millionaire, you just have to work harder than everyone else.
As founder/CEO of Propaganda Premium E-Liquid, Nicholas DeNuccio is a 23 year old entrepreneur with a passion for creating original, innovative brands in disruptive industries like the rapidly growing vape business.
In 2014, he dropped out of college to start Propaganda with $200 and a clear goal: to be one of the top-selling premium e-liquid companies in the world. After months of research and design time, he and a partner developed three initial flavors–each featuring high-quality ingredients at just the right percentages to create what is known as an “all-day vape.”
Fast forward to 2018, Propaganda currently manufactures and distributes five distinct e-liquid lines available in 5,000+ vape shops across the U.S. and in 40 countries around the globe. DeNuccio now oversees more than 30 millennial employees who handle everything from flavor development, production and sales to accounting, customer relations and fulfilment while he continues to personally spearhead all of the brand’s varied marketing campaigns.
Where did the idea for Propaganda Premium E-Liquid come from?
It was January 2014 and was about to start a new semester of college. I was only a freshman but was already feeling restless and ready to embark on an actual career. Since my main goal was to launch and run my own company, I decided that maybe the traditional school route wasn’t necessary. I began to research potential business possibilities for a young entrepreneur like me. I quickly recognized an opportunity to capitalize on an emerging product category I was already intrigued by as a consumer: e-liquid flavors for the trending vape industry.
Once that was determined, I recruited a partner and invested $200 in ingredients and materials purchased online. In my parents’ kitchen, the two of us spent nine months in research and design to develop three initial flavors, each featuring high-quality ingredients at just the right percentages to create what is known in the industry as an “all-day vape.”
When we were satisfied with our results, we launched our brand with an edgy name and a logo that reads across every platform. After this was in place, we began grassroots consumer and custom retailer/distributor campaigns. We literally went door to door to vape shops around the country. Soon, we were selling in more than 200 retailers nationwide. Everything else just grew exponentially from there.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day always starts at the gym where I’m not only able to lift weights and do cardio, but collect my thoughts and analyze my plan of attack for the next 24 hours. After that, I head straight to the office to answer the proverbial hundreds of emails, solve any immediate challenges as needed, and obtain the latest progress reports during meetings with my heads of finance, sales, production, customer service and the like. I’m very hands-on so scrutinizing these reports and then providing strategic input to each department is a part of my daily routine.
I also handle all of the company’s marketing, which means that at least a few hours of each day are devoted to dreaming up new trade and consumer campaigns and then overseeing the execution of them. This involves everything from collaborating with our graphic artists on new package designs and premium items to supervising our social media team on our next Instagram contest.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ultimately, my ideas need to either improve our customer’s vape experience or fill a void in the industry. Ideally, they do both. With this in mind, the process always starts with a brainstorm session where I present my raw ideas to the executive team and we then conceptualize on how to transform them into something viable for the market.
After a few such meetings, we test each idea with a consumer and/or retailer survey administered by our customer service department. Based on feedback, we continue to refine and hone the concept. We repeat and rinse this procedure, which usually involves revising it about 100 times, before it’s ready to be officially released.
For example, we noticed last year that a lot of our e-liquid competitors were ripping off licensed mainstream candy brands (i.e. Skittles) in their flavors. We strongly disagreed with this strategy and decided we should spoof it in some way. That’s how The Hype Collection, which was one of our best releases to date, came about. We spent about 10 months brainstorming different ways to riff on our competitors and ultimately came up with Cotton Candy and Rocket Pop flavors. They are meant to sound like fake candy brands. (Hence, the title “The Hype Collection!”)
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m excited about a number of trends both in my industry and in business in general. In the vape world, I love the latest pod device craze. Pod mods are pocket-size, allowing vape discretion in public places, as well as user-friendly, so perfect for the rookie! Given their simplicity, these devices are already attracting tons of new customers. I think they will just continue to do so over time.
As for overall business trends, I’m constantly excited by the latest marketing strategies and techniques. I am very excited right now about how fast you can reach your consumers through social media engagement.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My (ahem) more mature buddies at Equinox think it’s astonishing that a young guy like me reads in the sauna every day. But I love reading and sweating at the same time! It’s quiet in the sauna, too, which gives me time to focus and gain new knowledge about all the different subjects that interest me.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Spend time with people who inspire you, not people you inspire.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Anyone can become a millionaire, you just have to work harder than everyone else.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly remind myself that I am still learning and evolving. The second I get cocky, and think I have everything covered, is the moment I stop growing. You are always growing as an entrepreneur and a human being.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am a firm believer in sales and marketing personalization. From asking for the latest updates on their families during routine sales calls to sending custom birthday gifts, we make it a point to get involved in our clients’ daily lives. But it’s got to be genuine. We truly want to develop a meaningful friendship with them.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Last year, I was presented with an opportunity to be a silent partner in a friend’s business. I would provide the funding, but would not be involved in the day-to-day operation. Because they were close friends, I wanted them to succeed and didn’t properly vet their business model. It was a disaster and I lost a fair sum of money. But I view it is a valuable learning lesson and won’t let my emotions shade my investment decisions in the future.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My grandfather was passionate about the real estate industry and so am I. He used to say that consumers will always need a roof over their heads, so housing will never go out of style. Ditto for office space of course! One of his visions was to create a residential community with a massive, shared kitchen. Not just any old kitchen either. It would feature a five star chef for example. He had tons of progressive ideas like this and I’m currently examining them all.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m a sucker for buying toys for my two French Bulldogs, Booger and Honey. I get a monthly “Bark Box” subscription for them, which features everything from giant tennis balls and plush replicas of food to the latest in treats for pets. I don’t know who gets more excited about the deliveries—the dogs or me!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Without a doubt, that would be Evernote, which keeps me track on a daily basis. It is a full organization app that allows you to create tasks, share projects, and set reminders.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Hands down, the most influential book I have ever read is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by one of my mentors, Dale Carnegie. The book, which Carnegie wrote in the 1930s, taught me how to leave a personable impression, diffuse a tough situation, and just be more likeable in general!
What is your favorite quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
• Organization is key to an efficient operation. And the most efficient you are, the more profitable your company will be.
• Thoroughly test your ideas before officially launching them. Just because you like something, doesn’t mean anymore else will.
• Embrace your failures as opportunities to improve. Everyone fails. It’s all about how you rebound, learn from the experience and move forward.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.