The Story of a Family Business
iBreathe is a leading UK-based manufacturer of electronic cigarettes (eCigarettes) and refill liquids (eLiquids). The firm was honoured to win the UK’s Leading E-Cigarette Brand – 2017 accolade, as part of the 2017 Corporate Excellence Awards. To celebrate, we interviewed the firm’s Director & MD, Bilal Rahman who provides a flavour of their highly sought-after products.
iBreathe is a leading UK-based manufacturer of electronic cigarettes (eCigarettes) and refill liquids (eLiquids). They were one of the first companies in the UK to provide this innovative and highly sought-after product to the public. The firm’s Director & MD, Bilal Rahman provides some background to their work and explains the tremendous success they are enjoying today, as the interview kicks off.
“The business is family-owned and was launched by my brother, back in 2009. He sold a small selection of eLiquids to local retailers and the brand quickly gained in popularity. Before we knew it, a few hundred units turned to thousands of units. Today, iBreathe remains a wholly-owned family business, has over 50 employees, along with manufacturing facilities in the USA and China. In addition, Europe’s largest wholesale vaping hub opened in Manchester, back in 2016.
“We’ve experienced year-on-year growth and are currently looking at expanding our business further, by setting up a manufacturing facility here in the UK. iBreathe products can be found in convenience stores, service stations and local retail stores throughout the UK, currently standing at 4000 and growing continuously. Customers can also purchase iBreathe products directly from us, at iBreathe. co.uk. Buying directly from us has advantages – such as gaining loyalty reward points, special offers and free delivery on all orders – with no minimum spend.”
At present, iBreathe offers a range of eCigarette devices from a simple and easy-to-use starter kit, to a well-rounded premium kit and advanced kits, designed for those who want lots of vapour. They also sell the separate components to these devices, should they need replacing, Bilal tells us.
“Alongside the hardware, we offer one of the largest selection of eLiquids in the UK. We currently have two ranges of eLiquids – a high PG range designed for use with starter eCigarettes and a high VG range – designed for use with the advanced kit. These two ranges alone comprise of over 88 flavours and they are available in various nicotine strengths, including zero nicotine. We’re also working on two new and exciting ranges to add to our line-up, which will bring the total number of flavours to over 200. All our devices come with a 30 days’ functional warranty. Should customers experience problems with their eCigarette device, we’ll either repair it or replace it for a new one, free of charge.”
Bilal is keen to tell us how it feels to win the UK’s Leading E-Cigarette Brand – 2017 accolade, as part of the 2017 Corporate Excellence Awards.
“This is a great achievement for iBreathe and its employees, a testament to their commitment and dedication over the years in ensuring that the brand is one that customers both love and trust. It’s a very proud moment for myself and the iBreathe Team. It proves to us, that with hard work and determination, we can achieve the goals set when the firm was launched in 2009. What’s more, this award will motivate us to push the boundaries of excellence even further.
“This award also means continuing to do what we’ve been doing, since iBreathe was first launched. It tells us that customers aren’t willing to purchase the cheapest products on the market and put their health at risk. We will continue to invest in testing and R&D, ensuring that our products meet the highest standards of quality in terms of both safety and consistency. We will continue to run our business on the simple principle, of never taking any shortcuts.
“2016 had been a very difficult year for the industry, as all eCigarette suppliers implemented changes in their products to comply with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Ensuring compliance meant
businesses took a financial hit and consequently, indeed many have raised their prices as their overheads increased, or worse, have gone into liquidation.
“The entire iBreathe team worked tirelessly for months, to ensure that the business was ready for May 2017, the date on which the new laws came into effect. Our customers, particularly the passionate vapers, were aware of the shake-up in the industry and had raised their concerns. Would their favourite flavours remain available to purchase? Will 10ml be less cost-effective than the larger 30ml? We ensured that these questions and many others were communicated both clearly and concisely.”
When undertaking a new project, Bilal walks us through the steps iBreathe takes to ensure that clients receives the best possible outcome. He also reveals the firm’s overall mission and how this is achieved.
“Through brainstorming in focus groups and seminars, we’ll identify a gap in the marketplace. This could be to launch a new eCigarette device with new features as requested by our customers, or simply a brand new eLiquid flavour.
“When an idea for a product is conceptualised, our engineers produce samples, after which the firm spends weeks rigorously testing them. If we’re not satisfied with a product, we’ll scrap it entirely and it will never go into production. It’s not uncommon for us to invest heavily into a new product, but then scrap the idea at the last minute. Whatever the project, we ensure that it’s one that will enhance the vaping experience, for all customers.
“Since 2008, when eCigarettes were first introduced to the UK marketplace, an opportunity had emerged for unscrupulous retailers to sell unregulated eCigarettes and eLiquids to the public. These products had soared in terms of both demand and profitability. These suppliers had often spared expense – in areas such as testing and compliance – thus putting the public’s health at risk for their own financial gain.
“iBreathe identified a gap in the marketplace – to offer eCigarette products that are free of all harmful ingredients and are safe to use. We achieved this by spending heavily on both research and development, as well as getting every batch of eLiquid tested for both safety and consistency.
“We also strive to offer industryleading customer service. We have a dedicated customer service team, who are also passionate vapers and therefore extremely experienced and well-equipped to answer any questions that the customers might have. Ultimately, the firm’s mission is to be a brand that customers both love and trust.”
Bilal then highlights what sets iBreathe apart from their competitors.
“Having launched in 2009, iBreathe became one of the first eCigarette providers in the UK. With over eight years’ experience in industry, iBreathe is perfectly placed to lead with both innovative and safe products, that set a benchmark for competitors to follow. We’ve been around longer than most others, so we know the products, customers and the industry extremely well.
“As part of our commitment to being the most trustworthy brand – that offers the most reliable products – the firm became a member of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) in 2013. In the eyes of our customers – we were seen to be a firm that refuses to take shortcuts – by spending heavily on safety, testing and continuously acquiring the most up-to-date information on regulations.
“iBreathe’s eLiquids are formulated in-house and not by a third-party manufacturer. The flavours our customers purchase are unique, unlike many other companies that sell premade eLiquid and simply rebrand the packaging, with their own logo on it. “
Bilal then offers his thoughts on the wider industry challenges, as well as the specific ones faced by the firm. He also reveals the firm’s techniques used to stay ahead of any emerging industry developments.
“Whilst iBreathe was founded in the UK and remains a British firm, we have a global footprint providing eCigarette products to customers, as far away as New Zealand. The UK remains our biggest market and as of May 2017 – the industry faced its biggest challenge yet – complying with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
“There are some challenges we face, when selling nicotinecontaining products to our international customers. Some face restrictions on the quantity of nicotine they can purchase in a single order and these are governed by their home authorities in customs and border control.
Some countries do not permit the import of nicotinebased products altogether.
“Being part of ECITA ensures we have up-to-the-minute information on potential changes in legislation and the industry. This has allowed us to review our business processes and adapt well, in advance of our competitors. We design everything in-house, which gives us an edge over our competitors. This means we can come up with innovative ideas – that go from concept to completion – in just a matter of weeks instead of months or even years.”
Bilal then details the firm’s internal culture and how all staff are equipped to provide the best possible service to clients.
“As cliché as this might sound, iBreathe really is a family business. It was launched by my brother back in 2009 and he quickly got the rest of us on board, as the demand for iBreathe products grew more rapidly. Over eight years later and with a continuously growing workforce, that family culture is still very much apparent in our offices.
“We adopt a very relaxed working environment. In fact, most of our employees are passionate vapers and they can often be found mixing new flavours, discussing the next ‘big’ flavour and generally bouncing ideas from one another creatively. They get to try all the latest devices, share their views on what works and what doesn’t. The iBreathe team members are true experts in all things vaping.
“This passion for vaping and loyalty towards iBreathe, can be clearly seen in the customer service that we offer. We don’t outsource our customer service with a third-party contact centre. When a customer calls for help and advice, they are put through to a member of staff at our UK head office. That way, they can be sure to receive the best and most accurate advice available.”
In closing, Bilal reveals what the future holds for iBreathe, over the coming months and years.
“We are very excited and optimistic about the future, especially having received the UK’s Leading E-Cigarette Brand – 2017 award. The eCigarette industry is still relatively new and it would be naïve of myself and others in the industry to become complacent. As we’ve seen with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), further legislation could come into effect, possibly with very little notice. It’s therefore important that iBreathe continues to look at new ways to improve the business, so that we’re prepared for anything that comes our way.
“With the TPD changes out of the way, we’re now focussing on setting up our UK manufacturing facility and for everything else, it’s business as usual.”
Name: Bilal Rahman
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.i-breathe.co.uk
Address: Unit 3, Edelle Business Park, Quebec Street, Oldham, OL9 6QJ UK
Telephone: +44 (0)845 388 9005