Rodney Jerabek has had a long love affair with flavor. Having traveled extensively, Jerabek has a palate that has been refined by cuisines, wines and spirits experienced around the world. In 2012, he was approached by a businessman who was looking for someone to help him market a disposable electronic cigarette product. Before this meeting, Jerabek occasionally smoked a cigarette or cigar, but holding the product in his hands made him realize electronic cigarettes could bring about positive change in people’s lives.
Jerabek went on to launch Five Pawns, a globally recognized, award-winning premium e-liquid brand. Five Pawns’ handcrafted, small-batch, premium e-liquids play with the five tastes known to the human palate: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory. Tobacco Business spoke with Jerabek about Five Pawns and what inspired him to make the leap from branding and marketing to that of a premium e-liquid manufacturer.
Tobacco Business: Why did you decide to start your own business?
Rodney Jerabek: I’ve always been an entrepreneur, but truth be told it was just after my father was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer that I started Five Pawns. His particular form of cancer was not smoking related, but founding Five Pawns became my outlet. It became a way to divert my feelings of grief and fear and repurpose that energy toward helping others. I wanted to make my father even more proud than he already was, and prevent others from feeling the way I did. He was Five Pawns’ biggest fan and got to see the success before we eventually lost a best friend, father and mentor.
When faced with obstacles and challenges, what motivated you to continue to push forward?
Again, I pushed forward to make my dad proud during his time with us. It also allowed us to involve him by listening to his guidance and working with one another. Since he’s left us, the focus has shifted toward harm reduction and it’s been extremely satisfying to see millions of people convert[ing] to this harm-reduction technology.
Yes, we have challenges and obstacles today due to regulation, but I’m still passionate about what this technology has the ability to do in a post-regulation era. I’m actually for reasonable regulation of our industry, and Five Pawns is confident about the pathway we’re laying out to the FDA for our PMTAs later next month. We’re all in with this process and remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll continue to deliver products to our consumers long into the future.
With so much competition in the vape industry, how do you manage to maintain market share among your competitors?
We just put the blinders on and do what we do best. We don’t get caught up with what the competition is doing, and [we] focus our efforts on producing the best product we can with the best possible customer service to back it up. We’ve created a lifestyle brand and we’re grateful that others appreciate our effort.