Are we closing down, what's going on with stock, will you get more X, how come you've not sent out an email in a while?
Those are the questions I've had the most recently, and to be honest, it's a mixed bag. It's not all bad news (and no, we're not shutting) but I wanted to send an update to let you know where things stand right now.
Basically: Under the Tobacco Product's Directive, it's getting harder and harder to keep going. Back in May last year things began with cross-border sales being banned in 12 EU countries, allowed in 8 countries (including the UK) and 8 countries not saying either way or offering no way to register our business with them.
Then in November the next stage of the TPD was implemented in the UK under the 'TRPR' and including a point that meant only products "that comply with all the requirements of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 can be manufactured or imported."
Where the cross-border bans cut us off from about 60% of our customers, the import ban in November closed us off from our American suppliers.
I'd hoped to have a whole bunch of stock in and be ready for November, but when it came down to it, May's change took a much bigger toll than I was expecting and I just didn't have Spiritus ready.
Things weren't helped by Epic Juice, Outbreak, Nicoticket, Kite in Cloud and The Artist Collection either stopping their UK wholesale, or closing down completely. These were some of my favourite brands, and the missing shipping destinations and lower stock levels led to a fairly difficult second half of 2016 and a lot of stress.
That stress was something I didn't deal with particularly well. When I first launched Spiritus it was because I'd found some amazing American flavours and I wanted to share them. Things grew and I was able to make Spiritus my full time job, to move to Bournemouth and grow the team, and to spend more time with my young children than I could possibly have hoped - it's been a fantastic journey and a wonderful force in my life - running Spiritus has changed me in ways I couldn't have imagined. When things started to get hard, then harder, and harder still, I struggled to keep up, to stay positive, and to keep things going properly.
The great irony of course is that whilst I've kept myself incredibly well informed about the Tobacco Products Directive and everything I needed to do keep things successful; I've just not been able to do those things.
Of course it's not all down to the TPD, I've made mistakes and there are things I'd change given the chance, but here we are; at the start of 2017, not really sure what the year is going to bring.
You have helped me live a life I could only have dreamed of. It's not lavish or outlandish - I still live pretty simply and drive a pretty beat up car - but you've given me incredible amounts of time with my children, that's something I wanted to thank you for. Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.
The plan now is to try to sell through the US stock that we have and gradually replace it with TPD compliant stock as we get closer to May 2017 where all non-compliant products are fully banned. With luck, I'll be able to do it.
It's going to be a journey, and one that I need you to be part of. I know we're just a little website, but please don't give up on us.