Today’s interview is with the real MVP Jason Kiang, how’s it going in the world of JMK?
Life is good being a vape bum. This industry allows a lot of individuals to be their own boss/own their own company and I have been fortunate enough to fall into this category. I have been doing JMK Tips full time for seven months now and having the option of not putting on pants some days is amazing! A lot of people don’t know this but I am a one man team (plus a machinist); I handle marketing, product development, order fulfillment, customer service and all the day to day responsibilities. This is great because I usually have a solid grasp of everything that’s going on and it allows me to interact with customers directly.
Can you fill the people in how you got started with JMK? (P.S what does the M in JMK mean? #vapenoobs)
When I first started vaping a few years ago, I was in the same boat as all the new guys… buying drip tips from other companies. I had accumulated a few “high end” drip tips and could never decide which to use for different reasons. One day, it was slow at work so I started designing a few drip tips in AutoCAD. Most were absolutely hideous and I probably couldn’t even give them away! I stopped by my friend’s machine shop where he taught me how to use a manual lathe. I banged out a couple prototypes but the only one that stuck was the Gaper L.
At that time, a couple friends and I started a local online vaping community called Chicago Vape Nation. I brought my long and shiny Gaper L to a meet and the homies were all about it so I made a few more. Interest started to grow and the rest is history!
“JMK” are my initials, as most of you have guessed. My full name is Jason Ming Dar Kiang (明達). I’ve used this handle/nickname on previous online forums so I just stuck with it!
What did you do before making JMK tips?
I went to school for mechanical engineering at UW-Madison. Straight out of school, I did some piping design work for the oil/gas industry. Following that, I did design and project management for an engineering company that catered to the food/pharmaceuticals industries. Nothing too exciting! However, having that background allowed me to design my own stuff and provide usable drawings to my machinist without having to farm anything out. I like to be as self-sufficient as possible because if I mess up, I have no one else to blame!
What are some of your hobbies outside of vaping, what are you doing when you’re not busy?
One of my main hobbies prior to vaping was cars. I was very involved in the local import scene for many years, helping to organize meets and moderating online forums. I dumped a lot of money into my car and I absolutely loved it. Just like the vaping community, the car community is very tight knit (at least that’s my experience) and I have made a ton of very close friends through that. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters to me.
Now that I’ve shifted my attention to vaping, my car is pretty neglected BUT it’s in the body shop right now getting some much needed body work. Note to low car drivers… Chicago roads suck!
I’ve also dabbled in photography but never got serious with it. I haven’t been blessed with the “photographer’s eye” so I just do simple product shots for my Instagram now. Haha. I am also a big fan of good whiskey and craft beer. I don’t think this needs much explanation! Is eating a hobby? I love food!
Cats or dogs?
Dogs all day!
I have an 8 year old Frenchie named Brutus. He loves to sit at my feet while I work and fart. I guess you could say that’s how we bond. Haha. He’s pretty loyal to me unless you have a treat in your pocket… if you do, you could easily steal him. Please don’t. Brutus was recently diagnosed with a fatal heart condition and is currently on a ton of heart medications. He has already lived past his “expectancy” per the cardiologist so please send your good vibes over here!
What are some of your favorite atomizers and mods that you like to pair JMK tips with?
I buy a lot of attys and mods… a lot of it is for pictures. Haha. However, attys that I always have built and wicked are:
- M Atty
- Competition Kennedy
Attys that still get some love but not as much:
- Inax 22
- Le Magister
As far as mods go, I like to use everything I buy but the most used are probably:
- Elite v2 (my blue one with the large screen DNA40)
- Kitchen v2
- Goliath (these little guys are awesome)
- SMPL (sometimes, you just feel like chuckin)
If we were to visit chicago for a day and you were taking us around, where would we go and where would we eat? FYI…We like to party.
Well, we would eat good for sure. The food scene here is fantastic and ever growing. A couple noteworthy spots:
- Au Cheval: double cheeseburger with thick cut bacon and a fried egg, chased with a fried bologna sandwich and craft beer
- Gilt Bar: steak tartar, bone marrow, Gunthrop chicken, truffle pasta, some Old Fashioned’s. Then head downstairs for more drinks and the occasional 90’s hip hop
- Bavettes: aged bone-in rib eye with a side of bone marrow… followed by drinks
- Shake Shack: just to show you it’s better than In’N’Out!
- Pequods: not deep dish pizza but you can skip that. This is a no frills pan pizza spot with caramelized cheese on the crust
There are a bunch more but we can go over them when you visit! As far as partying goes, I think I go clubbing once a year these days. Haha I will bite the bullet for Snob and get white-boy wasted if you come through. I prefer more chill spots like lounges and speak-easy’s though.
Can you describe the vape scene in Chicago, how different is it from others?
The vape scene here only really started about two years ago. It has grown exponentially since then, as with many other cities. The majority of shops here are super chill and are willing to help each other out. It’s definitely not a cut throat environment where every shop is only looking out for themselves. Sure, there is competition but it rarely gets ugly.
I can’t say I’ve visited too many shops outside of IL so it’s probably not fair of me to judge other cities’ scenes. I will say that many Chicago/IL shops can hold their own, whether it’s the décor, service and/or the products they offer.
Who has some of your biggest supporters been throughout this crazy journey? (We support you ;))
My biggest support as come from the city I call home – Chicago; to be specific, Chicago Vape Nation. Local shop owners have showed me a lot of love as well since I started JMK Tips. Many have been with me since day 1 when I had terrible margins and was a nobody. CVN and select shop owners have gifted me the opportunity to grow this company and expand my reach into what it is today. You won’t see me buying exotic cars and yachts any time soon though (unfortunately)!
The online vaping community has also been a huge factor in my success as well. I like to think JMK Tips has grown organically over the almost two year span. There are certain members in this community I will always be grateful to for helping me launch my products into the public’s eye. I don’t want to name names for fear of forgetting someone but I will always respect these individuals and I’m almost positive they already know this!
Now that I have a small following, I like to reciprocate the love that I received when I was starting out to other new companies (as long as their products are legit!).
What keeps you motivated making third party accessories for several different devices?
Once I started doing JMK Tips full time, it gave me a lot more free time to come up with new ideas and interact with my customers. A lot of my “side projects” are community driven and I think that’s why they have all been successful so far. At the end of the day, consumers drive this industry and if you aren’t listening to them, you might want to start! Also, it’s a good way to stay relevant and get more exposure as a brand.
The Doppel was my first side project, a replacement cap for the Derringer. Even though it was a low production run, I wanted to show the community I could offer something more than just a drip tip. Next came the Billet Box tips. I felt like there was a huge void in lower cost hybrid tips so I borrowed design cues from my existing, more popular styles and sold them at a lower cost. After that was the Machi rings. Everyone knows what a Bograt ring is and they are fantastic. However, they aren’t the easiest to get a hold of at times. I decided to release some with my own spin on them instead of just coming out with a product that looks like others that are already in the market. Next up was the M Atty integral tip. I did these because I love the atty and Matt is a homie. My latest side project are aftermarket Origen caps. It has been a little rough so far due to some machining issues but I have since then fixed everything going out and made sure any outstanding issues were addressed/taken care of immediately.
Top juices you’re currently vaping on and can’t put down?
My juice choices are all over the place. People say my palette is weird. These are some juices I always seem to have within arm’s reach lately:
- Screwbacco by The Steam Factory
- Lime-Apple Crumbs by Wanderlust Vapors
- Charles Dinsmore Reserve by Fu Man Brews
- Chewy by Teleos
Juices that will probably never leave my rotation:
- Engine #9 by Vape Storm
- The Good Life by Seattle Vapor Co
- Pistachio RY4 by Charlie Noble
- Vented (regular and barrel) by Alloy Blends
- VCT Reserve by Ripe Vapes
Do you enjoy watching people play with your tips? How does it make you feel that everybody loves your tip? *tips, sorry.*
Haha always! I think I’ve heard every tip joke out there… someone surprise me!
To be honest, I am super appreciative of everyone that supports me, whether they have zero drip tips or 30. Support is much more than just dollars to me. Being recognized by the OG’s and trendsetters in this industry is a very humbling experience. I have made some lifelong friends along this journey and it’s amazing that that’s common to many vapers!
What makes you a vape snob?
I have a love for aesthetically pleasing things and sexy wood. I appreciate innovation and well-crafted goods. I think those things alone qualify me as a Snob… vape or otherwise!
Definitely not an elitist though, I promise! Haha
Any last shoutouts before ending this? We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.
Hate doing this but since you asked, I will oblige. In no particular order…
Chicago Vape Nation & past/present admins (Vic Lee, Edwin “iTeo” GM, Tommy Truong, Emerick Corsi, Rex Quijano, Brian Krok, Tommy Wentzloff)
Local Chicago shops that supported me and helped launch JMK Tips (Vape312, Vape, Vape Scene, Rocky’s)
All the JMK supporters out there (shops and individuals)
All the IG homies that rep’d me in the beginning and still do (Steve Sanchez @worldwidevapers, Jan Halili @calivapers, Romonzo Kendrick @modhandcheck, Roy Mananquil@vapingroybot)
Quoc T MF’ing Ho for being the hype beast that he is
Dull Puckles for arguably getting me into the high end game
Roland Maximo for going out of his way to show me love in CA when I was a nobody
I know I’m forgetting people so I apologize!
Alright snobs, you heard the man, do you have a unique joke about his tip(s) that he hasn’t heard before? Post them in the comments below!