An Interview With Sky High Smoke Shop
Glass fans of all stripes have been buzzing about skyhighsmokeshop.com for a while now, so I knew it was only a matter of time (or timing) before I sat down with skyhighsmokeshop.com CEO John Shamamyan.
Mr. Shamamyan isn’t what you’d expect in a CEO of any kind, perhaps not even an online head shop. He shows up to our meeting in jeans and sneakers, and looks young for his twenty five years. To say that he was not what I expected was an understatement. But defying expectations can be a good thing in the business world.
I spent a good long time picking Mr. Shamamyans brain—he prefers to be called Luke, by the way. Here are some highlights of our conversation:
Q: So, how did you get into the head shop business? Did you get your start online or was there a brick and mortar beginning?
A: We actually started in a brick and mortar store, but right from the start, I saw the immediate potential for an online storefront, so the online shop followed literally right after.
Q: Why glass? Was starting a headshop always your ambition or was it something you fell into?
A: One of my best friends approached me on the idea of starting a business. It was just a vague idea. He had no idea where he wanted to take it, just that it would be a cool way to make some money together. We threw around a few ideas, but they just didn’t feel right. Ultimately, I was on a trip to California when I visited a headshop for the first time and that was the inspiration. It just felt right.
Q: What do you think the main driving force has been behind skyhighsmokeshop.com’s success?
A: That’s not a mystery. It’s a little bit of hard work and a lot of dedication to our customers, especially in meeting their understandably high standards. We want to supply them with products they actually want to use and go above and beyond in customer service—and I think those commitments are the biggest thing that sets us apart from competitors.
Q: Did you always want to start your own business or did you have different ambitions?
A: In college, I actually studied computer programming. I was hoping to get into the indie game business, making cool, edgy games the real nerds want to play. But after college, my interests veered more towards the business sector and I sold my first business while still in my twenties. This was why my friend approached me in the first place; he was under the impression that I’m some kind of expert in business, but I’m not. I just know what has worked for me, and I apply that actively to businesses I create. There is no business background or proven formula I use; I just like to think that I’m good at putting myself in the customer’s shoes and understanding their wants, needs and values.
Q: So, this previous business. Is that what gave you the capital to start the current one?
A: Out of respect to my business partners past and present, I don’t want to go into too many details, because they live private lives, but in a short word, yes—it’s definitely one of the things that enabled me to start skyhighsmokeshop and get it to this level of success.
Q: Tell me about your values. You mentioned putting customers first, but do you have any other values that help put you on top?
A: High quality standards are key for product selection. We only supply American products, supporting American businesses and artisans. We only promote the best glass made out of the highest-grade materials—nothing we ourselves wouldn’t use.
Q: You’re really young in the world of successful CEOs. Did you expect to find success at such an early age?
A: Honestly, the goal was just to run a good business where our customers were happy enough with us that they become repeat customers. I never really focused on getting as successful as I can as fast as I can. That, to me, is a recipe for disaster, because it’s not putting the customers and the business first. Ultimately, I believe, if you want your business to truly succeed, it and your customers have to be more important than your own career milestones.
Q: If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
A: That’s an easy one: I would go back and start the online headshop a lot sooner. Our growth has been phenomenal, and it was honestly the best career decision I ever made.