By Cheyenne Majeed, Howard University News Service
The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) launched the beginning of their engagement and educational series on cigars with owners Yvette and Yvonne Rodriguez, two first-generation Afro-Cuban American twin sisters who reign as the first and only black women-owned cigar brand in the United States, on September 6 at PCA’s townhouse in D.C.
The sisters were influenced to start their own business by their grandmother whom they grew up watching smoke cigars.
“Everybody loved being around her. She smoked cigars, she was very feminine also and had a very strong personality. She was always laughing. That was such a strong impression to my sister and I,” Yvette, who operates the media and public relations of the business, said.
Tres Lindas Cubanas, the name of their brand, is an old Cuban song which translates to three pretty Cuban girls which prompted them to create three different blends of cigars—La Negrita, the darkest blend; La Mulata, the medium blend; and La Clarita, the lightest blend. Profoundly enough, they created each blend to highlight and celebrate the different shades of black women.
Although they are Miami-based, their cigars can be found in a number of different shops throughout the U.S. in Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Maryland.
“It really shows that the cigar industry, the older generation and the newer generation, we’re going in the right track. I have no fear and I’m happy that we have a lot of support as far as fighting for our rights also. If she[grandmother] was here she would be going crazy. Hugging and kissing everybody,” Yvonne, who operates digital media and sales of the business, said.
Although their brand resonates with Cubans, African Americans have become their biggest consumers.
“We want to be celebrating black in our business. We also put out there in the universe that we want our cigars to be in black owned cigar shops” Yvette said.
Tawana Brown, who lives in Virginia and has been smoking cigars for seven years, explained why the sisters’ presence in the cigar industry provides important representation. “There are very few cigar brands that are owned by women and it’s almost obsolete that they are owned by black women. So, to be able to see yourself in a culture that you love, it’s amazing,” Brown said.
With the many conversations going and the cigar smoke in the air, Dr. Keenan D. Hale, Sr., an avid cigar smoker from Atlanta delighted at how such a product can bring such diversity to a room. “To be in this type of space, shows the commonality that how an item such as a cigar can bring people together and you can forget about the skin tone. It allows us to just be who be who we are,” he said. In addition, he can’t wait for the Rodriguez sisters’ cigars to start selling at his shops back home.
Given this was their kickoff event, PCA wants to continue to make their spaces as welcoming as possible. “We want to be a resource to members of Congress, we want to be a resource to the administration and average people that enjoy premium cigars,” Joshua Habursky, director of federal affairs said. “You go around the room here and everyone will sit and talk to you. We want to create an atmosphere and a space where people can talk meaningfully.”
They may not own their own cigar shop, but it certainly has not stopped their profits. “We’re shifting out mind frame a little bit to be more open to other possibilities,” Yvette said given people are always asking about their own potential shop. “We have a brand of cigars so that we’re always in a cigar shop.” But the idea to have their own isn’t far fetched.
As far as goals, their aim is to sit on more panels discussing entrepreneurship, women in business, and being Afro-Latina women professionals while dominating the industry one cigar at a time.