Box Press Podcast

How To Start Your Own Cigar Brand (Feat. Platinum Nova Cigars) | Ep. 37

Voice Over: There’s a story inside every smoke shop with every cigar and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle at Boveda. This is Box Press. Welcome to another episode of Box Press. I’m your host RG with Boveda, and I’m sitting next to Leo from Platinum Nova Cigars.

Leonor Abzaradel (LA): Thank you, Rob.

Rob Gagner (RG): So if you haven’t noticed, Platinum Nova Cigars has made a big splash this year at IPCPR, really releasing an extensive line of  cigars, nine new cigars coming to market. You already came out with some limited editions about seven months ago. We’re in fact smoking one of the limited editions right now, the Legacy. Tell me a little bit about this cigar. It’s Box Press, i.e., we’re watching Box Press, it works out we’re listening on podcast. What is it about this cigar that makes it for us?

LA: Okay, you’re going to start with the beautiful smooth creamy, and then you’re going to jump for that spicy cinnamon, next thing you know, you’re going to back to the nice creamy and then you’re going to have another surprise, and then maybe a little bit pepper.

RG: Oh.

LA: Just let me know when you …

RG: So …

LA:… finish the cigar. (laughs)

RG: … good complexity.

LA:  Yes, 100%, yes.

RG: Gee, uh, we should be kind of seeing some kind of good rides …


LA: Yes.

RG : … in all of the flavors.

LA: Correct.

RG: Wonderful. Lea, tell us a little bit about where you grew up?

LA: My accent?

RG: Yes.

LA: I have an accent?

RG: You have an accent? You’re from Ohio, right?

LA: I’m from Ohio.

RG: (laughs)

Moving to NYC, Learning How to Be a New Yorker

LA: No, I’m from Uruguay. I was born in Montevideo. Uruguay is a very small country in South America, only 3 million people live over there, and I’m here. Now is less people. My background is from my mom from Russia and Germany, my father is Turkish. And everybody born in Uruguay, but I have a little bit mix in my blood. (laughs)

RG: Sure, good. Gives you that spicy mix.

LA: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s the funny part, the people don’t get it when I say, “I’m Latina”. “You speak, uh, Spanish?” “Yes.” “You don’t look like, uh, Spanish.” “Okay, what the Spanish look like?”

RG: Right.

LA: “Oh, no, no, no.” “Okay, let’s leave it like that.” (laughs)

RG : There you go. Set them straight.

LA: (laughs) Yeah.

RG: Set them straight.

LA: Correct.

RG: Leo, you grew up in Uruguay …

LA: Yes.

RG: … in a more …

LA: Small country, old-fashioned country. When I back to Uruguay, it stay exactly the same like, 25 years ago when I leave Uruguay. Nothing is changed. For me, a move from Uruguay to New York is a big, big change for my personal life.


It had to have been big, because, I mean, how many, what size population did you come from? Was it …

LA: 3 million. Of the country, it’s not city, it’s the whole country.

RG: (laughs)

LA: 3 million. (laughs)

RG: So, like, your town that you grew up in, was it, like …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … thousands of people or …

LA: Yeah, no, I’m in the city, the capitol.

RG: Okay.

LA: But it still is …

RG: It’s not, like, a hustle bustle fast pace …

LA: … no, no, no, no.

RG:  … like New York?

LA: You have enough space to run, nobody going to see you.

RG: So when you set foot in New York …

LA: Uh-huh. I say, like, “Wow” …

RG: … were you kind of shocked, and, like …

LA:… “Wow.” I feel, like, oh …

RG: Did you have to walk faster, like, pick up my pace …

LA: Oh, no, I, I don’t have to. The people push me behind me, and …

RG: … you’re getting pushed. (laughs)

LA: “Go, go, go, go, go.”

RG: You’re getting pushed.

LA:I say, “Okay, I just want to just pass my Metro card.” “No, go, go, go, go, I’m going to lose my train.” I said, “Okay, but I think there’s another train coming.” But it’s okay.

RG: Right. (laughs)

LA: And then I’m, I, I think I learned in the hard …

RG: Not for them, they got …

LA): … yeah, I learned in the hard way.

RG: Okay.

LA: Because at one point, you have to decide, back to your city, back to your country or just move.

RG: Learn to adapt.

LA: Move. Move. Like …

RG: Learn to adapt.

LA: … just keep running.

RG: Do you feel like New York makes you a little bit harder of a person?

LA: Oh, yes. Yeah.

RG: Okay, so you lose some of that, like …

LA: When I listen to that music by Frank Sinatra that’s says, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere” …

RG: Right.

LA: … it’s true. It’s 100% true.

RG: And why is that? Is it just because you have to change some of that …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … niceness.

LA: Yeah, you have to… New York change people.

RG: Right.

LA: I feel like that because not everybody can really run in New York. If you have to just be a little bit tough to running in a city like that.

RG: Get thick-skinned, get a little tough.

LA: And to be, correct, and to be someone at one point in a city like that.

RG: And there’s a difference between just being straight out rude, and also just holding your ground, like you said, being a little tough. So it’s, like, okay …

RG: … I understand you’re in a rush, but …

LA: Yeah. Yeah, okay …

RG: … you know, move along for you, but …

LA: … I have to learn that first. I have to learn, don’t push me.

RG: Right. Right.

LA: Sometime when I’m off, like, in New York, and I don’t want to go to the mall, for I’m so tired for the people push me.

RG: (laughs)

LA: I want to stay home. I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be ready for Monday.

RG: Well, you like that New York lifestyle.

LA: Yes.

RG: You sometimes miss it.

LA: Correct. That happened the first year. Next thing you know, I’m the person who pushes the person before …

RG: (laughs)

LA: … “Move, move, move, let’s go. I got to get to, I have to make money. Let’s go.” (laughs)

RG: Perfect. New York is definitely a city that takes a lot to, like you said, live there …

LA: New York give you a lot, and take a lot from you, too.

RG: … does it?

RG: It’s kind of draining?

LA: 50/50. 100%. You give a lot …

RG: Where did you feel the most drained?

LA: I believe emotionally, because you have to put behind your emotions. When something is wrong, you have to just think twice, don’t take it personal, and just keep moving.

RG: Yeah.

LA: Because people don’t have time to take anything personal.

RG: Right.

LA: If you’re feeling like you are soft, you’re done.

RG: You’re done. Okay.

LA: Like, I’m super soft, I’m, like, that is me.

RG: Yeah.

LA: But over there I have to be “No, I got it, I got it. It’s okay, no problem, I’m running.” (laughs)

RG: Right.

LA: Yeah.

RG: Right.

LA: That is my hard, my personal hard spot, and …

RG: So it challenges you personally. It’s, like…

LA: … oh, yes, yes.

RG: … expand on that. Like, how can I build some thick skin?

LA: Correct.

RG: How can I get through this?

LA: Now, believe me …

RG: Maybe, like …)

LA: … in the first, in the first six months, I just think twice that, you know what, Leo, is this really for you? But then I just think about my parents and believe in my decision. I have to stay here.

RG: Sure.

LA: I have to show to everyone I can do it.

RG: Yeah. You got to prove it.

LA: I have to. Yeah, correct.

RG: Yeah, coming from the Midwest, you know, Minnesota nice, I think I’d just get trampled on in New York. I’d be, like, “Oh, no, it’s okay, no, you go ahead, no.” And I would get nowhere.

I wouldn’t get on the subway, I wouldn’t …

LA: (laughs)

RG: … be able to get to work.

LA : You’re going to stay on the subway all day. (laughs)

RG: Yeah. Hi. I’m …

LA: Wait for passing Metro card. (laughs)

RG: … Oh, yeah. Oh, would you like me to pay your fare for you?

LA: “Oh, no, you can go first.”

RG: No way.

LA: “Oh, you need … I can put my,” next thing you know, you say, “Oh, I lose my whole day.”

RG: Yeah, right, no kidding.

LA: But at least I’m nice guy.

RG: Where was what, where was your first cigar experience, or where was your push to get into it?

LA: Okay, in my personal experience, I just, because my father. I can put it this way. Because my father. I’m the only daughter, and I have two brothers, and I see my brothers all the time have fun with my dad. I said, “What happened? I’m here.”

RG: Yeah.

LA: “Why do I have to stay all day with mom?”

RG: (laughs)


Smoking Your First Cigar with Your Dad

LA: I say, “Hm, I want to something in common with my dad.” And one of the three to my father come to be see me in New York, then let me look for a place to bring my dad so he can smoke. So my father smoke cigars all, all his life. I said, “You know what? Let me check.” I just check one nice place, I bring my dad, and next thing you know, I said, “You know what? Let me just start smoking to have a conversation with my dad.” Like, you know ….

RG: So did you start pre-smoking cigars before your father’s visit? Or did you start …

LA: No. I started exactly the …

RG: … right at the visit?

LA: … exactly the day I get …

RG: How was the first cigar?

LA: … oh, I …

RG: Were you struggling through it?

LA: … said, like, “Ooh”, I said, “eeyoo, what is that?”

RG: Oh, yeah, now.

LA: No way, ooh.

RG: (laughs)

LA: And then I said, like, “Ooh, mm, I really like it.” (laughs) And my father said, “Lea, uh, that is not a cigarette. You have to just smoke slowly, enjoy.” “Oh, okay, dad.” And next thing you know, he is start teach me the correct way …

RG: So he was teaching you.

LA: … yes.

RG: What a great bonding experience.

LA: But it, but it’s funny, for it’s, like,  did dad teach you the way to you’re going to drink tequila?

RG: Right.

LA: My father teach me the correct way to really enjoy a cigar. I have to know the way to enjoy a cigar.

RG: Right.

LA: I have to see the cigar, I have to look the cigar, I have to enjoy the ash of the cigar.

RG: Right.

LA: The flavors, everything. And the-

RG: So he said to take your time with it?

LA: Oh, yeah.

RG: What else did he, did he say anything else?

LA: Oh, my God, I fell in love with my, I fell in love with the cigar, and of course, I love my dad. (laughs)

RG: Right.

LA: But in this point, my dad, just kept his cigar collection to the side. He said, “Lea, you know you love it a lot, and you like it too much, my cigars, you know what? Just keep it on the side.”

RG: (laughs)

LA: Yeah, but it’s nice. It’s nice., smoking, and I just wanted to have a nice conversation with dad. And next thing you know, I’m fallling in love …

RG: Yeah.

LA:  … with the industry of the cigars.

RG: You wanted more quality time …

LA: Oh, yeah.

RG: … with your dad …

LA: And then I have to learn …

RG: … so you started smoking?

LA: … uh, more, I, I pushed myself to learn more, to have more things in common to talk with my dad. At one point, my father listened to me, so now I know more.

RG: Oh.

LA: And that is great. I said, “You see, dad?”

RG: The student becomes the master.

LA: You see? (laughs)

RG: You got to love it when that happens.

LA: Yeah.

RG: That’s great.

LA: That is fine.

RG: So you guys share in that bond together.

LA: Yes, yes.

RG: And it allowed you more opportunity to spend time with your dad.

LA: Correct.

RG: That’s wonderful.

LA: Now my brother starts jealous. That is right. (laughs)

RG: Oh, now you got him.

LA: Yeah.

RG: It sounds like you have a personality that likes to kind of push the limit.

LA: Oh, yeah.

RG: I like that.

LA: Okay, who’s the man now? (laughs)

RG: (laughs)

LA: It’s funny.

RG: To go from consumer liking the cigar, getting into it, and then all of a sudden saying, “I want to work in this.” What was that day like?

RG: Like, what sparked that? So there might be viewers out there that know that, “I would love to work in the cigar industry.” What do you have to do? What was the thing that they, that you did, that you were, like, am I going to go work retail, am I going to go …

LA: Okay, um …

RG: … what am I going to do to try to keep going in this?

LA: … first, I’m going to start learning every day on my own. Um …

RG: So practice on your own.

LA: … Google. Practice on my own.

RG: Learn about the tobacco …

How to Find A Job in Cigars

LA: Learn about the tobacco on my own, everything on my own. And then I say, “If I want to be in the cigar industry, I have to start from the first step.” First step for me is when I’m going to start working in one of the retail stores in New York.

RG: Perfect.

LA: Um …

RG: That’s where I started, retail.

LA:… okay. Retail.

RG: Get your feet wet.

LA:  Retail is the first great step, because you’re not only going to learn about the tobacco, you’re going to learn about many, many different brands. You’re going to pick the one you really like, and you’re going to take your profile. Like, nobody going to really say, “That is a good cigar. You have to smoke.” No. You know what you like. It can be a great cigar, but maybe you don’t like it.

RG: Right.

How to Sell Someone the Perfect Cigar

LA:  And then listen to consumer. When the consumer come to our humidor, and that, okay, “I’m looking for something, you know, I have a good day. I just wanted something like, nice to, to enjoy my palate, and enjoy my palate today.” I say, “Okay, great. Tell me about your day.” Listen, and then just give you the space to the consumer. Tell me about the day, I can really recommend a good cigar for him because I know that is smooth, creamy, up, down. Strong …

RG: Right.

LA: So I don’t want to give you one cigar that destroys his day.

RG: Exactly.

LA: I just want to keep in the same mood. Like, the most important I just keep repeating, if you want to at one point be in the cigar industry, and working in the cigar industry, you have to be a retail person. You have to work it inside sales person.

RG: So what I equate that to is being a good servant to people’s needs. Like you said, you ask them, what, what kind of day do you want?

LA: Oh, yeah, yeah.

RG:  What kind of smoking experience …

LA: For me, it’s super …

RG: … if you listen to that …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … and then take that in, and just like you said, push out a, a good recommendation. That’s where you’ve made …

LA: Correct.

RG: … the, the switch from consumer …

LA: To friend.

RG: … to …

LA: To future friend. To people …

RG: … yeah …

LA:  … that they are going to believe in you.

RG: … to helping other people …

LA: Correct.

RG: … continue to smoke cigars …

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: … and not be put off by it. That’s my favorite thing about cigars is …

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: … trying to take somebody who’s never had an experience with cigars and have them have a good one.

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: Or an educated one.

LA: Correct.

RG: And then from there to see them grow through that process. Because then they start, and they, like, before the student becomes the master …

LA: Correct.

RG: … they start to each other people. And it’s just this wave moment, the drop of the rock in the water, you know, the ripples going out.

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: That’s what I’d love to see. And I think all of us, even consumers, we need to keep that going. We need to keep understanding that we’re here for each other …

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: … to motivate each other … to try new things, and to have a good experience with cigars.

LA: Correct. (laughs)


Landing a Job in a Cigar Shop

RG: So you, you get your feet wet in retail, and now you’re in retail, and then you kind of move up into management, and other things of that aspect. And now here we are, and we’re …

RG: … we’re looking at starting our own cigar brand.

LA: Yes. (laughs)

RG: That’s, there’s a huge change there to say, hey, I know retail. I work …

RG: … for somebody else. There’s a lot of risk on the person you work for, because it’s their shop, it’s their store.

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: It’s their inventory, that’s, there’s hundreds of …

RG: … thousands of dollars in that. What made you …

LA: I just compare all the time wherever we are now, from where we come from, it’s, like, to be a good chef, you have to know the way to wash good dishes.

RG: Absolutely.

LA: You have to look at it like a good dishwasher, to at one point, you’ll be a good chef.

RG: Yeah. Right.

LA: We look at ourselves, and we are like that. We, started from retail …

RG: You have the foundation.

LA: Our foundation … is a foundation, like, we start really, really from, from zero.

And now wherever we are right now, and we’re not going to stop, we keep growing.

RG: Right.

LA: Uh, it’s because we wash good dishes.

RG: That’s a great analogy.

LA: We do good work inside of the kitchen. (laughs)

RG: You have the experience, you have the knowledge …

LA: Yes.

RG: … but you still have to take a calculated risk to get out on your own … and start your own brand. And now there’s sacrifices there.

LA: (laughs)


Biggest Surprise About Running Your Own Business

RG: What’s the number one sacrifice … that you realize, like, this was not expected?

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: I wasn’t expecting to have to give up this sacrifice.

LA: I’m not expecting to work 24/7—not only inside of the office. Always, answer questions. Feedback. People outside, you think everybody like you, but besides can like you he going to give you his own point, and you have to learn, to understand everybody have a different feedback. Never take it personally, and we are open just keep listen, and keep understanding and keeping improving every instant.

RG: You want to take in what the consumer’s saying …

LA: Yeah, 100%.

RG: … to try to improve your business.

LA: When we say 24, when I say 24/7, it’s because sometimes I see myself wake up at 2:00 AM in the morning …

LA: … and check my phone, check my Instagram account. I say, “Leo, you never used do that, because now I have to be on the top to the good and the bad feedback.

RG: Yeah, on social media, you, you’re want to engage with the customer.

LA: Correct. L00%, yeah.

RG: So if, if, if I’m …

LA: Take all of my time.

RG: … I’m your social media, engaging with Platinum Nova Cigars, it’s you I’m reaching?

LA: Yes.

RG: Wow. So there’s no one else behind the company as far as …

LA:  Hmm-mm.

RG: … working the business side of it, other than you two.

LA: Yes.

RG: So it’s not, like, a department is, is running your social media?

LA: No, we run the social media, we’re packing boxes, we’re delivering boxes, we shipping, we coming, we’re cleaning the ashtrays.

RG: I don’t know. Let me see those fingernails. Have you been packing …

LA: Oh, no. Oh, no, no. That …

RG: … I see cuts on your hands. You have been packing boxes.

LA: … that is to come into, to the cigar festival, to packing the last box.

LA: I don’t have nails, because I can’t. (laughs)

RG: Right.

LA: I don’t want to have nice, beautiful nails, because I’m working so hard. (laughs)


Perfecting the Taste of Cigars

RG: So you have a master blender, but how much of your role is going into blending each cigar? Are you in that process, saying I want this more, I want that more. What are you, what’s your role in that?

LA: Okay, we try all the cigars. We know when we did the first one. Sometime for a particular blend, sometimes, we make two cigars, three cigars. And say, “You know what, I like this blend, but in this size for this particular size, I just find more the kind of spicy I’m looking for.”

RG: Sure.

LA: Okay, we try before we say, “Okay, that is the one.” In particular I have the perfect example with my personal results.

RG: The Leo X?

LA: I make, I, I make everybody crazy in the family because …

RG:  Really?

LA: … I say, “Okay, a little bit more of that, no, no, no, a little bit less of that, no, no, no.”

LA: And they say, “Lea”, everybody say, “Lea, please.”

RG: They just want to make the cigar, right?

LA: It’s my, it’s my purpose. They want to make the cigar, they make …

RG: Yeah.

LA: … great cigar, but you know what, it’s not personal.

RG: And you’re …

LA: I have to bring my personal stuff.

RG: … right. It has to have your stamp of approval.

LA: Yes.

RG: And you’re probably talking about minor changes, right? So he might …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … think this is a minor change.

LA: Yes, uh, yeah, but for me …

RG: But for you, it makes a difference.

LA:  … it makes a huge difference.

RG: So you can taste that.

LA: It, it, it’s a little bit less of it, “Lea, really?” I say, “Yes.”

RG: But that’s the key, right?

LA: Now, that’s kind of why …

RG: Because in everything … even, like, when you start talking about professional sports. Heck, I think we’re, we’re here in the Rockies, they used to humidify the baseballs because it had a different effect.

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: And when you’re at that level … you’re, you’re dealing with very minor changes that can make a huge difference …

LA: Difference, huge difference.

RG: … in the outcome. Is going from good to greet.

LA: Correct.

RG: Right?

LA: And that is the point.

RG: Yeah.

LA: That is the point. We go from good to great from every part because we have a great, great people behind Nova.

RG: Yeah.

LA: But we want to all the time improve a little bit more. Make a difference. With a simple touch in each cigar, we’re going to make a huge difference.


Engaging with Cigar Smokers on Social Media

RG: We talked a little bit about social media and how you’re …

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: … so active in it.

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: You have quite the following, not only on Cigar Blondie.

LA: Uh-huh.

RG: Right?

LA: Yes.

RG: Plus the Nova page. But the hashtag “#Make Nova Big“, that’s brilliant. I love that.

LA: Thank you.

RG: But social media is kind of this dual, you know, like, responsibility. You said you’re waking up in the middle of the night, you want to know what’s going on.

LA: Yes.

RG: You want to engage. And, you know, so how has social media made it easier to engage with people right now as a cigar brand?

LA: Okay, first, I just keep Cigar Blondie on call for that is me. I want the people knows the real me, like, this is me. They …

RG: Your personal page.

LA: … 1, 100%, yeah. And then on the Nova, account, when we said with the hashtag, “#Make Nova Big”, I’m all the time say this, “We’re not going to make Nova big, we, like all of us going to make Nova big with the feedback, with the comments, with” ….

RG: Everyone else is going to help make Nova big.

LA: Oh, 100%.

RG: And so … it’s an homage to people …

LA: We’re going the good and the bad.

RG: … right.

LA: Good and bad. Everybody going to make Nova big.

RG: The hashtag is …

LA: We’re ready for the good or the bad.

RG: … yeah.

LA: We’re going to make Nova big.

RG: The hashtag almost is a nod back to the consumer saying …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … you’re responsible for helping us grow.

LA: Yeah, correct..

RG: If you like it …

LA: Yeah, you are part, you are part …

RG: Yeah.

LA: … you are part of the family to make Nova big.

RG: Right.

LA: For the reason all the time when somebody post any picture of Nova Cigar, I want to make sure, ask for permission and repost, because it’s a new family team. It’s another person come to our page. It’s like we make Nova big, make big, because our team is bigger and bigger and bigger.

RG: It’s really the advantage to grow …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … the awareness of the cigar brand.

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: Of Platinum Nova through social media. That’s one of the biggest benefits, right?

LA: Yes..

RG: What about some disadvantages, and not, it doesn’t have to be anything too specific. I know there’s always people that are going to comment on things, but …

LA: Okay.

RG: … the negative part is that you kind of …

LA: The negative part is the part when I wake up at 2:00 AM …

RG: (laughs)

LA: … to do a pee, and I …

RG: Yeah, right.

LA: … have to check my phone.

RG: You always have to be on point, right?

LA: Yes, I have to be on point.

RG: It takes up a lot of mind share.

LA: Yes, take a lot of …

RG: Takes a lot of time.

LA: … time of your daily basics for it, it’s time of the, of the week, on the weekend when our families say, “Okay, can you put the phone down?” I say, “Uh, no.” I say, “Lea, really?” “No.” For if somebody ask me a question, I have to be there to answer..

LA: And at least say, you know what? “I’m busy right now. I’m going to, I’m going to get back to you DM right away. Give me a few minutes.”

RG: Sure.

LA: Like, give us space.

RG: Right, on both sides.

LA: That is the point, give us space on the both sides..

LA: We post picture, we talk about our product, but we have to make sure we respond. We be there when the people ask questions.

RG: Right..

LA: That is super important. And for that or for this reason, is a negative part, I can say, is because we have to just take 24/7. Make sure we there for everyone.

RG: Right. If you were given an ultimatum, you can either be on social media or you can only be in person. You can’t be both. You can’t go to stores. You can’t do events.


Engaging with Cigar Customers in Person

LA: Uh, I don’t have to …

RG: You can’t be …

LA: … take, I don’t have to take too much.

RG:  … but what are you going to choose?

LA: Person, in person.

RG: In person.

LA: Yes.

RG: But is that the best choice for the brand?

LA: No.

RG Okay.

LA: And yes.

RG: So it’s a personal choice.

LA: Okay, just put in this way, for the brand Make Nova Big and post picture, is great. But I think we always want to just keep the personal touch. If at one point we have to decide, be behind of the phone or be in person, we’re going to sacrifice, but we’re going to be in person. Because that is the difference.

RG: It’s a huge community aspect …

LA: It, it, it, yeah, it’s, like …

RG: … as cigars are huge.

LA: … we don’t have no problem to, to travel all over. Because …

RG: Right.

LA: … we, like, we represent the brand different way. We don’t want to stay at home always. It’s, it’s nice, it’s comfortable.

RG: Yeah, right (laughs).

LA: You know what? It, it’s nice to be there, it’s nice to be there to talk with person face to face. Like, okay, “I know you’re right here, so can you just tell me what we can do, what we can put ourselves together again. What is your recommendation?”

RG: Right.

LA: That is my personal choice, personal decision, but I believe when you say, it’s going to affect, yes, it’s going to affect because we don’t want to have enough time in the social media.

RG: Right.

LA: But, the day has 24 hours. Believe me, we are still going to have time for …

RG: Yeah. Right.

LA: … social media. 100%. Yeah. The perfect example is when we be in Vegas, we don’t sleep.

RG: Right.

LA: We are 24/7 there, because we finish the show, we go upstairs, we change, we go downstairs. People in, in the lobby, when we go to the bathroom, unbelievable, they say, “Oh, my God, Lea.” I say, “Yeah.” “Uh, I want to ask” …

RG: (laughs)

LA: … “you something.” “Okay, let me wash my hands and we” …

RG:  (laughs)

LA: … “talk outside.” (laughs)

RG: Yeah.

LA: But it’s fine. It, it’s okay, and it’s great. It’s beautiful when the people, start notice the brand, when they notice the faces behind the brand.

RG: Right.

LA: You know, it’s, it’s a decision. If you want to be big and stay home, I’m respect. But if you go in one point, everybody want to know you, everyone want to share time with you, you have to be there.

RG: Absolutely.

LA: You have to be there.

RG: Plus, I think the in-person visit for me, like, we were at a shop yesterday, and …

LA: Yeah.

RG: … I, I was trying to find a place to eat, and …

RG: … you guys were there as well, and we were asking a local, and he’s, like, “Oh, go to this area, go there if you want that food.”

RG:I love that part of it, because now it’s a connection.

RG: It’s an opportunity to just … have a good conversation with somebody, but also learn from that.

LA: Mm-hmm.

RG: Well, you can’t do that, you can do it on social media, but it doesn’t have the same experience.

LA: Yeah, but it’s …

RG: There’s an energy there.

LA… it’s energy. When we go to New York, when we go to Colorado, when we’ve been in Las Vegas, we put in our social media, “we’re going to be there. We’re going to be there”, because people, “Oh, my God, oh, we’d love to see you.” “Okay, come here.” Where are you? I’ll go there.” “Oh, no, but I’m so far.” “No problem, I rent a car, I’m going to go to see you, because you want to see me. And I’m going to be there for see you. I would love to see you.”

RG: Absolutely. So with a brand new brand and brand new cigars coming out on the market, what are we looking for as the consumers? What things are you doing to always push the limits to deliver something to us that’s a little bit different or a little bit cutting edge? Where, what can we expect …

LA: Uh …

RG: … to see from Platinum Nova?

When You’re Building a Brand, Your Road is Always Under Construction

LA: … okay, I just can say something very simple and at the same time very powerful. The road is always under construction. This means, we’re going to keep working hard, we’re going to keep learning every day, and we’re going to listen everyone outside.

RG: So you’re always learning, you’re always …

LA: Oh, yeah.

RG: … constructing new parts …

LA: We’re always by construction.

RG: … to the whole …

LA: If we think we got it …

RG: … process.

LA: … no, just keep, just keep …

RG: Right. Keep moving that bar.

LA: … keep moving up, yeah. Yes.

RG: Moving that bar. And that, that bar that we’re moving is not only the types of tobacco that you’re going to be working with, but the different types of cigars you’re going to be producing for us?

LA: Correct.

RG: And the quality of those?

LA: More stuff’s coming.

RG: Wonderful.

LA: More good stuff’s coming.

RG: The line is beautiful. The colors are beautiful. The symbol, I just, the construction of everything, it’s hands down great. We love working with companies like yours. We really …

RG: … appreciate it. Thank you all for checking out another episode of Box Press. You know where to find Boveda, We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. If you have been listening to this podcast on a podcast platform, go to ahead and go over to YouTube. Check us out on YouTube, you can watch the whole episode right there on YouTube. Thank you all. Have a great day.




“We’re not going to make Nova big, we, like ALL of us, are going to make Nova big with the feedback, with the comments …. you are part of the family to make Nova big.” 

– Leonor “Leo” Abzaradel, CEO, Platinum Nova Cigars

In the spirit of go-getters putting something out into the universe to make it happen, Platinum Nova Cigars is sending out a message loud and clear to the cigar world with #MakeNovaBig.

Cigar smokers can indeed make a boutique brand like Platinum Nova BIG. Ask your local tobacco shop to bring in a box, so you can try a Limited Edition Platinum Nova yourself. Or order Platinum Nova by the stick from the company’s website. (Currently, it’s hard to get your hands on the Personal Reserve Leo X, Robusto, which is a nod to Leonor “Leo” Abzaradel.)

A Platinum Nova stick is a find for the adventurous cigar smoker. Launched in 2019, the brand now boasts 17 lines. Each smoke is its own blend, which features a unique combination of filler, binder and wrapper. No repeats mean that each stick delivers a distinctive flavor profile. Although Platinum Nova Cigars are all hand rolled in the Dominican Republic, the cigar maker selects tobacco from around the world.

And If You Like a Spicy Cigar

In 2021, Leo plans to release four new Platinum Nova blends—two Dominican and two Nicaraguan. Lovers of the cigar brand inspired Leo to create some new spicy cigars, she said.


How to Build a Career in Cigars

Leo got her start in the cigar industry as many do—working behind the counter. The Uruguay native sold cigars at General Cigar Co’s Club Macanudo, the tony cigar club in Midtown Manhattan. Then she moved up to the prestigious Nat Sherman’s Townhouse. And also managed Casa de Montecristo locations in New York City and Boca Raton, Florida.

“Retail is the first great step because you’re not only going to learn about the tobacco, you’re going to learn about many, many different brands,” Leo said. By sampling so many cigars, she explained, a tobacconist can really refine her own cigar palate. In doing so, she can recommend the perfect cigar to match any smoker’s mood.

And cigar lounges are also a perfect place to network—a cigar affords you time to talk, after all.  It was there that Leo made a connection with the cigar maker from Nova Cigars. She stepped in to build the brand. After a decade, she became the boss of the high-end luxury cigar brand, which is headquartered in Palm Beach, Florida.


Join Box Press Host Rob Gagner and SOTL Leo Abzaradel

This lady really knows her way around a turnstile and Metro card! Lean in for a delightful cigar conversation to learn:

  • What’s it like moving to New York City from South America (2:13)
  • Where should a woman start if she wants to smoke cigars (6:29)
  • How to sell someone the perfect cigar (9:53)
  • How she tweaks tobacco blends with a master blender (15:12)
  • How she connects with cigar lovers through her personal channel, Cigar Blondie and the brand’s #MakeNovaBig (17:12)