In the male-dominated cigar industry, twin sisters have set out to blaze a trail for their business, Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars, while at the same time celebrating the vast shades of women in the African diaspora.
For sisters Yvonne and Yvette Rodriguez, finding an industry to be passionate about was as simple as merging what they did for fun, to what could potential turn a profit.
“We’ve been cigar smokers for a good amount of years,” said Yvette, as she described one of her motivations for going into business with her sister. “The opportunity came to think about another business to start, we looked inward and we said ‘What do we love doing? What would we do anyways? What could we market?’ And, we decided on cigars.”
According to the sisters, most of their business comes from black Americans. Tres Lindas Cubanas, which was named after a Cuban song and translates to three pretty Cuban girls, also serves as homage to the variety of shades of black women across the world and the complexion of the three blends of cigars available through their brand.
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“We came up with three different blends, because it’s three different girls in the song,” Yvette said. “We wanted to celebrate the Afro-Cuban woman … La Negrita, a darker-complexioned woman; La Mulata, which is like a blend between light skinned, dark skinned; and La Clarita, which is a lighter-skinned woman.”
Joseph Gebara, 42, of Miami is a loyal customer:
“I love the line, all three blends,” said Gebara, who often buys the sisters’ cigar brands. “My favorite by far is La Mulata, great at any time of the day. Smooth, flavorful and a great smoke. The perfect after-dinner cigar with my coffee.”
The Rodriguez sisters have their cigars produced in Nicaragua. They are sold in six states across the country, 15 shops in total. Locally, their brand is sold in four or five shops including locations in Miami Gardens and Little Havana.
The sisters say development for their venture began in 2013 and officially launched in 2014. When they first began the business, they had ordinary concerns like any other entrepreneur, but they were able to keep a clear focus on the clientele they wanted to attract.
“As far a business sense, we knew that we had strong marketing,” Yvette said. “We knew that we were unique, period. There are thousands of cigar brands and we worked on the blends, but we did have reservations because we didn’t know who our target market was going to be … we wanted the everyday smoker.”
The 36-year-old sisters are black, of Cuban descent and first-generation Americans. Their culture plays a big part in their style as entrepreneurs, they say.
“We grew up with the image of Cuba,” Yvonne said. “We fell in love with Cuba from all of the stories that our parents would tell us, my grandmother, she never learned how to speak English at all. We learned a lot of the customs at a very young age. We wanted to launch a business that would honor our ancestors.”
Ultimately, the sisters said they feel their brand has a unique position in the industry.
“I feel that it has been a way to engage people in knowing about Cuban history, Afro-Cuban history,” Yvonne said. “They always want to know more about us. It opens up lines of conversation.”