The Advantage of a Disadvantage: Mike Edwards and Airreys Cigars

Olympic dreams led Mike Edwards to start his own lifestyle brand. Learn how adversity and challenges fueled his entrepreneurship and the development of his cigar brand.

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How are you weaving or blending your heritage into your tobacco products?
In all my products, I’ve blended in my heritage in some sort of fashion. However, my latest Aireyys Roots cigar is on a different level. The premium wrapper used for this cigar is grown in West Africa Cameroon, next door to my mother’s homeland of Nigeria. I’m so proud that I’m able to showcase such a genuine product like this to the world.

What advantage do you believe diversity provides you and your business?
Diversity is a huge advantage. The cigar culture for many years has been known as an old men’s club, but in recent years there’s been a dramatic increase in the cigar smoking community, including women. I’d say I’m a market disruptor, simply [due] to the fact that even with the new advertisement laws and regulations of tobacco goods, Aireyys still has a strong global presence, and it is already Britain’s largest cigar line.

You just mentioned Aireyys’ global presence. How has taking an international approach to your business helped you to grow it? I’ve always seen myself as a global citizen. It’s allowed me to grow and learn from like-minded individuals. I’ve applied this same approach with my business.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned while building the Aireyys brand?
Sometimes your disadvantage can become your biggest advantage.

What’s the best piece of business advice someone’s ever given you?
It’s from Les Brown, who said, “It’s not over until you win.”

If you had to give someone three tips for how to build and maintain their own personal brand like Airreys, what would those tips be?
Study your competition, don’t be afraid to have an opinion, and find what makes you different and embrace it.

This story first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

– Story by Antoine Reid, an editor and digital content director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid. Photos by Photos by Arnab Ghosal.