Making It Personal
    Tarazona is big on making his company as personable as possible. The company’s logo started off as a tattoo that he was going to get on his back. He wanted a really big eagle tattoo, and once he had it designed, he ultimately decided the tattoo would also work as a company logo. He had a friend who owned a sign company and asked him if he could make him a huge vinyl banner with the eagle tattoo on it. Once he saw it printed large, crisp and cleanly, he knew from that point onward that the tattoo was going to work well as his company’s logo.

    Almost nine years ago, Robert Caldwell invited Tarazona to travel with him and others to the Dominican Republic to visit a potential new manufacturing partner. The group visited Tabacalera William Ventura, a factory located in Tamboril, Dominican Republic. Since meeting the Ventura family on that trip, Tarazona has never looked back. Today, part of his company’s portfolio is handled by the Venturas in Tamboril, while the other part is handled in Nicaragua. Having a good relationship with factories is important, Tarazona explains. With a good factory behind you and your products, you can trust them to acquire the best tobaccos for your products and focus more of your time on other things important to your business.

    While much of Tarazona’s business relies on the involvement and input of others, one area that comes down solely to him is how his cigars’ blends are developed. Each blend in Tarazona’s portfolio is based on his palate. In his view, everyone has a different palate and different criteria for what makes a cigar good or not. When creating something for mass consumption, why try to gamble on what others may like when he knows for sure what he likes in a cigar? Tarazona prefers cigars that finish with no bite, dryness or bitterness.

    For each cigar Tarazona has released thus far, there’s a personal story that accompanies each. The first cigar Tarazona released was the Tarazona 305. He based the blend on what he liked at the time, though in retrospect he questions why he thought it to be a good idea to release a maduro cigar as his company’s first offering. Despite this bold move, the Tarazona 305 is his company’s best-selling cigar to date. Offered in four different sizes, the Tarazona 305 has a Mexican San Andres wrapper, Sumatra Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. When he was just 12 years old, Tarazona came across something that was named “X-T-C.” That name stood out to him as being cool, so he created the Tarazona XTC.

    Another way Tarazona makes his business more personable is through his use of social media. It’s through Instagram and other social media platforms that Tarazona connects with customers. Like many, he acknowledges that he’s not able to make it to every retailer or event, but he’s constantly connecting with customers online.

    “Because of social media, a customer that I’ve never met can hit me up and ask about our cigars or whatever it is,” says Tarazona. “I know so many of our customers that I’ve never even met but have interacted with mainly over social media.”

    Becoming Resilient
    All entrepreneurs learn through experience. Launching Tarazona Cigars and building it up over the past two decades has taught Tarazona what he’s made of, and the biggest lesson he’s learned is that everything must be done with passion. For him, “do it with passion” is more than just a catchphrase; it’s an attitude and a way of doing business. To remind himself and others of the importance of passion, Tarazona has hats with the acronym “DIWP” sewn on them. He gets a kick out of having someone on the street stop him and try to guess what it means, and he doesn’t hesitate to share with them that it stands for “do it with passion” and why the phrase is so significant to him.

    “Everybody thinks ‘do it with passion’ is just a nice little punch line,” he says. “But for anybody that knows me, there ain’t no BS-ing it, bro. I have all the tools at my disposal, but I have that passion. It’s an attitude, it’s a lifestyle, and I love it.”

    It’s Tarazona’s passion that’s made him and his cigar brand resilient over the years. Over the years, there have been plenty of things that had to be learned and mistakes that had to be made, but that’s never given Tarazona an excuse to do anything without passion being the main driver.

    This story first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

    – Photography courtesy of Tarazona CigarsStory by Antoine Reid, senior editor and digital director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.