- Yvette and Yvonne Rodriguez started their own cigar brand, Tres Lindas Cubanas, with just a $US500 investment.
- The company now ships its cigars nationwide.
- The twin sisters have since fought against stereotypes, showing how Afro-Cuban women can be knowledgeable about cigars.
Following is a transcript of a video.
Narrator: Yvette and Yvonne are used to standing out.
In 2014, the twin sisters started their own brand of cigars, called Tres Lindas Cubanas. Since then, they’re often the only Afro-Cuban women in a room full of men.
Yvonne Rodriguez: Imagine walking into a door where you wanna sell your cigars, and they don’t even think that you smoke cigars, you know? We don’t start at zero. We start at negative five.
Yvette Rodriguez: We still get 20 questions, like an interrogation, to find out if we know anything about cigars, if this is really our brand. Questions I don’t hear anybody asking anyone else.
Narrator: The doubtful stares didn’t stop them from putting their identity at the forefront of their business.
Their three cigar blends pay homage to Cuban women: La Clarita, la Mulata, andla Negrita. All Spanish words used to describe skin tones of women.
Yvonne: A lot of people ask us, ‘How do you guys do it? You’re a woman, you’re black, and you’re Latina, and I think that those are positives.
Yvette: No, we don’t try to blend in in the least.
Narrator: They sell their blends on their website, shipping across the country to all 50 states, and in local shops. But it all started with an investment of $US500.
Yvonne:We were immediately turning a profit because we invested very little.
Yvette: It’s also a testimony to the black consumer because I would say more than 80 per cent of our consumers are African-American. Buying black, that has helped us out tremendously.
Narrator: Even their packaging stands out. Instead of the usual glossy, short and fancy look, their box stands tall in plain wood.
Yvonne: That had a lot to do with the money that we had to invest, but we noticed that it really helped that we are not too flashy, so we prefer to be a surprise, and we sell more to the man and the woman that smokes every day.
Narrator:The seeds come from Cuba, but the tobacco grows in Nicaragua, where the cigars are also rolled, and then later, shipped to Miami. The sisters can’t import leaves or seeds directly from Cuba because of the embargo.
Yvonne:Currently we can’t get anything out of Cuba. We definitely are ready for when the doors open for us to create blends with the Cuban leaf. That would be great, combining them also with the Nicaraguan leaf.
Narrator:As first-generation Americans, it’s important for them to stay connected to their roots. So they lead trips to Havana, taking people through plantations and factories of Cuban cigars.
And tourists are often surprised when they see many of the workers rolling cigars are Afro-Cuban women.
Yvette: The most famous cigars in the world are being rolled by black women. It’s really a testimony to the history of tobacco and cigars.
We’re part of history. It’s like, I am Cuba, and I am cigars, you know what I mean?
We could have put models as the face of the brand, super sexy girls or super hot guy, but no. We’re gonna be the face of it. Every brand has their look. And this is our look.
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