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Black Enterprise


by Jeffrey McKinneyOctober 22, 2020

After extensively researching the domestic and international cigar industry, the owners of Emperors Cut Cigars discovered an interesting finding: With the explosive growth of African American smokers there was a niche for them to enter the space with a quality cigar and attract customers.

They were convinced with the right product they could compete in the general marketplace domestically. Understanding that the sales cycle would be longer, they, nonetheless, were confident that they would capture both mind and market share. Three years after its launch, Emperors Cut Cigars (EC) is steadily making headway into America’s fruitful cigar business that generates over $9 billion in annual revenue.

Like other U.S. businesses feeling the sting of COVID-19, Emperors Cut turned to online and social media channels to help boost sales.

In January 2020, the business planned for 30% of its revenue to come from online, says Darnell Streat, managing partner and founder of The Emperors Group L.L.C., owner of EC. But two months later, normal revenue from cigar lounges and events went to zero in seven days due to COVID-19. That forced the business to rely on its online platform for 100% of revenue for March and April.

“Looking back this was a blessing for our online business model,” Streat says. “COVID-19 forced us to revamp our website and find new ways to market to our customers. We had to embrace social media and execute more in the digital marketing space as a replacement to our normal face-to-face marketing approach.”

Black cigar company
The owners of Emperors Cut Cigars from left to right: Darnell Streat, Temi Bush, Greg Hurt, Greg Willis, Maurice Holland, Darryl Redmon, Robert Howard

To do that, the firm aggressively started marketing its products on social media. That included creating digital content for Zoom happy hours and partnering with spirit companies like Uncle Nearest and Remi Martin. The business also benefited from the nation’s rising racial tensions that gave Blacks a greater desire to support local businesses. Streat says customers started promoting his company to other African Americans cigar enthusiasts. He pointed out that people also put lists together of African American cigar companies and denounced a few majority companies that didn’t support people of color.

“Little by little, more orders started coming in online along with a new awareness for our cigar products. Our customer service and open approach with our customers were starting to pay dividends in customer loyalty and increased sales.”

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