5 Questions with … | Tobacconist magazine

5 Questions with …

Pedro Gomez, factory spokesman, Drew Estate

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in the premium tobacco industry?
I was born and raised in Esteli, Nicaragua, and I trace my humble beginnings from a third-world country. My dad was never around, so when I was 12 I had to grow up and take up work to feed my family. Our parents bring us into the world, but in the end, we’re responsible for what we become.

My first job as a kid was being the errand boy at a local saddle shop. The owner gave me a bicycle [for] going back and forth running errands for his business, like Henry from Goodfellas, minus the criminal element, as I earned an honest living. The backbreaking work ran from 7 in the morning to 7 at night, Monday through Saturday, and it took me two years before they gave me a job as a saddle-maker. It was tough work and dirty work, and during the whole time I wasn’t going to school. It was then that I realized that I didn’t want to spend my whole life making saddles. The reality of it was that if I kept going on that path, I would be working like a dog for the rest of my life.

These were some of the toughest times of my life, but I decided to make the jump and go back to school. For me, family comes first, so I went to school in the morning and made saddles in the afternoon and night to keep putting food on the table and getting an education to make a brighter tomorrow. At the end of it all, I graduated with the highest honors, but, ironically, I didn’t have enough money to afford college. That’s a normal thing in Esteli—where you can be bright enough but not have the resources to continue to better yourself.

US Honors Student in College (Dean's List) 2006 in Iowa

When you run out of hope, that’s when God shows you the light. In 2003, my opportunity finally came when I applied for a scholarship in international business, knowing that I was up against 300 other students going after the same dream. After a year, they selected only two students, and I was one of them! The scholarship program sent me to Iowa, and I attended Scott Community College.

Heading to the U.S., they gave me six months to learn English, and after two years I graduated with an associate’s in international business and made the dean’s list. The U.S. government paid for this program with the stipulation that you had to go back to your home country after you graduated. For me, my homecoming was in August 2006, but times were still desperate because I went from factory to factory finding no work, even with my education. Eventually, Drew Estate gave me a chance, and I was so grateful because I wouldn’t have to go back to the saddle shop and start all the way back at the very bottom.

And now you’re the factory spokesman for Drew Estate. What’s a typical day like for you?
I worked my way up from working at the factory to eventually giving the Cigar Safari tours. These tours are very special, and I’ve made many friendships along the way from people all over the world visiting La Gran Fabrica and learning about the cigars made by hand day in and day out by the Estelianos.

These days, I travel around the United States visiting some of the best cigar shops in the nation, teaching people about tobacco and about what Drew Estate stands for. On a typical day, I am visiting at least four or five cigar shops, and at night we are kicking off our events. Most of my time on the road is spent educating consumers and retailers on why our cigars are special and building relationships with our supporters and partners.

The thing I’m most proud of is that I can go out there and represent not only Drew Estate but the people of Nicaragua and the fruits of their labor by sharing and enjoying the best cigars in the world. I believe you are born with the responsibility and the obligation to make a positive impact.

My proudest moment in the cigar industry happened in 2013. I was invited by Cigar Rights of America to come to Washington, D.C. It was my first trip to Washington, D.C., and I had the honor to give a speech in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill about the importance of the premium cigar industry in Nicaragua and the benefits the industry brings to the local and national economies. Hard work always pays off, and I have been a direct beneficiary of working in the cigar industry. I’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What are you most excited about for Drew Estate in 2018?
Last year marked the best year in company history, and when I look at 2018, we are working hard on making it an exciting year for our customers and consumers who love our cigars. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Liga Privada, and we are working on our plans to help celebrate this history-making cigar at IPCPR and the Connecticut Barn Smoker.

Where do you see the industry by this time next year?
One of the most exciting developments is that Nicaragua has now surpassed the Dominican Republic as the No. 1 importer of cigars [to] the United States. This change is a testament to the quality of Nicaraguan tobacco, its deep complexity, strength and flavor. One of the things we’re also seeing is more companies moving and building factories in Nicaragua. Again, it is just another sign that manufacturers and consumers have picked up that the best tobacco comes from Nicaragua.

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At Drew Estate, we are investing in new construction projects in Nicaragua. We are also investing in new technology infrastructure in our sales and marketing departments. We are quickly moving forward with a lot of innovation and a lot of creativity, and none of this could happen without support from our end consumers, our business accounts, and our local and international business partners. The backbone of all of this is our factory in Nicaragua, and I am excited to see what we do in the
coming year.

What’s the most important thing in your life? Why?
The most important thing in my life is my faith in God and the love of my family. They are the fuel of my energy to move forward. Without faith it is impossible to expect better days. It fills your daily life with hopes. My family has always given me the strength to have the courage to pursue my goals. I am very grateful that God has blessed me and provided me the opportunity to help my family in Nicaragua.

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