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Q & A With Michelle Wright

I recently sat down with Michelle Wright and had a Q and A session for OTL. Michelle, in my opinion, is one of the best cigar reps in the business and is extremely well versed in the business and pleasure of cigars.

How did you get involved in the cigar business?
I started in the cigar industry over 12 years ago. I had a friend who owned a shop on Hilton Head Island, SC.

He had a trip planned to go to Nicaragua and asked me to run his shop for the 2 weeks as a favor. It was a great 2 weeks... The shop had record setting sales and I had the best 2 weeks working. After he came back he asked me to stay on and work...I ended up working my way up to managing the shop and then became a part owner. After 6 years there I moved back to Texas and worked retail at a Cigar shop on the North side of Houston, and ran the shop in the evenings.

I had gone to IPCPR in 2012 and was asked to work as a consultant for a brand new shop in Alpharetta, Georgia that was in need of some help getting started. It was a temporary assignment but the money was too good to pass up. I left Houston and went to Georgia for a few months. I handled all the Marketing for the shop, as well as worked in the shop. I trained the staff , ordered product and built a great events calendar through my contacts in the business. After my assignment ended, I came back to Texas without a job...so Repping cigars was the next move and a natural fit. I started representing one company and quickly discovered that Repping independently was not going to pay the bills unless I added more lines. My business as an Independent Cigar Broker has taken off and I haven't looked back since!

How many different brands are you a representative for?
I represent 5 Boutique Cigar brands and also rep a National accessories line, which I rep along side of my cigars as it goes hand in hand.

Does being a representative require you hold any type of certifications? If so,how long did ago you get certified and how important is your certification to what you do?
I do not have any certifications. Just 12 years of solid hands on experience.

As a rep, when introducing your brand to a potential shop what are some of the things that you look for in that shop?
I look for what my shop owner needs to meet the demands and needs of his clientele and make all my lines available to all the shops I work with.

How long have you smoked cigars?
I started smoking cigars when I started working retail in a cigar shop over 12 years ago.

What is your favorite type of cigar and why?
I have evolved thru the years. I enjoy a wide variety of blends but I have really come to love medium-full body cigars and have a lot of favorites.

How do you rate the Houston cigar scene and lounges versus other areas?
Houston is in my opinion a cigar smokers Mecca and in Houston we have so many educated and experienced smokers. I see a lot of the true smokers at certain shops but a lot of them travel around and frequent multiple shops in the area. The lounges in Houston are wonderful and there are so many great ones in Houston to choose from. I think the shops in other areas are great too but the seats in the lounges are not filled up like they are here in HTown.

What tips or advice do you have for new smokers?
I would recommend starting off mild and non flavored. Go with a Connecticut wrapper, for the most part and let your local retailer guide you as you build your palette. Keeping track of what you like and making notes is also a good idea. Names, bands and cigars look all alike to a rookie and if you had a cigar that you like its good to be able to walk in to the cigar shop knowing what it was that worked for you. It will help the staff in making suggestions for other brands if you can identify what you have smoked and liked a lot.

Are there any new or boutique cigars that you recommend?
Of course! I am all about boutique brands. I would suggest my brands to start. They are 7-20-4, Valeroso, Sosa Cigars, La Hoja and Felix Assouline. Another great cigar that's just come out on the scene is Cabal cigars.

How do you feel about cigar ratings and does the rating influence your choices in what you smoke?
Ratings are a blessing and a great way to promote a brand. I personally do not rely on them because I like to try smokes based on what people personally recommend.

What is your favorite drink and cigar pairing and why?
I like vanilla coke with Maduro wrappers and drink bourbon with any cigars.

Are there any must have products that you recommend?
A quality cutter and lighter is essential.

What is next for you in the cigar world?
To continue to build my brands in Texas and expand to eventually have reps that work with me as my portfolio of brands continues to grow. Eventually I will look to blend, and make my own line.

If you could only smoke one cigar what would it be and why?
It would be a Brazilian wrapper. I could smoke the 7-20-4 Original blend every single day, for the rest of my life!

Follow Michelle aka That Cigar Girl on Twitter @MalleyFan

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