Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Personal Disclaimer

People often seem disappointed when they meet me.

I'm not that tall, skinny, or good looking ( I peaked around 18). To make matters worse, I'm hairy like a Cuban Gorilla (if there is such a beast) everywhere but where I have started to go bald. But that is only the beginning.... I started the business plan for my first retail Tobacconist at the age of 19 and opened it in 1995, at the age of 21. I was so 'green' when I first opened that I would fumble money at the register and drop things. I remember vividly how customers would walk in, chat me up, then realize I was the owner; their eyes and facial expressions said it all. It was almost as if people were disgusted. The negative reaction customers had to my youth was so bad that I didn't shave for years; I would do anything to look older, just to avoid the uncomfortable moments. During those initial years I was very defensive and had a lot to prove - insecurities which would eventually lead to the creation of Tobacconist University (a.k.a. Cuban Cigar University in 1996).

The composition of this picture (circa 1995) says it all: I am a man dwarfed by a customer in a half empty humidor.

Sadly, when I think of the "President" of Tobacconist University, I envision an older gentleman with grey hair, maybe a beard and glasses, or someone more rugged like a seasoned cigar maker. Perhaps this is what you have imagined....

Actually, the ignorance and idealism of youth have worked to our favor. When I started working on TU full-time over five years ago I knew it was 'now or never'. The effort is Herculean and only someone in their twenties could conceive of it. I promise you Blood, Sweat, and Tears have been shed for this University. And I don't think I would agree to do it all over again. But the hardest part of the development, research, personal funding, writing, travel, documenting, filming, programming, networking, learning, reading, un-returned phone calls and emails, and 100 hour work weeks is behind us now. Most of that was lonely and highly disciplined, thankless work. Fortunately, the worst is over and a very strong foundation has been laid for decades worth of development and progress. Cheers to that....

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