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a business victory

By Vivian Horton
NWA WorldTraveler Magazine

The name "Victory" is fitting for the Bellevue, Washington-based custom label cigar company. While the rest of the industry has been down for the last few years, Victory Cigars has managed to increase its sales by more than 290 percent since 2000. "We've gone from 10 customers (in 1997) to over 4,000 customers," says owner and founder Harold Nathan.

Not bad for a business owner who used to cut cigar bands with a pair of scissors in a small Seattle office when he started the company in 1997. "I got so good at it that you couldn't tell they were being cut by hand," Nathan says. "When I tell people that story, they can't believe it. But when you're a start-up business owner, you do whatever it takes."

Today, Victory Cigars is doing what it takes to set itself apart, and as a result, is the largest custom label cigar company in the world -- boasting high-profile clients such as American Express, Microsoft, and working with numerous occasions and events.

What initially started as a search for a quality cigar with a custom label soon became a 12- to 18-hour-a-day job. "I wanted to order some private label cigars, but everything was seconds or overruns; you couldn't smoke them and the bands were terrible," Nathan says. "So I thought maybe there were others out there who were also looking for the same thing. I never had any idea it would turn into this."

Part of the company's rapid growth can to attributed to its online presence, which began in 1999 and now reaches a customer base in such places as Switzerland, Canada, England and Saipan. "In the beginning we were lucky to receive 100 hits per week, and now we're averaging almost 50,000," Nathan says. In addition, the decision to advertise in NWA WorldTraveler in July 2000 helped change everything. That decision to advertise nationally "catapulted us to a whole new level. I wouldn't be in this business had that ad not worked," he says.

And as any good company owner should know, "there's not enough you can do for your customers," Nathan says. Victory Cigars' exceptional personal service has set the company apart. All e-mails and telephone calls are answered before anyone goes home for the day. There is also a full-time graphic designer who personalizes the bands at the drop of a hat -- if needed.

All of Victory's exclusive blend cigars are hand-rolled and aged for as long as six months at their factory in the Dominican Republic (most cigars age for 30 days). "I want everything to be the best that it can be," Nathan says. "The longer our cigars age, the better they are."

Nathan's been an avid cigar smoker and collector of cigar-related items for many years, which is why it's no surprise he's passionate about his business. "I love the excitement of every day and every new customer," he says. "I don't think there's anyone in the U.S. who wakes up more excited to do their job than I do. I love it."

And once in awhile he still finds time to pick up those scissors.

7222 156th St SW - Edmonds, Washington 98026
1-800-434-3994 (Toll free in the U.S.) or 425-742-9999 (outside the U.S.)

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