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Category Archives: Tobacco Machines

The 10 (joys and) responsibilities of the tobacco business owner – part 2

We started talking about what sets you apart in this industry, what you need to be responsible for so that your tobacco business can take off. It may have sounded discouraging, and it needs to be, so only those with the determination to make it happen stay in the game. You don’t need just a tobacco machine. 

So let’s resume our go through your responsibilities as a tobacco business owner:

5. Sweat the small stuff 

Tobacco machines owners sometimes wonder why there is a need for, say, a climate of 23’C and constant humidity in the plant. But then they wonder when the machines don’t start at 18’C. Or if the paper breaks and the entire production flow stops. That has a lot to do with not keeping the humidity constant. Yes, cigarette paper is that sensitive. And at these amazing production speeds, your losses will be considerable. Your production process is influenced by all these teeny, tiny things. And they need to be just right. In the tobacco business, you need to sweat the small stuff.

6. Read the conformity bulletins

Your raw materials come with analysis and conformity bulletins. What’s in them is precious information to you. You need to request them and learn to interpret. Very few people do, sadly. It’s a mistake the big players never afford to make. Quite rightly. 

7. Train and retain your staff 

When so many parameters vary and the end product needs to stay the same, you will need to make tiny yet effective adjustments. You need to be competent to do that. It doesn’t take just a push of a button. There are machines with 20 buttons, or a touch screen and 30 to 40 error messages. When one of them occurs, you need to know why. There can be multiple causes and you and your staff are expected to know where to look. Did I say there are no shortcuts? There are no fast forwards either. And good technicians take time to train. They’re an asset.

8. Learn to estimate, not to daydream 

When product first comes out of the tobacco machine, you will be so tempted to start multiplying. “I can do this much in an hour, and this much in 8 or 24, I sell this much, I’ll be rich.” Here’s when you need to take a deep breath and start thinking about yield and efficiency. How smooth do you think production will go? Do you foresee any incidents at all?

You must know this already: you need to estimate realistically. And you will need a good measure of time just to consolidate your product. Don’t ship until you’ve let it sit for a while, test it again in a week, sample and see the reactions. I have met producers who changed the recipe 3 times in the same day. The morning and the night batch will be quite different. And your client will notice. The first degree of respect is to offer a consistent product. If you don’t take on that responsibility, you will not generate pleasure. As simple as that.

9. You’ll have to prove yourself 

To nobody else than the client. Because they are in it for the pleasure, captive to their current brand and very hard to convince to switch. And if they do and get disappointed, they will easily leave. They are, in that, quite capricious. Which makes creating pleasure for your customers, in itself, a brutally honest game. You cannot lie to them, because they will cough, or itch, or not enjoy. And that is the ultimate test. It’s probably harder to please with tobacco than it is with alcohol. You don’t need the best wine to get drunk. But your customers will expect a certain experience from your product. And to get accepted, your effort will be huge. 

10. Don’t do it for the money

Contrary to expectations, this is not the way to get rich fast. And the way through is so laborious, you need a better motivation than money. It all boils down to this: can you deliver? And to do it, you will put in effort and patience. The first year may be the hardest of all. But there are serious players in this industry that have grown steady and are still standing strong. And I am not talking about the corporations here. They started when the time was right and that was a long time ago. If you can make it to 1%, you are very good. At 3% you are exceptional. And if you stay there, you are the Steve Jobs of tobacco. 

Yes, there will be a lot to learn, but you do not need to know everything from the start. What you do need to know is how to ask the right questions, how to look at what’s in front of you and understand when you’re being helped and when you’re simply being sold stuff to. 

Otherwise you’ll buy the wrong raw materials, hire the technicians that don’t serve you, and close contracts you can’t deliver on. When you are walking into this business, you are sharing space with quite a few others. You’ll need to cut your own path. 

I love it when my clients call and ask, visit and have yet more questions. It show’s they’re in it heart and soul. And you can’t start this business otherwise. You may take over, but not start it. It’s just the way beginnings are. Call when you’re ready

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The 10 (joys and) responsibilities of the tobacco business owner – part 1

Or of my clients. You, if that what you intend to do. Although if you are 40 and have had your share of success in the corporate world, perhaps you should consider other options than getting a tobacco machine to start your business. I don’t mean to discourage you, it’s just that this is no walk in the park. But if you can access the resources you’ll need, your heart is in this and you have the time and will to learn, read on. 

A client told me once he’ll just come down the workshop for four hours and learn all there is to learn about it. No. That’s not it. That’s not it at all. 

And that’s the main thing to know about having a tobacco business: that it’s not easy. You and your staff will need to learn sensitive skills. It takes a completely new mindset, just like learning a new, complex alphabet. They all fall into your responsibility. And assuming you do them right, they will bring (so much) joy.

There’s quite a bit to say, so we’ll ship this in two batches. Here’s today’s:

1. Stay humble

For no other reason than arrogance will cost you dearly. Admit you do not know and be willing to learn with all your senses and wits. This industry will need all of them. I graduated with a degree in science, with a major in engineering and organic chemistry, have advanced accounting studies and after 10 years continue to need more information to understand how this business works. I’m not ashamed to say it. Bottom line, beginner’s mind will win the day.

2. Look at the big picture

Chemical engineering is about looking at the whole system. When making wine, you don’t just watch the sugar. The same principle applies to tobacco. Your raw materials are alive and change all the time. But your output needs to stay in the same parameters every time. That is the promise you made to your customers. That’s what tasters and samples are for in the mass market goods industry.

And ending up with the same product every time takes some art. Chemically, the product will be transformed. With raw materials that are not identical, you will need to produce a perfectly identical result for your clients to savour. You will have to constantly supervise and fine-tune your batches for that. 

Mechanically, the elasticity in your raw materials is never the same either. And your processes will need to adapt. We say in this industry that when an error occurs, you need to look 6, 8 or 10 steps before it actually happened. There is a cause your product gave in and it’s not the one in front of you. And only experience tells you that. For a long time I judged the industry for being too secretive, but quite frankly, it is that way for a reason. I sometimes think that if we ran in the streets handing truth out, nobody would believe. 

3. Don’t let shortcuts tempt you 

Because there aren’t any. If you want to make a quality product, you must follow and complete every step as the book says. You can’t knead sweet bread dough for only 5 minutes and expect perfectly uniform bubbly texture. It will be sweet and flavoured, sure, but is that all you’re looking for in sweet bread? The same principle applies to the tobacco industry.

4. Aim from high to low, not the other way round

Start with an expensive product on a tiny niche. If your output is expensive, you need not make much of it and that gives you precious time to make mistakes and learn. You’ll train yourself for clues on your processes. You’ll have plenty of time afterwards for inexpensive products. #1 will help here again. You need to stay humble an learn what a good product means on this market. Expensive products do not sell because you say they’re good, but because they actually are. And that is, first and foremost, your responsibility. It means you value your work and your team’s as well as your clients’ expectations.

When you make an inexpensive cigarette, you having just started out and all, you’ll be going against the heavyweights that have been doing this for years, who know the best raw materials, have the most trained technicians and already have a good market share. Your product’s just come out the assembly line. Your turnaround (production) costs are higher, although you are working on a smaller production line. You do the math! Is this the kind of battle you can actually win?

Prices are equalised by taxes in this industry, as you already know. To make it in this business you will have to pick your battles. So many brands have been launched we no longer remember of now. What makes the difference in all this is you. How you think, how you act, what you know. More on your responsibilities (and joys) soon.

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What to do when crisis strikes

Because it will. And you should be prepared. Which is why this is a conversation to have before you start your first year in a tobacco business.

My first year was full to the brim. I was clueless, squeezing as much as I could out of the internet, talks with specialists, and walks around my plant floor. It took a lot of discipline in combining simple steps. I got lucky there, I’m good with that. I was flooded in logistics, moving equipment, going through meetings, planning transports and looking for perfectly legal solutions for previously un-foreseen situations. I was, as they say, cutting my teeth.

It was beautiful, that’s why I stayed. And complex. Tobacco is a complicated business. Mostly, I was in for the people. They’re still with me, 10 years after. Between them there’s so much knowhow, skill and ingenuity, it would have been a pity not to go ahead.

Crisis did strike, by the way. There will always be one. Which is why it’s essential to be prepared and stand your ground. And you can only do that if you really know the drills. That is, the proce-dures.

It could come from a million things. When I get crisis calls, I always go for the same protocol: breathe and full freeze. That means a full operations halt. And then you take a deep breath and start looking at things like they’re not yours, and follow the blood stains to the wound. Most likely it’s not where you think it is. It’s somewhere hidden in the flow, and you have to muster the patience to figure it out. Under the pressure of bank payments your judgement will blur and that never ends well. You may fix it once, but it will resurface to punch you in the face cost-wise. So don’t.

Also, it generally helps to have an outsider look at it, someone with a trained critical eye and the right questions. Where does this come from? What did you do there? Why is that so? Your own Sherlock Holmes.

Maybe your cigarettes sold really well and then they tanked. So then it’s probably about the prod-uct. You’d start looking at raw materials, consumables, presentation, and staff. Somewhere, some-thing happened. Maybe you increased the production or even the capacity based on optimistic sales estimates. Or maybe you changed the recipe once or often. People got enthusiastic at first and then sales failed to catch up.

Whatever it is, you must find it and then return to the previous point of stability in your business flow. That’s where you regroup (you need to build those into your business, by the way. As you reach a level of „good, we’re doing fine,” don’t jump to the next level just yet. Wait for this good to become your new routine. That’s what I mean by point of stability or goodness lane.) Sometimes the cause is easily found, especially if the reaction to it was immediate. If there was a downward slope, though, all the data needs to be brushed and inspected.

And by all means, take it one step at a time. In the crisis you will be as good as your cool and your knowledge. You have to make sure you have both at hand. Rushing never helps, particularly in this kind of setup. You want to not be attached to a certain scenario or cause, free your mind to look for clues like a perceptive detective. You also want to hold tight to your commitment to your business. Your heart and soul need to be in it. If you find the cause without them, it was probably a silly mis-take.

Last but not least, in everything you do in this business, remember the customer is captive to their preferences. The switch to a new product is never easy, but can be reversed in a heartbeat if the promise you made to them is broken. The promise is the product: that it will always deliver the same kind of pleasurable experience, the same taste, smell, look and feel. Respect that and, as long as you’re in it for the right reasons, you might just make it.

PS The right reasons means not doing it to get rich fast. Tobacco is not that kind of business. Prof-its don’t come easy, are not a constant and losses come with the territory. Please find better whys before you step in. Then you’ll have a jewel of a business to call your own and will serve pleasur-able moments to your customers. In the end, it’s all about the love. You have to love what you do. Even when crisis calls

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

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10 years in the tobacco industry: 3 things I’d have done differently

Of all the businesses in the world, why did I chose tobacco? And for that matter, tobacco machines? Mine wasn’t a planned choice. I found myself in the middle of my first contract and made decision after decision to stay in business. It was a long string of tiny choices to make things possible, to look for the way to keep going, one small win at a time, or one avoided bankruptcy at a time (yes, you read that. More on it in a bit).

So here I am 10 years later, wondering what I would have done differently. Where there were any things I wish I’d known when I started out, rather than tested them on my own business skin? You might be thinking about a tobacco business of your own. And reading this might just be some well spent 3 minutes. One for each thing I’d do differently if I started over.

1. I would’ve dared more

I played safe, calculated how much I can lose and then made my move. That was good, after all this is not an industry for the particularly daring. It takes years (I’m not going to say 10, but that’s a good reference) to be acknowledged as a presence. And there’s good cause for that, too. When the get-rich-fast fantasy is so appealing, many get lured in. No wonder the players already in wait patiently for the gold rush to fade and the committed to stand out. Those are the long distance runners cut for tobacco. That said, I would’ve dared more, let myself let impressed by the already established names and had more confidence. It would’ve helped me figure out faster whether a tobacco business is something I want to continue or not. It turned out it was, but I could’ve known that sooner.

2. I would’ve been less impressionable of “the tobacco” business

To be frank, I knew nothing. So I let myself be impressed by the industry at large, impressed that I was an outsider looking for a way into a closed world, with so few sources of information and knowledge. I learned everything the hard way, bankruptcy breathing down my neck at times. You know they say you’re not an entrepreneur until you went bankrupt three times. I never did, but I was very close several times. I know those chills. But every time I decided to stay the course.

Going back to my do-different list, as a rookie I created an entire image of the industry in my mind and I’m now certain that was a beginner’s mistake. There is, in tobacco, just as much good and bad as there is in any other industry. The work is just as beautiful as any other work you would choose to do. It’s hard work, too, but anything that generates pleasure for the consumer is hard work. We may deal with tobacco machines every day, but our output ends with the consumers, and is judged instantly.

3. I would’ve cut more.

It almost feels as hard as being mean. I should’ve been “meaner.” But sometimes being clear-cut is healthier. Let’s say a customer is supposed to bring you a tobacco machine for maintenance. They give you the parameters, but not the required materials or consumables. The trenchant thing to do is to let them know what you need and do nothing until they provide it. I was always supportive and looked for ways to make things possible. Let’s find a way to get over this obstacle, let’s figure this out. Not the best of calls. I would now let people work their way out of the tight corner they got themselves into in spite of my instructions.

All my three lessons point to the same thing: stand your own ground. Call me old fashioned, but I love it when results do the talking. As much as I love to love the work, not the money. If you’d become a lawyer because serving the law is worth it, or because of all the people you would help, rather than the money, than you’re my kind of client and partner. Not that the money isn’t good. It is and it matters. But they’re a consequence, not the goal.

So let me share some of my wishes as I blow the candles on the cake: I wish for partners I would love to be in tandem with. I wish for growth and plateau. Growth only is never good. I wish for smoking to be less disparaged than it is today and more savoured as a moment of pleasure, as it used to. I wish for entrepreneurs like you to go into tobacco for the love and passion of doing something beautiful you can call your own. I wish to make a profit out of doing good things. And wish you for the same kind of success.

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The most frequent three mistakes in the tobacco business and how to avoid them

It’s all common sense, but I’ve seen it happen all too often not to say it. And since we promised we’d be with you, celebrating your tobacco business wins and supporting you with advice through the lows, here’s what we’d rather not see you do: 

1. “They’ll figure it out.”

“What’s the big deal about training staff to operate a tobacco machine?” you might say. Not so fast, though. In tobacco, we work with tiny, fragile objects, at speeds way beyond what’s perceivable to the eye. Preparation and instruction are difficult.

What we are after is installing a routine to exploit your tobacco machine, and that means your staff will develop reflexes and very good knowledge of possible mishaps. They must be able to immediately diagnose the issue and know where exactly to place their hand to fix it. Figuring it out takes time. A lot. And time is actually production time.

Never underestimate the importance of training your technicians. It will happen either way: before starting production, the safe way. Or during a crisis, as they figure things out while you would be bleeding cash. Play smart!

2. Floor it!

Once you’re in production, you may be tempted to speed up. Faster means more product, and that’s potentially more sales, right? Not really. What you are after is predictability. That is your North Star. What do I mean?

It’s worlds apart better to produce steadily, even at low speeds, as long as you can do it consistently. Going beyond your speed comfort zone brings about too many unknowns, which generally translate into long production downtime. On average, this reads underperformance by a mile. Plus higher maintenance costs for your tobacco machine. Plus high personnel turnover as your technicians lose motivation (Entrepreneurs like you and me are in it for better or worse. But your staff rarely is. They’re there for the wages.) Spare yourself the sleepless nights and the money and go steady. If you just got your driver’s license, you don’t just sign up for Formula 1, do you?

3. “Manuals? They’re here, somewhere.”

You know the saying: practice makes perfect. And it’s true. But in the tobacco business, there is no practice without procedures and routines. For your tobacco business to work, they have to be carved in stone. It’s that important. You will need procedures for each step of the production process.

And once something is well done as per the procedure, don’t change it (at least not until all works well for the entire production process. By then, changing would be a whole different business, in the realm of upgrades and improvement. For more on that, read 5 resolutions for your tobacco business in 2018 [link].)

Tried and tested procedures are as good as a winning lottery ticket. Loading loaves of bread in the oven is one thing. Producing quality cigarettes is a whole different business. Error is close and very costly. Stay safe with the best insurance there is: your rock solid procedures.

As always, the solution is details specific. For your further questions, actual case studies on these and any other issues, book a call. We’d be so glad to hear from you and help. [link]

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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5 resolutions for your tobacco business in 2018

It’s that time of the year. We make lists for resolutions again. And if you don’t believe in resolutions, have your to do lists, habits that get you where you want or good old lucky charms. Either way, I have 5 wishes for you and your tobacco business. Keep these by when you draft yours.

  1. Love bread and butter

Does your business have a predetermined routine? And by that I mean your fixed, repetitive, quantifiable technological process. Because that’s your first objective, by the way, and your first degree of success. Have a good technological routine and you are in the safe zone. You have a sustainable product. With bread and butter, you are in business.

  1. Tread safely, with what you already have

When you achieved bread and butter level, you are free to think how to raise your tobacco business market share. Now you have the peace of mind to handle that safely. Look at what you already have and is working well enough. What could you make better? Maybe enhance the blend, upscale the paper, come up with a new and inventive design (how about something that looks so vivid in the shelf, all incoming customers will just notice it?). Bottomline, it’s an upgrade, not a rebranding. Unleash your creativity but advance carefully.

  1. Waive the dream. Grab the calculator!

First, congratulate yourself on accomplishing bigger dream: to have a tobacco business. By now you are well on your way. That said, put dreams aside for a while in favour of good old arithmetic. The truth is, as much as you will upgrade your existing tobacco machine or production line, that will not produce a dramatically different product. Nor should it, for that matter. If you have a sustainable, consistent product, doing well on the market, that’s pure gold. Adding another one is something you do without burning down the house. Move on to your second tobacco machine or equipment only when you are ready and fit to invest again. And of that, you must know your numbers.

  1. Have secrets when you can afford it

Say you are ready to rebrand your tobacco. All is going well and you decide to stop outsourcing and produce your own blend. Let’s be honest, that is very hard to do, but will give you the mother of all advantages: you will have your secret tobacco blend, to have and to hold. Which is exactly what I wish for you: to have a secret when you can have and hold it. Make sure you switch off outsourcing when it’s convenient for you. There will be hints all over for those looking. But more on that and how to hedge some other time.

  1. Write it down

The tobacco business is one of procedures. Which probably means the messy desk Einstein said pointed to genius was not of a tobacco business owner. In this business, genius kicks in after we master the basic routines to perfection. So make sure you have your key steps, rules and processes on paper. Have a motherboard to bounce back to and build from. Then thrive!

Wishing you a great  2018!

Photo credit: NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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How it’s made

You are on your way to have your fully operational tobacco business. There will be quite a bit to learn. And a lot will be in the area of how your product is actually made. Read on for the abc of tobacco processing and cigarettes manufacturing.

 

While we’re at it, let’s quickly go through the skinny on tobacco.

The plant come from the Americas to Europe and the rest of the world in the 1700s, first as medicine. It was the aspirin of the time, curing headaches.

Two varieties of the plant are known: Nicotiana tabacum, with over 60 species hereunder, and the less cultivated Nicotiana rustica.

The main tobaccos types fall into the categories of oriental, semi-oriental, Virginia, Burley, for cigars and for mass consumption.

And for some perspective, keep in mind cigarettes became the main tobacco product only in the last 50 years, when they dethroned pipe and cigars alike.

 

Your next main focus is the tobacco.

Tobacco manufacturing starts with the drying of the tobacco leaves. A lot happens in there. The actual method is subject to the type of tobacco and the finished product. You’ll think of the desired color and elasticity, for instance.

Once ready, tobacco traditionally goes into fermentation. It’s no longer done in modern manufacturing, by the way. Natural ferments carefully preserved in the earlier stage activate now to oxidize. A full range of chemical reactions ensue, with only one goal: flavor, taste and quality. And since I must have mentioned I majored in chemistry, let’s indulge in the occasional science lab intermezzo: during fermentation, starch (a very common carbohydrate found in seeds, plants and tubercles) fully hydrolyses, i.e. mixes with water, breaking out the sugar, which eventually disappears. Soluble carbon hydrates decrease, sucrose is reduced and what’s left is monosaccharides. Nitrogen then decreases, as do nicotine, organic acids and polyphenols.

At the end, you have quality, flavored tobacco for filling, your key raw material for cigarettes and cigars. Which is not to say you can do without cigarette paper, filters, wrapping, boxes, propylene foil or bands. You sure need those as well.

 

Then you can start looking into cigarettes manufacturing.

You’ll begin with filling preparation, where you mix ingredients to a recipe. Think grandma’s apple pie, then move it in the realm of quality, palate caressing, smoky taste only a well made cigarette can give.

Tobacco is first wetted: it gives it elasticity and resistance and it makes your job handling it a lot easier. Then you will unbind and spread it, choose and mix the tobacco leaves, do the casing and the flavoring treatments. You will only use the strips, by the way. The strings are subject to a different recipe and don’t really get used in premium product.

At the end of treatment, most importantly, comes the cutting. All your work to this point serves THE purpose: optimum, uniform cut rag, made of long and elastic threads, with as few short threads as possible. The output then goes into torrefaction and flavoring. You’ll need a key ally through all this – and that’s your primary line, the equipment that executes all these processes. But more on that, some other time.

Cigarette makers will produce an output of tobacco rod, continuously wrapped in cigarette paper. The rod is later cut in predefined lengths. The inscription on the cigarette can be done directly in the maker, with a small printing unit.

The cigarette batches go through the filter attachers, where segmented filters are brought at the intersection of two segments of cigarettes. The ensemble moves to glue primed tipping, i.e. the cork paper, which then gets rolled and glued. The later formation is cut in two filtered cigarettes.

Cigarettes are then packed in paper or carton blank bundles, most typically of 20 pieces each. The design is, of course, predefined, matching the packer. You could add an extra aluminum foil or wax paper to isolate your bundles before going into the final paper or carton pack.

To sum up, in packing, your cigarettes will go through grouping and distribution, intermediary layering, pack filling and closing.

Last but not least, your carton packs could have a hinge lid (most frequent), be the shell and slide kind (think matchbox), or an actual cardboard or even plastic or metal box.

For good keeping, a layer of PP foil is then added to each pack, which in turn are grouped in cartridges (pack bundles), overwrapped in PP foil for sale and boxed in master cases. You may see pack bundles wrapped in foil directly – that’s called naked wrap.

Your equipment for the process is pretty self explanatory: packers, wrappers, boxers, overwrappers.

It sounds very theoretical, but – and that is a classic tune in this business – it all breaks down to simple processes. Putting them all together and making it work is where the art is. You’ll get there. We promised we’d be there for you through it and we’ll make good on that. Call when you’re ready.

 

How many kinds of cigarettes are there, anyway?

Your product will fall into one of these categories: carton tube cigarettes (papiroshka), recently back in production after a long absence, paper or reconstituted tobacco foiled cigarettes, filtered or unfiltered cigarettes. You could also tell them apart by form: round or oval, caliber or diameter, length, inscription, tube add-ons, filter quality, nicotine content, air flow, ashes quality, etc

 

 

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Inspiration for your niche crafting

In carving your own niche, you will always be in the territory of natural, fine tobacco, done the classic, hundred years old way. What you are after is old recipes, old processes, natural materials and above all, quality. Read more about it in our recent blog post and enjoy getting some inspiration from the masters.

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What is your niche? And how do you build it?

If you read this, you want a business in tobacco. That literally means you will produce cigarettes. The kind that rock the palate, or soothe it with their delicate flavour. Whatever blend you have your heart set on, it will have to be something nobody else makes. Unless it somehow makes sense to be a “me too” (it rarely does, but never say never). You will have to find that market space nobody else dwells on or serves well and get to work from. Your niche.

And assuming you are just starting out, you will have to tip not-having-much -of-anything into an asset. It may sound like a David and Goliath story, except your quest is to invent a game outside of Goliath’s playground altogether. You will have to meet your consumer in a place you have the power to shape. A place of your own. What does that mean?

Whoever your consumer is, you will court them into changing behaviour to try what you have created for them to savour. Like a fine wine or perfume, your product will have to ignite an experience of comfort, pleasure, or luxury, as they define it in their lives. You will offer an oasis-of-an-experience, a rare moment to relish. And a quality product will always get you there. The question is, what kind?

Being something of an artist, you will get to work to define that. What is, however, certain, is that curiosity will always favour the artisanal product. The return to origins, to the pure, untainted product calls from the deep.

It will be up to you and your market judgement to choose from natural rustic or natural and sophisticated. Wherever you position yourself, you will be in the territory of natural, fine tobacco, done the classic, hundred years old way. What you are after is old recipes, old processes, natural materials and above all, quality.

Whatever you chose to bring into the world will carry your mark and creativity and will stand a solid chance to your customers. Assuming you have the generosity to follow them and give them time to be seduced.

You will, in other words, be looking at a boutique tobacco operation, to match the market share you envisage. And if you stay open and attentive to your consumer, your chances to endure and do well are at a maximum. It will not happen overnight, though.

Please bear in mind that getting to your first batch and selling it is a significant cost you will want to capitalise on, which is why it will be your objective to stay on the recipe, and replicate again and again the same blend, the same sensation, and the same thrill. Your brand is, to your consumer, your promise that they will get that in a pack. Much like making the finest of cheeses, when the pasture is changed, the cheese will not be the same.

But to thrive, you have to make sure first of all you are in business. And the strategy to play the long term game is to invest smart and grow smarter. A winning way starts at a minimum, with one simple product. It then diversifies without gigantic costs, with in-house resources. Maybe that means a quality increase, or a packaging innovation. Only then comes the increase in production capacity. It works like a charm. Where half of the charm is (a bit of) patience. To put it more crisply, your niche lives where premium quality meets your creativity. And you build it with your good judgement and patience. Our promise is we will support you all the way.

 

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The good questions that lead you to your tobacco business

Your business should bring a decent, steady income. Maybe more than that, but at least the bottomline. You have dreamt of the outcome. Putting it into action will require a few essential building blocks: the answers to some really key questions.

Before you set your expectations for clever, sophisticated ones, let me say they will be quite common sense. And hard. Answering them head on will put you ahead of the game.

Here’s a brief introduction to them. Being as important as they are, we will revisit the subject in detail in a guiding document to download and work on. More on that soon.

Until then, let me start you with thi

0.Have you read the fiscal framework around tobacco in your country?

If not, stop this and go find it. It will most likely be a few scores of pages to be read pencil in hand. There is no way to sugarcoat it, the tobacco business is heavily regulated and there will be no escape from taxes. The entrance bar is usually high and that is a fact. It’s best you find that out head on and get ready for it.

Then we can plunge into the realm of the big questions.

1-4. What would you sell, to whom and how much? And how will that be done?

This set is like a wolf pack. They hunt and thrive together. Figure one out and you are on the way to figuring all of them.

So start with the first step: what is not already on the market that you could provide? This will pave the way for your answer on the “what.” Answer that and you are well on your way to define your niche, that place under the sun you could put together your dream product. More on that on a separate post – finding your niche is an extraordinarily important step you take towards building your tobacco business.

Let’s say you look around and see there is no good option for women 45+, urban and sophisticated, career oriented, into fine wine and fashion. You could come up with a blend for them. But that is not all. And park your branding thoughts for a while, exciting as they may be. There will be plenty of time for that later, after you have a selling scheme in place.

Do you know perhaps a store or a distributor that will carry your product? A venue to showcase your product or have it sampled? Events to attend? Bloggers whose voice could carry your message? Needless to say, there is no advertising in tobacco, so growth will be about one-to-one sampling and selling. Quite a bit of work, but ultimately it will be about making known a good, quality product you believe in and take joy in bringing into existence.

And once you have at least a good draft on these, let’s look at the final question

5.How much can you afford to lose?

It may have come out of nowhere, but after you figure out how much you can sell and hence make, you need to get ready for investing. And as the rule of thumb goes, we do not invest more than we can kiss good bye. And please factor in the patience of waiting for your client to test and make a switch to a new product. It’s like falling in love again and figuring out a new life together. It will take time. And that is time you may not necessarily make money in.

Which is why, instead of going through numbers hotheaded and red seeing, you should do it at the beginning. It’s like playing the markets – don’t gamble more than you can lose.

Running around in circles, mulling bits of replies will challenge you, but every moment of it will be worth it. Many people produce wine. Few make a fortune at it. They tend to be the persistent ones, who educated themselves and kept going one baby step at a time.

If any of these seem off-putting, they are the real preparation that puts you in the lead. You are a businessman or businesswoman who’s been through a lot, maybe in more complicated industries. Cutting up a dry plant, filling it into paper and adding a filter may not sound very complicated. But getting it right will need going through these questions. And it will be a thrill to create something you are proud of, something that is a joy to experience and share. Why not do really well while you do it?

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