Maria Martin is a woman working in a man’s world.
Does that sound sexist enough for you? Sorry, I don’t mean it to be but let’s face it, Maria comes from an “old world” family and is one of the few female tobacco blenders in the world. Let’s just say she was born to be in this business.
Maria is the CEO of the Martin Family Cigars including lines like the Pedro Martin Ruby, Gold, Corojo, Royal, M (for maduro), and the Fiera line.
The Martin family has its roots in the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa. Her family actually lived in a cave and was very humble. Today, those caves have air conditioning, internet and even a church. When her grandfather died, her father, the oldest male of 7 siblings, inherited the land. Ultimately he transferred it to one of his cousins (another “Pedro Martin”) who took care of his sisters when he moved to Cuba. In those days, you moved to Cuba for two reasons; for economic reasons and to find a wife. Her grandfather met his wife, a girl from his town back in Spain, and married her. Such is the charmed life of the Martins.
Her parents transferred their principles of fun, love and hard work to Maria. They did not, however transfer the keys to the cigar business. That had to be earned. She started as a receptionist (“I was terrible. I hung up on people.”) before she gravitated to marketing. She eventually worked as the National Sales Manager at Camacho, before returning to her family’s business.
So what did she have to learn in order to compete in a man’s world?
“Before I did this, I was on the streets in Dade and Broward County as a salesperson. And I got to be the number one salesperson so I knew the sales part. I learned the marketing part. And I learned the cigars and loved smoking cigars. So while I was out there going to all these factories I was learning tobacco. How do you know when a wrapper is going to burn right? What are the test you have to do to try that wrapper? And I didn’t even know I was learning all these things,” Maria says. “I was just in awe ’cause there was a lot of information to take in.”
The cigar business changed since it was your father’s business?
“It was an much smaller industry at the time. There was maybe 25 manufacturers and there might be 800 today. (Competition) is fierce! Except that you cannot look at it as competition in any business. If you mind your own business and create your own business style and your own product and uniqueness, that’s all you need,” Maria reflected. “If you start worrying about what so and so did or said, forget it! Why? Why not just worry about your own stuff?”
Clearly Maria has her eye on her own family’s business and the future looks very bright indeed.