U.S. Navy Veteran Turned Entrepreneur Launches High-End Cigar Bar
Business Career

U.S. Navy Veteran Turned Entrepreneur Launches High-End Cigar Bar

Robert Gooden, owner, Cigar Bar
Cigars 210 owner Robert Gooden
(Photo: Donnamaria R. Jones, Circa Life Images)

What’s been your biggest challenge in moving this business forward? 
As a new (relatively unknown in the industry) retailer it has been challenging for us to establish new vendor relationships with some of the larger cigar brands. This has been in part because of the competitive nature of the industry. Some of our competition has attempted to prevent us from competing by forcing some of the major brands to not sell to us. Though this has been a challenge, it’s also been a key motivator for us. It has inspired us to be proactive and ensure that we provide excellent product knowledge and a high level of customer service to our patrons. We have overcome this challenge through strong industry relationships and allowing vendors who support us to be a part of our vision.

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What has been your biggest reward? 
My biggest reward is the tremendous support that I’ve received from the black community in helping me to bring my dream into reality. Nothing brings me more joy than when a customer thanks me for bringing the lounge to Prince Georges County Maryland. To be the first black-owned cigar lounge in Prince George’s County Maryland has been no small feat. During the second week of business, a young black male (approximately 17 or 18 years old) walked in the store and asked if I was the owner. I replied, ‘Yes I am.’  He said, ‘Congratulations. I am proud of you. I would not have thought that a black man owned this business.’ In that moment I realized that the creation of Cigars 210 is not merely about me. It is also about inspiring the next generation of black Entrepreneurs.

Cigars 210 sounds amazing, but it’s not your first endeavor. When did you first decide to become an entrepreneur? 
Cigars 210 is my most recent venture. In the past I have owned several other companies that provided services to the state and federal governments. After serving eight years in the U.S. Navy, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life.  I entered the military very early–at the age of 17–which was my first real work experience. Immediately after I left the military, I began working for a company that made me quickly realize that I wanted to work for myself moving forward.  I have found that over the years that I am best at working for myself.  I love the freedom, flexibility and being in control of my destiny.  

People are often hesitant to explore business ideas that they ‘didn’t go to school for.’ But you did and have been quite successful. What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? 
The biggest advice I can give to an aspiring entrepreneur is to believe in yourself and the power of your dreams. Do your homework.  Research your venture and make sure that you are well versed in every aspect of it.  Additionally, focus on your strengths and use those to your advantage as much as possible.

Where can our readers find out more about Cigars 210 and keep up with your latest musings? 
Please visit us on Facebook, Instagram and our website at: www.Cigars210.com.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com.