... and the floor is Maya's...
Maya Selva, owner and creator of the cigar brand under her own name, is an engineer by trade. But since her meeting with Nestor Plasencia from Plasencia Cigars back in 1994, she has become one of the main and important actors of the cigar business, which seems to be dominated by men.
Despite her busy schedule, she was kind enough to with me for an interview for the SOTL Interview Series.
Do you have any hobbies besides cigars or better yet do you have any time for any hobby?
Not much time left, however I like reading - literature or poetry- while travelling (spend quite some time on an airplane), listening to music and dancing. These are the activities I enjoy in my spare time.
How did you decide to get involved in the cigar business?
While living in France, I was homesick for Honduras and wanting to create a link between the two countries. Cigars were the perfect match.
What is the men/women ratio in your company?
59% / 41%
Do you undertake any particular efforts to involve more women cigar smokers?
Every year we organize wonderful events in different parts of the world with a diversity of partners. This year for the Women's International Day we celebrated the occasion simultaneously in 3 different continents. We started in Hong-Kong, followed by Paris and closed in Tegucigalpa. In each city, women were invited to explore the world of cigars.
For those who were newcomers, they had the opportunity to ask any questions in a women-friendly environment. Cigar is culture, cigar is sharing, cigar is companionship, cigar is celebrating!
What would be your main challenge as being a woman in the industry, past and/or current?
Surpass the fact that I'm a woman!
Have you created any cigars with purely women in mind?
Is there a car for women? Is there wine for women? Is there a pastry for women?
Do you see any certain differences with the cigar profiles (taste, aroma, vitola etc.) between what men and women choose to smoke?
I have notice that women are more curious, more eager to try than men. Often they are more sensitive, and seeking for subtle aromas instead of just strength.
What was the most interesting reaction of a man, who would recognize you and see you smoking a cigar? Could you please share an anecdote?
One of the anecdotes that comes to mind is about this man who felt such trust in our brand because he really liked our cigars and how this feeling was validated when we met. There was an immediate understanding and reliance that was initiated thru the cigars.
The other souvenir is the testimony from a young men, who was describing how much he had enjoyed a Tempo Flor de Selva after bringing home from the hospital his wife and newborn. The peace and joy he felt as he dreamt of this new chapter of his life that was about to start, and how that cigar had been the perfect companion for his thoughts.
The other one is when I met a truck driver in an event in the West Coast of the US and how welcomed and cherished I felt by him as he shared his experience on the road smoking our house cigars. He made me imagine the cigars in the middle of Alaska, California, or the Arizona desert!
As a producer, you must be tasting so many cigars but when you really like to enjoy a cigar:
When do you like to smoke the most?
When I'm at the factory or after dinner with friends.
Where do you like to smoke the most?
In Honduras or in another warm country between the two tropics.
Do you have a favourite vitola?
A 48 X 7 is my favorite size!
How would you describe your passion for the cigar business in 3 words?
Time – Taste - People
How do you see the future of the cigar business in general under scrutinized laws and regulations globally?
I´m convince that at one moment hand-made cigars will be excluded from all those regulations, which is nonsense for a natural, totally hand-crafted product with more than 1500 years of tradition. Animals do not smoke!
In 2016 the Honduras National Congress recognized the artisan know-how of making a hand-made cigar as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Country. This is a first step!
At the times you travel for your business, how much do you interact with women for business or is it still merely men? How do you see the trend for women in business, increasing/decreasing or stabile?
The number of women is increasing every year, which is very pleasant.
How do you think women smokers or women in the business could make their stand stronger against men in cigar world?
Slowly mentalities are changing, what matters is what you propose, and what you have to offer, not your gender.
What are the main reasons for choosing Nicaragua after Honduras and not Dominican Republic? Any plans involving Dom. Rep. due to recent political turmoil in Nicaragua?
Once I felt confident about making blends, Nicaragua was re-building its economy and I was offered the opportunity. I could not let that chance go by without discovering the characteristics of the tobacco grown in the different regions of this beautiful country!
Lack of time, for not going to the Dominican Republic, one day...
What shall we expect from Maya Selva cigars in near future?
Creating a new limited edition, the launching of a new size, the opening of new markets…
It never stops!
Anything you would like to add?
Enjoy cigars, be curious, share with friends, celebrate life!