LONDONDERRY — A Londonderry-based cigar distributor has been named a regional winner in “Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs,” a national competition sponsored by Comcast Business and Inc. Magazine.
Now, the public can vote for grand prize winners online.
As one of 32 businesses recognized nationwide, Vintage Cigar Distributors at 128 Rockingham Road now has a chance at earning a $25,000 cash grand prize and a private consultation from television personality Marcus Lemonis. The award recognizes entrepreneurs who are successfully leveraging technology to enhance customer and employee experiences.
Vintage Cigar was named one of 16 finalists in the “enhancing employee experiences” category. It is the only Granite State company to make the final cut.
Inside sales director Taylor Hall said he entered the business into the contest several months ago, but admitted his expectations were, initially, low.
Several weeks ago, however, Hall was driving to work when his cellphone started beeping, alerting him to a new email. He pulled over, opened an email from Comcast officials, and was informed that Vintage Cigar had been selected as regional winner.
Business owner Kurt Kendall, who opened Twins Cigar Shop in Londonderry in 1997, said things have been moving along quite briskly since Vintage Cigar Distributors released its first batch of 7-20-4 cigars in April 2009.
Using the same formula used by R.G. Sullivan to manufacture the original 7-20-4 cigars in Manchester in the late 1800s, Kendall said the new incarnation of the once-defunct trademark smoke has earned accolades from smoking aficionados around the globe.
Kendall operates both businesses out of the Rockingham Road location, with Hall overseeing inside sales. A third staffer, Rick Ardito, is based in Atlanta and handles distribution and other such aspects. About a dozen or so independent brokers work around the country: the cigars are currently sold in about 46 different states.
Hall said technology has played a vital role in the company’s success. After moving here from Ohio for the sales job, Hall said, he approached Kendall to discuss the best methods of enhancing customer relations via some new computer software.
Kendall had already been using cloud storage capacity to communicate directly with employees scattered around the nation. “It just made the most sense,” Hall said. “And there are so many independent cigar shop owners out there.
“We knew that for some, if they didn’t hear from us right away, they might be tempted to move on to the next brand.”
Social media has also been an important aspect of raising brand awareness, Hall added.
“People are starting to see us more and more,” Hall said, noting that the technological efforts have, overall, led to an estimated 27 percent increase in sales.
As a regional winner of the contest, Vintage Cigar received a $5,000 award along with two years’ worth of Comcast Business Internet and TV services, and a $2,500 allocation for other Comcast services.
Six of the regional winners will receive the grand prize and attend an awards dinner prepared by celebrity chef Robert Irvine.
“Every day, technology increasingly becomes a critical component of how businesses of all sizes manage their company and make improvements that increase efficiency and encourage growth and profitability,” said Steve Walsh, regional vice president for Comcast Business of Greater Boston. “This program allows us to award businesses that are already committed to enhancing technology to improve the experience of both their customers and employees.”
Contest officials are calling on the public to help them choose the six grand prize winners. Voting will be accepted online through June 1 by visiting http://business.comcast/com/i4e/vote.