I am Dave Payne, Midwest Regional Sales Manager for Crowned Heads and proud cigar nerd. I joined Crowned Heads in January this year and was asked to share some of my experience from my first 6 months in the industry as we approach my very first IPCPR!
From the outside in, you’re living the dream! Please describe your journey from consumer to insider:
As a tobacco user, I was somewhat familiar and curious about the world of premium cigars but thought that it would surely be too expensive for a college student. After dabbling here and there with a random cigar or a gifted one, I finally really discovered premium cigars after graduating college in 2011. A coworker gave me a Graycliff Platinum and I was hooked.
Never one for moderation, my downtime as a police dispatcher meant a way to read everything I could about my new hobby. I discovered the wonderful, vibrant Reddit community and jumped right in.
Through the platform I have met tons of lifelong friends, but one particular user happened to manage a cigar bar about an hour away from me and was looking for help (@jklavinsprinting He does AWESOME artwork). I signed up and had the best part time gig a guy could ask for- bartending and working in the largest humidor in Indiana at Smoker’s Choice in Brownsburg.
After pursuing my hobby more fully by traveling to Esteli and also having a cigar made for the Reddit community, I decided it was time for a change.
I was rapidly approaching 30, knowing I didn’t want to be a dispatcher forever. I was single with no kids and no pets, so if there was ever a time to take a road job, it was now.
The owner of my store believed in me and was unknowingly championing me to industry people and would always make sure to pass on information about job openings. So, when I heard Crowned Heads had an opening, I tossed my hat in the ring.
I met the National Sales Manager, Miguel Schoedel, when he did an event at my shop and could not have been more impressed. Not only is he the best salesman I’ve ever met, but he is one of the most inspiring and honorable human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
After interviewing on my 30th birthday, the gentleman at Crowned Heads gave me the birthday gift of my dreams – an opportunity to come join their family.
Seriously… How awesome is it to turn your passion into a full-time career?
I’ll let you know when the shock wears off! I absolutely love every single day of my life. There are so many blessings that come with this, and it has not been lost on me. I am trying to be as thankful as possible and really work as hard as I can for my accounts.
For example, how many opportunities do you get as an adult to go meet an entirely new group of people, some of which will be lifelong friends, business partners, and even mentors? That’s just an unbelievably cool situation to be in.
They say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, that’s either one of the most profoundly true things ever said, or I am terrible at this job, because I don’t feel like I’ve had to “work” at all.
What surprised you the most about the industry once you got on the inside?
That Crowned Heads is an 8-man operation! The success they have had has been borne on the backs of so few... they should be incredibly proud of what they have accomplished. Seriously, carving your own path is way more than a slogan around here.
View this post on Instagram
Custom for our Midwest Rookie Road Warrior @dave_cigar aka David Payne—follow him on IG and meet him at an upcoming Crowned Heads Road Show...we’ve got over 40 on the calendar now and hopefully we’ll be bringin’ it to a town near YOU. Check out the schedule on our site CrownedHeads.com. 👊
In addition to handling events like a Boss, what other duties fall under your purview?
Travel. Lots of travel. My entire job is visiting all of the Crowned Heads retail family members in the Midwest and making sure their needs are met. I spend as much time in as many humidors as I can, whether that be merchandising product, talking business, or hand selling.
I promote Crowned Heads however is needed. Sometimes that means taking orders or strategizing, sometimes it means events, but I love winding down in the evening with a cigar in a new lounge and getting to know people. It’s what I loved about cigars in the first place, and also happens to be a very valuable tool for getting people to grab some Crowned Heads next time they reach in the humidor.
The end goal is to let everyone try these really wonderful cigars. And the truth of the matter is this... if you haven’t seen what Crowned Heads has been up to lately, you’re missing out. I say that as a fan of the craft.
You’ve been a Crowned Heads fan long before you started representing their brand. Is there anything you appreciate more about Crowned Heads now that you’re an insider?
The people. It was never about just being in the industry for me, but when I met the team, I knew I would be insanely lucky to work with them. And it’s not just that they excel in their positions. This group of guys impressed me way beyond cigars. They are men of substance that are easy to respect, and I am proud to say I work for. That’s the kind of whole package that really sealed the deal for me.
What are some of your favorite memories from recently visiting Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic?
My first day on the job was in the DR, so let’s just acknowledge how cool that is. It was a little bit unnerving trying to keep my cool around these huge names in the industry. Our last night in the DR we went out to eat and as I’m walking up to the restaurant standing with Jon Huber, Mike Conder, and EP Carrillo, we see Matt Booth get up and come over to say hi. That’s one of those moments where you look around to other people like, “Is this really my life?”
But past sheer shock, there were some really neat moments that I’ll treasure forever. 3 weeks after earning the #1 Cigar of the Year in Cigar Aficionado, Ernesto is hosting us at his factory. One of the coolest activities we got to do was when Ernesto gave us puritos of all the components to one of our cigars and made us all guess which one it was. Try it with your friends. It’s insanely difficult.
However, by far the most special part was sitting around late at night playing dominos, smoking fantastic cigars, and listening to the “old heads” share stories. Nothing cooler than getting a window into that world.
What advice would you give to people that want to pursue the same career path in the future?
I mean it takes a person in a very specific set of circumstances to be able to live in a hotel 5 nights a week. So, consider that first haha. Other than that… read, learn, smoke, talk, and listen. Spend time in different lounges and learn how things work in this environment. Work in a Humidor if you can. Get lucky and hustle harder.
View this post on Instagram
What are you most excited about in the near future from Crowned Heads?
La Coalición!!! Jon Huber and Willy Herrera have teamed up for something BIG, and it has been a long time coming. Granted, I may be biased, but I feel like this is one of the most exciting collaborations in recent memory. I mean, seriously let’s look at the blend....CT broadleaf wrapper, Sumatra binder, DR/Nic filler. That is a recipe for a banger, ladies and gentlemen.