We had the good fortune of connecting with Chaina Nickole and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chaina, what is the most important factor behind your success?
It’s the people who support me and my brand that serve as the most important factor to my success. They share such a genuine appreciation for what I have to offer, that it fuels my motivation to actually act on my ideas. But I also rely on their patience and grace. I’ve started over SO many times, but each time I’ve been welcomed back with equal fervor – sometimes having somehow actually gained followers in the process! With such encouragement and support from within the industry, I have no choice but to be successful.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Please tell us more about your work.

> As Cigar Program Director for Red Phone Booth – a series of Speakeasies throughout the Southern US – I am charged with overseeing a slew of directives for the cigar branch of the company: product mix, merchandising, staff training, corporate event planning and hosting, brand standards and protocol, and what’s possibly my favorite – creating tasting and pairing notes for each cigar in our portfolio (yum)!

> As @CigarDutchess, I am able to express my passion through various outlets. I write about cigars and cigar culture, conduct cigar trainings, and host cigar focused and cigar-friendly events.

> In both roles, I am able to combine my interests in writing, entertaining, educating, and cigars & spirits.

We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.

> I’m most proud of two things: that my work speaks for itself, and that so many whom I’ve worked with find enough value in that work to tell me so without my asking. I’m a pretty humble gal, but there’s nothing like unsolicited praise to keep you motivated. It makes me feel proud, because I take pride in myself and the work I produce. Hearing from others that I’ve made a difference is not something I take lightly.

How did you get to where you are today professionally.

> The earliest origin to my professional story would be the simple need for a new job. That job ended up being at a cigar lounge,  Highland Cigar Company, where I quickly took to the pastime and began smoking my way through the humidor. Soon, coworkers and guests alike looked to me as a leader within an otherwise often misguided space.

> In all actuality, it was a chance I was given by the current owner that made all the difference. Due to poor ownership during my initial time there, I was on my way out of the cigar industry altogether. But as I was in the process of interviewing elsewhere, my favorite customer called to say he was putting in an offer on the shop and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be the General Manager. I didn’t even need to think about it. The rest is history.

Was it easy?

> Learning about cigars was easy because I mostly just smoked them – ha! But taking on mundane managerial tasks to keep the business running while also trying to clean up past mistakes and grow us into the future was not easy. To this day, prioritizing important tasks is one of my biggest challenges.

> Writing about cigars, creating documents and imagery, and putting together events comes very easily to me. Putting all these thoughts and ideas into the world was incredibly difficult. Consistency continues to be an obstacle for me when it comes to my creative work. I’ll often take an embarrassingly long hiatus to “reset” because I’m constantly trying to outdo both myself and current trends in my industry.

If not, how did you overcome the challenges?

> Asking others for help is one of my least favorite things to do, but also one of the most important. Expressing when I’m overwhelmed and unsure always helps provide perspective. I also have recently enlisted an accountability partner in a dear friend of mine. We simply set a few weekly goals and check in on each other’s progress the week after. Only a few weeks in, and it’s already proving helpful.

What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

> I’ve learned to trust more and overthink less. I’m not sure how it is that I can think I’m always right but still constantly doubt myself – ha! But really, with so much support, affirmation, continued success, and gut feeling, it’s unreasonable to allow doubt and overthinking to keep great work from being done.

What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?

> I want people to know that it’s been a lonnnnng time coming and is only just beginning.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend is visiting for the week, the trip will most certainly be centered around food. Eating out is one of the few Atlanta pastimes I actually take advantage of – ha! I tend to avoid typical tourist attractions, but if it’s a whole week, there are definitely some well worth the visit.

Attractions: Botanical Gardens, The Beltline, Little 5 Points, Krog Street Market, The Battery, High Museum, Monday Night Brewing

Breakfast/Brunch: Busy Bee, Flying Biscuit, The Nook, Breakfast at Barney’s, Rays on the River

Lunch: Mr. Everything, Upbeet, Vortex, Tuza, Bold Monk Brewing Co.

Dinner: Grana, Alma Cocina, Bar Margot, King & Duke, The Oceaniare
Events: Outdoor Festival (there’s always one somewhere), Falcons/Hawks/Braves/United game
Nightlife: Red Phone Booth, The James Room, Blue Flame

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are too many key components to name, but I must dedicate this shout out to Harold Martin, Jr. : Thank you for trusting me enough to give me a shot based on my talents and strengths rather than my age or experience. I was on my way out of the industry entirely, and because of that opportunity am now a Program Director for multiple locations. I owe you one!

Website: www.redphonebooth.com

Instagram: @cigardutchess

Image Credits
John C. Smith

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