Toyota entrepreneur of the month
Ricardo Aleman will tell you fate had a lot to do with starting his small business.
As a 19-year-old truck driver, Aleman took up smoking cigars; years later, at 28, he decided this expensive habit was something he could make money at.
As luck would have it, Aleman met a roller (a professional who hand rolls cigars) at a Texas swap meet.
“We were talking and he saw me smoking a cigar,” Aleman says. “He handed me a couple of his. Periodically, I would order some from him.”
Once things started to come together, Aleman contacted the Texas roller. Coincidentally, the roller had just decided to move to Arizona.
Aleman’s cigar company, which he called El Gordo, gets many of its customers by word of mouth. Corporate businesses and private parties will engage El Gordo to supply handmade cigars at their events and celebrations. Aleman makes sure his customers get the star treatment.
“We personalize the bands. We take a person’s last name or a logo and a date of birth and we put that on the front end of a cigar label,” Aleman explains. “These are hand-rolled, special reserve cigars.”
El Gordo searches for the best tobacco available and rolls it into premium cigars. A small hand-rolled cigar costs about $4, while a large cigar, (one that offers two to three hours of smoking), will cost $15. Customers can buy bundles of 25, with prices ranging from $65 to $195.
Aleman, now 30, has brought El Gordo to golf tournaments, supper clubs and corporate events, but one gathering sticks out in his mind: the car races at Speedworld Motorplex in Wittman.
“It’s a younger generation that runs quarter-mile drag racing,” Aleman says. “It’s catered to the very young individual, from age 18 to 30. Their draw is couple thousand to 5,000 people.”
Aleman’s wife, Michele, creates the graphic design for El Gordo’s cigar bands and “pretty much keeps me in order.
“She gives me a lot of strength … and she juggles two kids!”
Another close relative has also been a role model for Aleman.
“I have an uncle, Tio Ricky, who is very successful. He’s not the kind of person who’s made millions, but he would help anybody. He’s pretty much inspired me,” Aleman says.
El Gordo Cigar Company
(480) 726-6648 ph