« SHANGHAI IS THE PARIS OF THE ORIENT, THE NEW YORK OF CHINA. IT IS A MAGICAL CITY..»
ACC (Achievement Cigar Company) established in Ecuador in 1952 by Jose Aray is the worlds leading producer of vintage tobacco. What started as a family run business, three generations of excellence, is now recognized globally due to its expansion into the Chinese market. ACC Asia was founded in the early 2000’s by partners Max Myers, originally from San Francisco and Talos from South of China who decided to enter the luxury goods market. From a line of cigars, came a line of luxury accessories, and top of the line aged whiskeys. What started as a need in the market, became the worlds largest luxury consumer brand coming out of China.
“We started it with an idea”. Myers starts. “Talos knew I was from the States, he knew I liked cigars, I knew he liked cigars. We would meet up, have fun and smoke cigars. Then one day he he said : “I know a lot of guys who like cigars. We should sell them but let’s get something better.”
That’s when the entrepreneurial mindset kicked in.
The selection in China [at the time] was really not good… We wanted to create something of high quality that would reach a niche market. We tested it out. We went from place to place and sold it the old fashioned way, door to door. At the end of the day, nobody is going to sell [your product] like you’re going to sell. Nobody is going to understand the concept as much as you.
How did you get started in the industry ?
Through network and meeting people, I met a guy who was a manufacturer based out of New York. We started by selling his brand as a test, because he was willing to work with us when we had no credibility. That lasted a little while, but we had a lot of problems with the back end, it wasn’t consistent. That was the first time that we essentially went bankrupt. We returned all our clients money, and started from scratch.
It was that point that we couldn’t delay anymore, and we had to build our own brands. Control our brand image. Over the years we build four brands of cigars. Within each brand, there was many different types of cigars. We had to control the tobacco. We had to own the tobacco, we had to own the factory, we had to own the farm. Out of safety, we had to go to the consumer. It took a lot of effort and a lot of money. Everything from growing, to how we processed it was controlled by us.
What differentiates your brand from your competitors ?
We own most of the vintage tobacco that exists in the world. Once we started controlling our own manufacturing we became the brand of cigars that would produce for all the luxury brands. We made the cigars for Blancpain, Glenmorange, Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Mercedes. Luxury brands don’t want to put mass market Cohiba cigars in their events, [because] you can literally buy them from anywhere. It had no age or feeling of exclusivity. We became the only company that would produce for this market. By doing that, we built a reputation that we are the only luxury producer.
ACC（Achievement Cigar Company）于1952年由Jose Aray在厄瓜多尔成立，是世界领先的复古烟草生产商。最初的家族企业，三代卓越企业，由于其向中国市场的扩张，现在已被全球公认。 ACC Asia成立于2000年初，由来自旧金山的合作伙伴Max Myers和来自中国南方的Talos决定进入奢侈品市场。从一系列雪茄中，出现了一系列奢华配饰，以及顶级的威士忌。最初是市场需求，成为世界上最大的奢侈品消费品牌。
At the same time, we were putting together as much as the tobacco as we could, to secure the future. We buy barrels of whiskey, we buy lots of tobacco, we produced tobacco over the years, our farm and factories have been in business since 1952. The very first time, when we started building our own factories, the guy who is now our partner there Daniel Aray, it was his grandfather who had started the tobacco business in Ecuador. All the people that built their firms all came from him. He produced and started the whole thing. He built farms with people, he did all this innovation, creating the gold standard of cigar wrapper leaf used worldwide.
Now fast forward 18 years later, and ACC has a brand presence in China, expanding to international markets whilst leading in this industry.
Looking back now, what advice would you have given yourself at age 25 ?
Go to China sooner. Shanghai is the Paris of the Orient, the New York of China, Everything is here. Everybody comes from everywhere wants to be here. It’s got one of those things, that it’s hard to pin down. It’s something natural about the city. It’s a magical city.
What motivates you to keep going after +15 years in the business ?
When you’re building something, you want to grow your baby. The initial drive is you want to run your life, you don’t want to be run by it. Freedom. My father was a serial entrepreneur, so the drive was [always] instilled in me.
What’s next for ACC ?
Moving into more retail. The next phase would be deeper penetration outside our market. The Chinese are also outside. More than ever before. That’s our strategy for expanding to luxury consumers. We are also moving into Mobile Retail where we can roll in and out of VIP casinos, VIP villas, etc, a Mobile Retail unit which will house anywhere from $5-$10 million USD of luxury goods, such as cigars, whisky, and watches.