An avid cigar smoker for a decade, Octavia Toliver is the founder and CEO of HERficionado — a female-friendly cigar network whose platform has grown substantially in only two years. True to the growing culture of cigar events and promotions, Toliver grew tired of frequenting bars where she was among a handful of women outnumbered by rooms full of men. Hence, Toliver birthed HERficianado as a “safe space for women to come, network and educate themselves on cigars.”
What inspired you to create HERficionado, and why was it important for you to create a brand that is female-specific?
I wanted to create something that is very non-intimidating [where] women [could] come and feel comfortable … for beginners or for women who have been smoking for 20 years. [My lane] includes products, events and more.
How difficult was it for you to create a footprint in an industry that is such a boy’s club?
I think that social media has made it a lot easier for me. It was about putting myself out there and starting to host the events. I think that women naturally gravitate to the brand.
What do you encourage women to consider when they begin smoking cigars?
I encourage women to start on the milder side. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find someone that you feel comfortable speaking [to].
How have you tried to expand the reach of your brand through social media?
I started by featuring other women who were already smoking cigars. Because I started that way, this put me in a position where people trusted me. I tend to reach out to women and men frequently and welcome them to my space.
Explain the types of events you host.
I bring a fresh take on cigars, not the old stuffy boys club. We’re going to have the nice low-tempo music with some hip-hop. The events give it a new spin, something a bit more exciting and a bit more upbeat.
When did you fall in love with the city of Atlanta?
I fell in love … when I moved here. I came from a small town and went to college in a small town. I had never really seen so many Black people thriving and living these fabulous lives. [That] motivated me to do things that I’ve always wanted to do.
Atlanta is known to inspire and encourage Black entrepreneurs. What was your experience?
I think Atlanta is filled with creatives. It’s great because most people have already succeeded in different industries. Anyone can help you out with an opportunity and help [you] on your journey.
What are some experiences that have left a mark on you that you think visitors should experience while in Atlanta?
I would encourage people to dig into the city. I would encourage people to go to the West End. … Head to Piedmont Park and walk through [it]. Go to The [King] Center. … I would encourage people to experience [the culture and history] while they are here.