Anto appears in the Top 100
Innovators & Entrepreneurs Magazine
In 1994, Anto Mahroukian was an ordinary high school student, full of dreams and ambitions for what lay ahead. Little did he know that his father's 50th birthday would mark the beginning of an extraordinary journey, all sparked by the gift of a high-quality cigar.
As Anto's father, John, savored that pricey cigar, he was astonished by the exorbitant cost. He discovered that it had been imported from the Dominican Republic, where he owned a successful jewelry business. The pair pondered the possibility of sourcing cigars at a more affordable cost and decided they could create a viable business. John tasked Anto to create a brand name and after lengthy research, Anto ultimately decided that the company should be named after his father. And so, JM Tobacco was born.
At the tender age of 18, Anto made his first voyage to the Dominican Republic, balancing his time between college and the burgeoning business. As JM Tobacco began to flourish, Anto made a life-altering decision – he dropped out of college to commit himself fully to the company. However, the road to success was anything but smooth. The cigar market soon became saturated, threatening to overshadow their venture. Undeterred, Anto enrolled at USC School of Business, using his newfound knowledge to fortify the brand's marketing strategy. Their game-changing move came in the form of value-priced cigars. Armed with quality tobacco and an innovative approach of using smaller pieces instead of long leaves, they crafted the JM Dominican line. Boxed in sets of 50, they offered a single blend initially, but their repertoire quickly expanded to include six distinct blends – four from the Dominican Republic and two from Nicaragua.
JM Tobacco's unique appeal lies in its enduring presence in the industry. With a customer-centric approach, they prioritize retailers and cut out middlemen by sourcing directly from manufacturers. They even cultivate their own tobacco, a separate but vital facet of their business, with fields in Mexico's San Andreas region.
Reflecting on his journey, Anto recalls the highs and lows of the tobacco industry. The boom of the mid-1990s and the subsequent bust of the late 1990s tested their mettle. Yet, JM Tobacco emerged stronger, pivoting to meet the needs of the everyday cigar enthusiast, epitomizing their slogan: "Your daily choice."
In a world of changing tastes and trends, JM Tobacco remains a constant presence, a testament to their unwavering commitment to quality, affordability, and their customers. With a legacy spanning almost three decades, the story of Anto Mahroukian and JM Tobacco is a tale of resilience, innovation, and the enduring bond between a father and son.