Cigar company owner breaks barriers after pandemic put her career on pause

When the pandemic hit, working in the online fashion industry was no longer sustainable for Chantel Leavitt. She says COVID-19 forced her to reinvent herself so she could make a living.

"No one wanted a cute pair of shoes. No one knew if they were leaving their house. They didn’t know if they were going to have a paycheck, so it slaughtered me as well. It put me out of business for the most part, but you have to keep going. So I said, ‘Wait a second, maybe now is the time I start doing this passion that I have,’" Leavitt shared.

She’s had a lifelong passion for cigars, so she put her entrepreneurial skills to the test.

"My father back in the day was a huge cigar smoker, ever since I was a child, and he was a professional poker player in Vegas. And I always had this affinity for these cigars," Leavitt explained.

After about a year of work, she launched her cigar company, Bella Dama Cigars, kicking off a new career in an industry where women are few and far between.

"That I know of, I am the only other cigar company owner, that has their own cigar blends other than these twin sisters that started quite some time ago," said Leavitt.

READ: West Tampa cigar factories get new life as apartments, winery

Leavitt works with someone who rolls the cigars, but she does everything else by herself and operates her business out of her home. She named the different cigars after playing cards in honor of her father.

"I ship everything from here myself, package it, ship it, I had to learn, I never knew how, what do you do, how do you package it, I had to learn the five fingers in the zip-lock. It’s been a learning process the whole way," Leavitt continued.

She says she’s determined to keep each cigar $10 or less so everyone, 21 and older, can enjoy them.

Ten percent of her sales go to the Dented Development Project, a non-profit organization that helps first responders and their families.

LINK: Learn more about Bella Dama Cigars at


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