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March 17, 2015 | Tom Ballard

“BIG IDEA” PROFILE: Traditions Cigar

Big Idea 2015(EDITOR’S NOTE: Seven teams competed in the finale of this year’s “What’s the Big Idea” competition sponsored by the Development Corporation of Knox County, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Knoxville Chamber and Tech 2020. Sing and Spell won the event, but six other entrepreneurial teams “gave it their all.” This is the final in a series profiling the other finalists that competed in the revamped, 48-hour event.)

Zach Slabaugh, one of the Co-Founders of Traditions Cigar, described the company during the finale of this year’s “What’s the Big Idea” as the first start-up building a subscription-based cigar company targeting young professionals

When did you first come-up with the idea that you submitted for the 2015 “What’s the Big Idea” competition?

We first came-up with our idea around December of 2013 over coffee at Starbucks Coffee on the University of Tennessee’s Campus.

Tell us about the original idea. What is it? What market need or deficiency do you hope to address?

Our original idea was to create a cigar company that was all about image. Our initial thought was to sell cigars individually in single boxes that fit in a jacket/blazer pocket. We have clearly moved away from that, and now our big focus is education.

How did the concept change during the 48-hour weekend of intense mentoring and advice from others?

During “What’s the Big Idea,” our concept didn’t change as much as us re-focusing on one specific market we were going to go after. We had our hands in five “hats” initially, but with help, were able to look at what is most profitable and best for business.

Who were some of your more valuable mentors/advisors and how did they help you get ready for that Sunday night finale?

Eric Dunn was fantastic in helping us distill our ideas.  He was amazing, and we couldn’t have asked for a better mentor during that time.

Although you did not win the up to $10,000, you were on stage before an appreciative audience. Do you plan to continue working on the idea?

Absolutely. We are in the process of working with a couple of local companies to build our website and outsource our distribution. Not winning was probably the best thing that could have happened, and now we get a chance to sit back and look at all of the different holes we need to fill. We expect to be full-go in the idea we pitched on stage as of May!

If you could wave the proverbial wand and get one wish for something to help you move forward, what would it be?

Besides the obvious money? We would love to get a website that does all the features we want, now. That is the most important part of our business going forward, and having access to all that we needed would be amazing! (EDITOR’S NOTE: You can contact Slabaugh at  

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