According to CEO and co-founder Jeff Zeiders, Cigarclub.com is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month. The e-commerce startup is in the process of establishing a national brand and has experienced exponential growth in its relatively short existence.

The small business launched Dec. 14, 2016, by Zeiders and Chris Yokley, CTO and co-founder. Originally from Baltimore and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Zeiders relocated to Mobile in 2015 and came up with the idea for Cigarclub.com on the fly at an August 2016 Startup Weekend event where he also met Yokley. The concept placed third at the competition.

In April, the duo competed at Alabama Launchpad, failing to place, but in July were able to connect with local angel investors for first-round seed funding with the assistance of a program sponsored by Innovation Portal.

Fast forward to November and the company received coverage in four national publications, including The Manual, Brobible, Style Blueprint and Good Grit Magazine — perhaps proving to be one of Mobile’s first case studies of fast-track entrepreneurial success that has been part of the local ecosystem for several years.

To date the startup has a footprint in 44 states and four countries outside of the United States, including Canada, Japan, Germany and France. Fifty percent of subscribers hail from the Southeast, 45 percent from the rest of the U.S. and 5 percent are international.

Founded by millennials — Zeiders is 31 and Yokley 37 — the company has promoted itself through what Zeiders calls “guerrilla marketing,” using Instagram as the primary word-of-mouth medium for advertising. Results have been impressive: To date, Cigarclub.com has grown from 450 followers from early May to more than 17,000 as of November.

“We are adding 60 to 75 followers per day and have seen 3,200 percent growth through traction in Instagram,” Zeiders said. The growth is especially remarkable considering companies that sell tobacco products are subject to advertising restrictions, he added.

The startup has also outgrown its office at the Exchange 202 co-working space. It is looking to relocate to a larger office and warehouse footprint and will be hiring more employees, all by the middle of 2018. Positions needed will include a marketing specialist, two order fulfillment clerks and up to four more part-time staff.

“Every step along the way, the entrepreneurial mechanisms that have been available — from the startup competition, to our failed funding pitch last April for $70,000, to Innovation Portal’s guidance connecting us with Angel Investors — have all contributed to the success of the company. We wouldn’t be in existence without them,” Zeiders said.

PMG announces new pediatrics practice
Providence Medical Group (PMG) recently announced that Amit Pant, M.D., and Hari Sivanandam, M.D., recently opened a new pediatrics practice. Providence Medical Group – Pediatrics is located on the Providence Hospital campus at 6701 Airport Blvd. in Mobile within the Medical Office Plaza, Building D, Suite 100.

Pant earned his medical degree from Nepal Medical College and Teaching Hospital and completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital. He serves as chairman of the Pediatrics Department at Providence Hospital and also treats patients at Mostellar Medical Center in Bayou La Batre.

Pant is board certified in pediatrics and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Society of Mobile County and the Nepal Medical Council.

Sivanandam earned his medical degree from Stanley Medical College in Chennai, India, and completed residencies in pediatrics at Madras Medical College Institute of Child Health and Hospital in Chennai and also at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where he worked as an emergency physician.

Sivanandam is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Providence Medical Group is the area’s largest nonprofit network of primary care and specialty physicians, with more than 20 locations across South Alabama and Southern Mississippi. Providence has 70 physicians from specialties including family medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, general surgery and radiation oncology.

Mobile awarded nearly $7M for coastline preservation
According to a news release, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded the city of Mobile a $6,923,800 grant to conserve and protect the area’s coastline.

Phase II of the Mobile Bay Shore Habitat Conservation and Acquisition Initiative will acquire, restore and preserve habitats used by a variety of fish and wildlife species injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The grant application concerned three specific project areas in the Perch Creek/Garrows Bend Watershed and the lower Three Mile Creek Watershed.

Projects include: land acquisition in the Three Mile Creek, Perch Creek and Garrows Bend Watersheds; shoreline restoration along the Mobile Bay shore; and marsh restoration, water quality improvements and invasive species management in all three project areas. 

NFWF awarded Mobile a $300,000 grant in 2015 for the first phase of the project to identify these habitats, complete environmental assessments for the properties and perform real estate due diligence.

The project was made possible through collaboration with Alabama Department of Transportation, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, The Nature Conservancy, Peninsula of Mobile, MAWSS, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Coastal Foundation, Mobile United, Pelican Coast Conservancy and the Martin Luther King Jr. Redevelopment Authority. 

“I want to thank all of our partners for turning this vision into a reality,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “Mobile is a city closely connected to the water and is one of the largest ports in the country. We’ve surpassed many challenges over the years, but we need a resilient coastline to support our growing economy. This project is a strong step in the right direction.”

 This was one of 19 projects and several amendments NFWF recently announced. State projects were selected for funding following extensive consultation with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, FWS and NOAA.