June 2013 Newsletter


June 2013

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Kurt's Corner
Business Start-up/
Entrepreneurship- Part 2
As Seen in the April Issue of Cigar Advisor

Continued from last month's newsletter... 

     Congratulations! Your solution, then an invention, is now a product. The market responded and demands the product.  Are you in business? Maybe. The answer really depends on your financial situation and skills related to the running the business you want to be in.  Prior to XIKAR, my career experience included sales and marketing management, and new product launches for several top consumer products companies.  Scott's included sales, relationship management, factory management and of course a lot of product design.  We were well suited to start and run XIKAR on our own.

Had we not been good candidates for our own jobs, I'm not sure that would have stopped us! Please heed this warning I have come to realize: inventing a product and running a business are completely different. Getting a new product to market carries both financial and business risk (a lot more on that in a later article).  Inventors who are not prepared for both stand to lose their finances and their market space as the business overwhelms them and the market competitors pass them by.
Business startups can be boot-strapped.  We did it; we did it with a unique, patented product in a marketplace that was booming at the time. And, I gave up my salary and home (moved my wife, two young children and two beagles in with my mother in law) for two years. I like to say that not all entrepreneurs have to give everything up, but they have to be ready to!
Partnerships with existing brand marketers and distributors provide a great alternative for most entrepreneurs to launch their products and enjoy immediate market penetration. Sales and profits that correspond with that far outweigh the startup years of a solo effort.  Sure, the inventor gives up a portion of the profit. But often the economics are still better - for the speed of profits and the lack of risk.

We are constantly looking for new products, as are all the other distributors in our trade, and in every trade! Consumers walk into cigar shops and say, "what's new?" I walk into a cigar shop, and the owner (always) says, "what's new?" The Ashtray Can inventor is a great example of how well this can work. I recently saw an invention that will be perfectly suited for the checkout at Wal-Mart, grocery and other big chains. The inventor is a salesman in a tech company, and a mutual friend suggested me to him. So, I passed him to a buddy whose company sells to Wal-Mart, Target and grocery - and I think they are both going to make a lot of money on this deal!
In my case, I was compelled by a new product solution to take to market. I was compelled to start a business because I was "a good employee, but not very good at working for someone else". Some of you out there know exactly what I am talking about! I hope you have a great product idea, and get it to market. Or, I hope you have a great solution, and let me, or another company know about it!

Kurt Van Keppel

April 2013 Newsletter


April 30, 2013


Kurt's Corner


     Tim, one of my partners, compares marketing to a diamond – many facets that must each have polish, almost to perfection, to create the ulitmate value of the whole.  A single flawed element (in marketing that could be pricing, product or promotion, for example) can wipe out the value of other elements done very well. I view “Management” similarly. 
     Certainly few business activities have more value than the finding of the right people.  At XIKAR, we use interviews, resumes and a “work culture” survey to indicate work style and inherent traits, making sure they fit both the company culture and the job activity – “getting the right people in the right seats” to paraphrase Disney and others. Getting this right, getting high performers who emulate, even live the culture, prevents most problems and facilitates the other facets of management.
     Once at XIKAR, our associates deserve to understand our goals, and should be able to guide themselves by them. We accomplish this by setting overall objectives and then by including them in defining the specifics.  We then leave strive to provide the right amount of autonomy,  with the authority,  to achieve that responsibility.
     Associates also deserve recognition and reward.  We often hear that recognition is the more important of the two.  In my experience, both are required, but of the two, recognition is the harder to give. That’s not because we don’t give it or don’t want to, but because it includes and means much more than congratulating them on a job well done.  It also means recognizing their value to the organization and the value of their input by including them in the ideation and strategy process.  As a result, many of our ideas,  such as our best selling lighter, the Element, come from inside the team.
     And perhaps in our most important facet of management, we strive every day to treat our associates as we expect to be treated.  At XIKAR, we try to create a meritocracy of ideas.  At the trade show this year in July, we will introduce a new era of humidification technology that results from brainstorming, deep study and the outcome of many people synthesizing each others ideas.
     Finally, I view safety as the glue that binds the facets.  As long as we each are focused on innovation and extraordinary customer experience, then team members don’t risk when they take a chance on ideas.
     Hopefully, our diamond of Management creates XIKAR for Life among our team. And when you call, we hope you hear that in our voices and see that in our actions – and make XIKAR for Life your mantra too!

Kurt Van Keppel

March 2013 Newsletter


March 31, 2013


Kurt's Corner


     Kurt is currently out of the office traveling, but the XIKAR team is excited for Spring! With typical Midwest weather, there is snow on the ground and 60 degree weather every other day so we are getting antsy for all the awesome things that Spring brings. Whether you are turkey hunting, competing with your NCAA bracket, gearing up for baseball season or dusting off those golf clubs, enjoy that great camaraderie feeling that we strive to enable. 

Here's to a memorable Spring and have a wonderful holiday weekend XIKAR Nation!


April 2012 Newsletter

XIKAR April 2012
Kurt's CornerKurtsCorner

Dear XIKAR Customers and Friends:
        Autism affects one out of every 88 children and continues to increase.  More children this year will be diagnosed with Autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.  Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases. These shocking statistics show that autism is an epidemic and needs continual awareness and support. April is Autism Awareness month so what better time to spread the word of how to help.

        Autism Awareness  holds a special place in my heart as my best friend from college has an autistic son that is now 20 years old. I have seen first hand the difficulties and challenges she has had to endure and continues to face with this disorder. Her situation sparked a fire in me years ago to do all I can to help raise awareness.

        XIKAR has been teaming up with En Fuego Tobacco Shop in Rockwell, TX to host an Annual Golf Tournament benefiting Autism. This annual tournament is held to raise awareness and funding for nonPareil ("no two are alike") Institute in Plano, TX. This is a nonprofit corporation that is dedicated to providing technical training to students who have been diagnosed with autism. The programs are technology based and prepare individuals for the possibility to enter into employment at some point in their future. They learn teamwork, create a sense of community, and achieve fulfilled lives. En Fuego Tobacco Shop's Annual Golf Tournament raised over $24,000 for the nonPareil institute last year. "Though, there are still many questions not answered about this disability, our partnership with nonPareil has helped make great strides in taking kids that the world has written off and turning them into contributing members of society," Lee Moore, owner of En Fuego Tobacco Shop said.


       Your support is needed NOW. Join in the fight to help support, autism education, awareness, advocacy, research and most importantly, enable us to assist children and families living with autism. Check out Autism Speaks or Autism Society to get involved.





Kurt Van Keppel

President & Founder

XIKAR, Inc. 

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