January 2015 Newsletter

January 2015
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Kurt's Corner

On Cuba
On December 17, 2014, USA - Cuba detente negotiations suddenly appeared, with much speculation and questions since, surrounding Cuba’s primary exports, tourism and cigars.  “Will you go?”  “Will this be a new boom to cigars and your business?” are two questions I’ve heard every week since the President’s announcement.  My answers are in short: I don’t know. 
The big question among consumers, retailers and manufacturers in our trade is of course, “the new boom”. And the answer, once the legalities are worked out, lies in execution of the production, distribution and marketing of that product.  Brands and production quality from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua (among others) are already so well established, that Cuban cigars will hardly receive a red carpet with a free pass to the front of the line.  In short, we’ll see.
Will I go?  That depends.  I’d like to go visit a beautiful island paradise that makes great cigars, and more importantly respects and celebrates its citizens’ human, natural and political rights. Unfortunately, the President’s address on this topic is vague and ill-defined.  Perhaps they have it all worked out – but in absence of that information, I’m hereby taking the liberty of making some suggestions.
Among the rights I like to observe and enjoy on my visit are the right to due process, including probable cause, and a trial by a jury of one’s peers, under the law.  I’d like to know that I and my hosts are not potential subjects of cruel and unusual punishment, including long incarceration for political speech.  And I’d like that speech to be free to make, whether individually or assembled in a group.
And when the government errs, I’d like to see the opportunity for a redress of grievances, without risk of further violations to life and property.  I’d like to visit, perhaps even buy a condo, a place that respects the right to private property, without having the fear of unreasonable search and seizure.  And finally, I’d like my citizen hosts to have the right to keep and bear arms, so that when the government does err, does violate inalienable human, natural, and political freedoms, they may stand firm in protection and preservation of their rights.
In return for our consumption, tourism and investment capital, I sincerely hope the current administration secures these rights.  Immediate release of political prisoners, and the restoration of private property confiscated from Cuban citizens under the Agrarian Reform Law of May, 1959 would be a good start.
Under these conditions, I’d love to go to Cuba. And after that, I’d love to go to Venezuela.

Kurt Van Keppel
President, XIKAR, Inc.

2014 Product Innovation Quiz

Product and Process Excellence
IPCPR and the launch of numerous new items from XIKAR seems like forever ago already.  In the blur of smoke and lights that is Las Vegas, did you get a thorough introduction and learn all of the cleaver tricks that make each item unique?  It's time for a quick quiz!
Did You Know......

- That the X875 cutter features cutting chamber access ports on each side of the cutter that allow tobacco debris to be ejected with each cut?

- That the VX Key Chain cutter has an advanced spring mechanism inside that prevents the cutter from opening in your pocket and also gives it a silky smooth cutting action?

- That the Vintage Bronze finish on the Cirro is applied by hand so no two lighters are the same?

And finally...

- That the PuroTemp System has customizable warnings that can alert you when your humidor requires your attention?

At XIKAR, we go out of our way to design and build products of the highest quality and ultimate convenience so you can have the best smoking experience possible.   

Rob Lembke
VP of Engineering and Process Excellence

July 2014 Newsletter


July 31, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
We are back from Las Vegas, and the IPCPR Trade Show
was a tremendous success! Our team works hard all year
to create the newest and most cutting edge cigar
accessories, and this year was no exception. The latest
XIKAR innovations were inspired by beauty and power, from
the heights of mountaintops, to the depths of the ocean.
You will be prepared to take on cigars bigger than you've 
ever imagined
, and will never again find yourself without a
cutter on hand
. Of course, all products exemplify 
superior form, feel and function, the Essence of XIKAR!

The industry received our new accessories with adulation
at the IPCPR Convention, and we look forward to getting them into your hands. This newsletter will introduce you to some of the new XIKAR innovations, and we will continue to feature a new product every month through the end of the year. 

 I want to thank you all for your loyalty to XIKAR as we progress with our commitment to revolutionary product development. I am certain that you will be impressed not only with the new releases, but the future introduction of creative concepts as XIKAR continues to serve you... for life!


Kurt Van Keppel

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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