kurt van keppel

September 2014 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION
September 2014
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Kurt's Corner

 

Recently, reflecting on the power of observation, I have discovered that in so many of life's facets, observation provides the best first step to success.  There's power in doing nothing!

How can this be true in a world of fast-paced go get 'em business?  First, observation requires quiet, which tends to remove ego from the matter.  So, we stop talking when the sale is made, or more importantly, we listen to the customer's suggestion or complaint.  And by doing so, we learn so much about what's working or not. That's why we developed the PuroTemp remote humidification system - by listening to customer desires.

Secondly, observation gives us the opportunity to deploy the trio of great communication: ask, listen and (really) hear.  This is exactly how we understand the needs of others - whether product needs as noted above, or perhaps just individual needs among team mates. Not only does this integration of others' thoughts make them relevant to the discussions (be they inside XIKAR or out), but they also help us to communicate our respect and appreciation for them.

Most importantly, observation, combined with the tools of listening, enables us to achieve collaborative creativity.  And this powerful result has catapulted us into areas we didn't before dream possible.  You can imagine that we accomplish more and better solutions through collaboration.  And more importantly, everyone is part of the process.  Recently, we attended the Intertabak cigar show in Dortmund Germany, where we had the "official" launch of the Allume lighter family.  Our European distributors collaborated with us in the design and color choice of this lighter family - and it is now the #1 selling launch item in the history of XIKAR.

Enjoy the results of our observation process.  And if you have some observations of your own to make, please let us know!

Sincerely,

Kurt Van Keppel
President, XIKAR, Inc.

August 2014 Newsletter



XIKAR NATION
August 28, 2014
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Kurt's Corner

 

Kurt is currently away from the office on a fishing trip, putting his hunting/fishing themed Outdoorsmen Gift Pack to good use! 

We hope you all get to experience a similar escape soon, as the upcoming fall season provides the ultimate weather and activities to enjoy the outdoors and your favorite cigar with friends and family! (Don't worry, XIKAR has developed the perfect accessories to accompany the season as well!)

May 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

May 21, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
On April 10, 2014 my iPad was stolen, along with
other “personal effects” (my briefcase and suitcase),
from my vehicle in Houston.  Theft is a crime that deprives
us of our property, and to some degree our liberty (having
to go shopping for clothes and sundries instead of calling
on customers), and ultimately of our enjoyment or prosperity
in life.  Our criminal laws are very clear on this matter –
theft is a prosecutable crime.  I have been very
impressed with the Harris County Sheriff’s
department’s handling of the matter – I may even get my
iPad back!
 
Our Constitution’s laws are also very clear on the matter of theft: Article V. states “(No person shall) be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”  On July 8, 2014, you may be the victim of a crime.  You may be deprived of your liberty and ultimately your property by the FDA, who will on that date decide how to regulate your enjoyment of cigars.  Unfortunately, when the perpetrator and the prosecutor are the same, the handling of the matter is much less impressive.  You will not get due process of law from a regulatory agency whose purpose is to eradicate your access to a legal product!
 
I know some smokers who are complacent on this and other smoking issues.  They say, “I don’t mind warning labels”.  “Won’t regulation of production protect us?”  Don’t be fooled – you already have the choice, the liberty to smoke or not to smoke, to choose between brands, and try new products, to congregate with others of similar tastes.  Through regulation, the FDA will create a burden on manufacturers that will effectively eliminate new items, killing small manufacturers and also small retailers.  This will be a theft, a death by decree. 
 
But we have a chance!  You do have a voice – the FDA has given us a sliver of hope by suggesting that they may choose to not regulate premium cigars.   We now have 48 days left in the “comment period”.  Your comments will count!  Go NOW to the 
CRA website. Review the situation, click the link, make your comment.  Our passion for cigars, our business, our industry depends on YOU!

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.
 
 

April 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

April 23, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
I love to eat – I always have.  Over time, it’s become more of a “living
to” than a “living for”.  Cigars are also like that for me – I live for the
moments to smoke them.  This month, we discuss cigars and eating,
which share more in common than just our palate (which truth to tell,
is enough!)
 
Last week’s trip to New York City provided my passion
extraordinary satisfaction.  The Comfort Diner extended day-after
comfort, while Mario Batali’s Esca found a way out of NY – to heaven
(try the Branzino), and The John Dory Oyster Bar gave me the need
for Comfort – along with the best oysters and lobster po' boy
imaginable. You can find my list of favorite haunts for both food and cigars right here: Kurt's NYC Food & Cigars. Add one of your own!
 
New York City has among the world’s best cigar shops – with something for every taste, in both cigars and atmosphere.  And rather than pick favorites, I invite you to visit them all.  The cigar world in New York occupies a small space, with just enough stores for the intrepid smoking traveler to visit (most of the others are gone, victims of New York’s draconian tobacco taxes and anti-smoking laws).  Among them you will find sophistication, relaxation and lounges large and small.
 
For all my passionate eating, my weight hasn’t changed. Some might call it “discerning,” or less kindly, “picky”. Really, I just eat what I like, and beyond that I don’t have much interest.  However, I practice intrepid eating, meaning I’m willing to try anything once. The same is true for cigars – this is key to really, really understanding cigars.  And if you also read about them, study them, perhaps write about them, you will soon find your own expertise.  Howard, who I first met in the Dominican Republic, recently said hello at the TX Cigar Fest.  He carries a cigar dossier with him – of descriptions of almost every cigar he has ever smoked.  Now that’s personal expertise!
 
At events, consumers often ask what cigar I might recommend.  I always reply, “what do you drink: beer, wine or whiskey?” I find the palate for drinks matches cigars (beer – mild, wine – medium, whisky – strong).  I also find the palate is indifferent to gender: once I suggested a strong cigar to a woman who was sipping a bourbon – she loved it. 
 
Whichever palate you have, I invite you to intrepid, travel-smoking discovery.  If not to NY, then travel around your city, visit a variety of shops.  “Travel” through the humidor, practice intrepid smoking.  Above all, enjoy!

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

February 2014 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

February 11, 2014

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Kurt's Corner
 
    "What's new?" is something our team gets asked daily through
social media, customer service or even at events. The answer for
XIKAR is, "What isn't new?" XIKAR's focus on quality and continuous
improvement is obvious throughout our new product offerings.
Our design team is constantly hard at work to bring you the
next great thing in cigar accessories whether it's a current product
upgrade or a brand new launch. We will now introduce 
cool new products to make your smoking experience more
enjoyable all year long, not just at IPCPR.
    For example, we have just released a new double jet flame lighter. 
As you will read below, our popular Enigma lighter is now redesigned
as the Enigma II. This new model has an amazing new feel/power in your hand. Check in with your local XIKAR retailer to pick one up and feel for yourself.  
   Also, stay tuned for an exciting new product launch coming soon! We have been working hard to develop a humidification product that will make the hobby even more simple for you to relax and enjoy. 
    Perhaps the best closing in answering the "what's new" question is always stay tuned. You won't have to wait long to get more truly innovative new products from XIKAR.  

Sincerely,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

December 2013 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION Newsletter

December 2013

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Kurt's Corner
 
  Happy Holidays XIKAR Nation! It truly is the most wonderful
time of the year, and the season for giving. It's easy to get swept
up in the momentum of the holiday season with travel plans, gifts,
(getting and giving), but I'm asking you to take a step back with me
and think about those that have to be away from their loved
ones this season. 

    The US Armed Forces make up a large part of XIKAR Nation, and
we do our best to show how thankful we are for their sacrifice for
our country. Over the past 2 years, XIKAR has donated over 2,040
accessories in care packages.  We plan to expand that number in
2014. XIKAR will partner with Cigars for Warriors next year to send even more care packages.  Cigars for Warriors’ mission is to collect and disperse premium cigars to US Military Personnel stationed abroad. Their goal is to let the men and women of our Armed Forces enjoy well-deserved moments of reassurance and relaxation. 

    To kick off our relationship with Cigars for Warriors, we are currently auctioning off our 1,000th Fossil Mammoth Xi3 Cutter, with all of the proceeds going to Cigars For Warriors.

The Xi3 Mammoth cutter builds on XIKAR’s long history of design, elegance and engineered performance with unique handles assembled by Scrimshaw Artist, Rick “HutcH” Hutchings. The highest bidder will receive the one-of-a-kind cutter, free inscription from HutcH AND get inducted into the XIKAR FOR LIFE Hall of Fame. Please join me in showing our US armed forces some love this holiday season and visit the auction site to contribute before it closes this Friday! Also, if you know anyone currently stationed abroad, feel free to submit a care package request to ktroske@xikar.com. 

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season,


Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

November Newsletter

XIKAR NATION Newsletter

November 2013

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Kurt's Corner

I love XIKAR like I love to fish. I fish a lot. Any type of fishing - I have a “go-bag” ready! I don't often fish trout, but it's my favorite sport, because it is a complete sport: trout fishing involves a goal,
a plan, a hunt and a prize.  And, it’s possible DIY: do-it-yourself.
 
All business endeavors should first have a goal. Trout fishing's goal is obviously a trout (not just any fish that bites) - but usually also a specific trout such as a big brown, an aggressive fighter which loves a fly fisherman's insect larvae and dry flies.  Sizing the prize, another goal, shows the skill of the fisherman - how else did that fish get that big if it weren't allusive?
 
Of course, like strategy, any fishing requires a plan. But fly fishing isn't just a rod and a tackle box.  Trout fishing requires tactics in all departments.  It demands intimate knowledge of the stream, surroundings, and season - right down to that week's bug hatch, to understand what the fish are biting. (I highly recommend a guide for any unfamiliar waters!)
 
Then there's the hunt, the execution of the plan. And, what a hunt it can be!  Standing in the mountain stream, I cast to the fish above at least a dozen times before my cast was on target and the presentation right (the fish bit). He then took me down-stream through a rapids, and back up again. I'm rushing through the water with him, so that I don't lose him off the the tiny hook. Finally, 25 yards down-stream again, I land him at the bank, the guide laughing with me, and at me! I was as out of breath as the landed fish (did I mention this was all at 8,500 feet elevation?!)
 
We let him go. Of course I could have eaten him, and sometimes do take a catch. And the taste is always wonderful. But that's not what I remember of these great times in this sport. I remember the times spent, planning and ultimately landing the prize!
 
The old fishing story goes that the boy counts the number of fish caught, the young man counts the size of his catch, and the old man counts the hours spent fishing.  Do you remember the great scene in "A River Runs Through It", showing Tom Skerrit watching his sons fish? Perfect depiction.
 
XIKAR is exactly like this for me.  Our primary goal, like catching prize trout, was and is to satisfy consumers’ desire for cool, innovative, and functional product, while giving them an extraordinary experience. Working the daily tasks alone in the first years, I literally counted the fish, or orders I took. My goal then was ten per day (lofty if you consider trying to get up to ten store visits in an eight hour day).
 
We then strategized that we could apply our goal across cigar accessory categories.  We planned distribution throughout cigars shops world wide, fishing where the fish are.  Today many people contribute to this hunt, all chasing big prize.  And now that XIKAR is well established, past our childhood and young adult years, I find myself admiring the great people (my staff, my sales team and my retailer partners) working along side me every day toward the same prize: to satisfy you the consumer; to fulfill your desire to buy innovative, cool product with trust that we will exceed your expectations when interacting with us.
 
And when we get it right, you kindly and often tell us so with your letters, posts and testimonials.  So we are glad to "let go" a majority of our profit back to the stream, to reinvest for future product - because the hours spent fishing at XIKAR are only as good as the prize of your satisfaction - please keep those prizes coming! But, also please don't imitate the fish and ignore us when our presentation isn't right: let us know so that by your feedback, we can provide an extraordinary experience now, and great product in the future.

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

November 2013 Newsletter

XIKAR NATION Newsletter

November 2013

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Kurt's Corner

I love XIKAR like I love to fish. I fish a lot. Any type of fishing - I have a “go-bag” ready! I don't often fish trout, but it's my favorite sport, because it is a complete sport: trout fishing involves a goal,
a plan, a hunt and a prize.  And, it’s possible DIY: do-it-yourself.
 
All business endeavors should first have a goal. Trout fishing's goal is obviously a trout (not just any fish that bites) - but usually also a specific trout such as a big brown, an aggressive fighter which loves a fly fisherman's insect larvae and dry flies.  Sizing the prize, another goal, shows the skill of the fisherman - how else did that fish get that big if it weren't allusive?
 
Of course, like strategy, any fishing requires a plan. But fly fishing isn't just a rod and a tackle box.  Trout fishing requires tactics in all departments.  It demands intimate knowledge of the stream, surroundings, and season - right down to that week's bug hatch, to understand what the fish are biting. (I highly recommend a guide for any unfamiliar waters!)
 
Then there's the hunt, the execution of the plan. And, what a hunt it can be!  Standing in the mountain stream, I cast to the fish above at least a dozen times before my cast was on target and the presentation right (the fish bit). He then took me down-stream through a rapids, and back up again. I'm rushing through the water with him, so that I don't lose him off the the tiny hook. Finally, 25 yards down-stream again, I land him at the bank, the guide laughing with me, and at me! I was as out of breath as the landed fish (did I mention this was all at 8,500 feet elevation?!)
 
We let him go. Of course I could have eaten him, and sometimes do take a catch. And the taste is always wonderful. But that's not what I remember of these great times in this sport. I remember the times spent, planning and ultimately landing the prize!
 
The old fishing story goes that the boy counts the number of fish caught, the young man counts the size of his catch, and the old man counts the hours spent fishing.  Do you remember the great scene in "A River Runs Through It", showing Tom Skerrit watching his sons fish? Perfect depiction.
 
XIKAR is exactly like this for me.  Our primary goal, like catching prize trout, was and is to satisfy consumers’ desire for cool, innovative, and functional product, while giving them an extraordinary experience. Working the daily tasks alone in the first years, I literally counted the fish, or orders I took. My goal then was ten per day (lofty if you consider trying to get up to ten store visits in an eight hour day).
 
We then strategized that we could apply our goal across cigar accessory categories.  We planned distribution throughout cigars shops world wide, fishing where the fish are.  Today many people contribute to this hunt, all chasing big prize.  And now that XIKAR is well established, past our childhood and young adult years, I find myself admiring the great people (my staff, my sales team and my retailer partners) working along side me every day toward the same prize: to satisfy you the consumer; to fulfill your desire to buy innovative, cool product with trust that we will exceed your expectations when interacting with us.
 
And when we get it right, you kindly and often tell us so with your letters, posts and testimonials.  So we are glad to "let go" a majority of our profit back to the stream, to reinvest for future product - because the hours spent fishing at XIKAR are only as good as the prize of your satisfaction - please keep those prizes coming! But, also please don't imitate the fish and ignore us when our presentation isn't right: let us know so that by your feedback, we can provide an extraordinary experience now, and great product in the future.

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

October 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

October 2013

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Kurt's Corner

     We were once a nation of porches, decks and patios. Spring called us outside to breathe the air of hope and opportunity born in the season's new growth.
     Summer insisted further, to enjoy backyard sports and barbecues, neighbors and friends. I'm old enough to remember a house without air conditioning, playing with friends until supper and then again until dark.
     And Fall, my favorite. Autumn colors warmed crisp cool nights. Weekends spent watching football and raking leaves, the sun kindly setting early, to reward us for a job well done. Screened in porches are largely gone from new homes, and decks and patios remain mostly vacant, victims of air conditioning and electronic entertainment.  But not for us!
     We cigar smokers still know the joys of the outdoors. We have taken back the patios and porches, reached out to friends and neighbors. It's our favorite place to enjoy ourselves and our cigars - together.* We are remaking a nation of porches, decks and patios, of camaraderie, conversation and friendship.
     I recently replaced a deck with a screened in porch, adding a fireplace. I hope to make Winter one of my outdoor seasons. I hope you enjoy yours!

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

* (Our recent Facebook survey confirmed this.)

September 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

September 2013

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Kurt's Corner

     XIKAR has been distributed in Europe for almost a decade. Some of our early "can you believe it" moments was seeing our Xi1 cutter in the best cigar shops in Paris, London, Milan, etc.
     Our business in Europe is done through around 20 Distributors who sell the brand to retail shops. Our relationships with our Distributors are very special to us. They've become trusted allies, friends and advisors.

     In May, we hosted many of them in KC for our first "International Growth Conference" (pictured below). The stated goal of the conference was to "make it easier to do more business with XIKAR".
 

 
 
     Based on that good collaboration, last week at the Inter-tabac Fair in Germany, we unveiled a number of business model innovations designed to improve service, lower costs and improve in store branding, merchandising and product offering.
     Specifically, next Tuesday (10/1) we will open a new warehouse near London's Heathrow Airport and will begin selling to our Distributors on a delivered pricing system with very short delivery times.
     Additionally, we will begin shipping two new "Display and Merchandising Kits" that will be sold as a promotional package to retailers including an array of our best selling cutters and 
lighters. 
     We are humbled and thrilled by the consumer interest in, and demand for, the Xikar brand. We are excited about the prospects for more business in Europe. So, if you are in a shop outside the USA, ask for Xikar and let us know about your experience. 
 
We appreciate your interest and support, 

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR Inc.

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