lighter

November Newsletter

XIKAR NATION Newsletter

November 2013

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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.

August 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

August 2013

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

Kurt's Corner
Importance of Cigar Education

 

     When we started XIKAR, we based our essence on innovation and extraordinary customer experience. To achieve this kind of experience for all consumers, we have strived to achieve lifelong relationships based on trust and loyalty.  The trust comes from our Lifetime Guarantee.  And we hope the loyalty comes through our constant efforts in education and interaction with consumers -- on the phone, in person, and on-line.
 
Superb education opportunities exist in the cigar industry - we observe magazines and blogs bringing great focus and clarity to the "what of cigar".  However, we believe the "how" of cigars needs attention as well.  Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of retailers about XIKAR, and I focused my presentation on the how-to's of cutting, lighting, humidifying and transporting cigars.
 
Many in the audience had great questions and comments such as, "Thanks for the presentation! I think I've been lighting a cigar wrong my whole life!" This shows that whether you are a seasoned aficionado, or new to the hobby, you may learn something through the information we have to offer.
 
As always, you can find instructional videos on our YouTube channel, as well as information on our website, Facebook and Twitter. XIKAR is committed to helping you have the best possible cigar experience; please feel free to email us anytime with questions at info@xikar.com.

For now, here are a few quick tips (click each for an instructional video):
How to light: Be sure not to burn the wrapper with your lighter, this will ruin the burn of your cigar.
How to cut: Do not cut past your cigar's shoulder, this will cause the cigar to unravel.
How to store: Use our PG Solution and not distilled water in your humidifier. The PG solution will prevent mold from forming and also keep your RH level at a steady 70%.

Thanks and happy smoking!
 
Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR, Inc.

July 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

July 2013

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

Kurt's Corner
IPCPR Success!

 

     We're back from Las Vegas and the IPCPR Trade Show was a complete success! Our team's hard work paid off and we loved getting to introduce our latest innovations to the industry. In this newsletter, you will learn some more about our new innovations and we will feature a new product each month. All of these will be available for you to purchase online and in your local retail shop soon. 

     As always, it was great to see everyone from the industry gathered in Vegas, especially all together in one room. This trade show is a prime example of how our industry is truly based on camaraderie. No matter what retail shop, company, state, or country you were representing, we were all there supporting our passion for cigars and interacting with one another. I have benefited from this industry greatly and I can honestly say to anyone who is disappointed in human nature that they need to get into the cigar business because it is truly full of wonderful people. I am honored to be in this industry. I love this business.

 
Thanks!
 
Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR, Inc.

June 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

June 2013

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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
President
XIKAR, Inc.

May 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION Newsletter

May 28, 2013

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

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

 

     Everyone has great business ideas.  Each time you think, "why can't I?", or "wouldn't it be cool if..." you might be pregnant with a good product or business idea.  Fifteen years ago, I thought, "wouldn't it be easier if I squeeze my cigar cutter closed with my palm rather than my finger tips? And if that cutter had a pivot point, wouldn't that leverage make the cut even more powerful?  Those questions defined a problem, which our Xi cutter solved.  Fortunately, many others agreed with the solution, even if they didn't know they had a problem (thank you)!
 
It's best if the solution is unique, even patentable, since those lend immediate market interest and protection. When the product isn't unique, it must at least have a unique meaning, or "position" in the consumers mind.  For example, think about pocket knives, which have been around for hundreds of years.  Yet the new position created by tactical knives like Spyderco reinvigorated the entire category.
 
But the road to success is littered with good, unique solutions. In today's competitive marketplace, products must carry competitive protection, a suit of armor.  Great service is one such protection (low price is another).  That, and because "do unto others" is part of our essence, is why we have a lifetime warranty.  Entrepreneurs should solve the "why" of buy - and not just the "what".
 
In order for an idea to become a business, the solution it provides must have appeal others are willing to pay for.  The great show, "Shark Tank" explores exactly that, and in my opinion, does a great service to inventors participating and watching - because it dramatically demonstrates the tough judgement of the market.  Many inventors fall in love with an idea, never stopping to consider whether others might be equally attracted. They ought to ask themselves and others, "would this make it on Shark Tank?"
 
XIKAR is fortunate to receive product inventors' ideas, and some, like our Ashtray Can, have obvious appeal.  This product quickly passed our review process, an accelerated launch, and now provides the inventor a
nice royalty (if you have a new product idea, please send me an email).  Others like the "Monica" cutter, didn't pass.  If you are old enough to remember Monica Lewinsky, you can imagine why!
 
The key to understanding the market for your solution is to test it. The test should be unbiased, as close to the marketplace as possible. If you don't have a product, discuss the "problem" with friends, acquaintances, even strangers. (I don't suggest discussing your solution at this stage.  While very very few people have the ability or low morals to steal your idea, this phase is still young enough that, if that happens, they could potentially get it to market before you).  Record their responses, and mold the solution to them in a way that feels logical to you. 
 
We did exactly this when in 2003 we decided to enter the lighter market. Specifically, we asked questions surrounding problems with lighters and with lighter warranties. XIKAR already had a solution - in our lifetime warranty, but needed to know if our solution was also unique - turned out it was! XIKAR for Life is the position that gave our first lighters unique meaning.

And in the meantime, we learned how to make interesting lighters with great function.  The first thing we found with lighters was that they are just like a car: moving parts, with an engine, that burns fuel. It didn't take long to realize that the single most important item in a lighter's function is the fuel -- just like a car.  Bad butane affects the engine just like diesel in a gas car, and good fuel gives a hot, clean burn.  So we introduced our own ultra refined fuel.  We also realized that like cars, the individual components impact not only immediate performance, but also longevity.  So at this point, we design the lighter, engineer the mechanisms, source the parts and oversee and inspect the production.
 
Even with very positive responses, the test isn't over. Simply put, the marketplace is by far the best test. It is the shark tank.  Show your first prototype to a group of your target consumer.  What do they think of it? How much would they pay for it? Feel free to describe the features of it, but be careful to stay clear of selling the advantages and benefits - you can't be there to make every sale! And since you can't, you want unbiased feedback before investing any more funds.
 
Early in our business life, we would take a product to market at this stage. On receipt of positive feedback, we would then go into full production, because demand during the cigar boom was so high, and we were very anxious to get the sales.  Fortunately, we didn't make many mistakes. But I can surely say that our endeavor into pocketknives lead to some beautiful product, and taught us volumes about blade and handle materials, edge grinds, and even introduced us to some current vendors. However, deeper research would have revealed that gentlemen's knives were on the wane, particularly after 9/11. Deeper serious study might have gained the same knowledge without the financial side track.
 
Today, we take one further test step - we order a "sample run" of sufficient units to test in a dozen stores around the country. This real, live test takes place with our standard retail package and in-store advertising. It therefore tells us all we need to know - whether a consumer sees the same solution we envision.  Our Ashtray Can and more recently our Vitara lighter passed the test.  Importantly, a lighter and a cutter didn't. 

Congratulations! Your solution, then an invention, is now a product. The market responded and demands the product.  Are you in business? Maybe... read next month's newsletter to find out. 

Kurt Van Keppel
President
XIKAR, Inc.

April 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION 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
President
XIKAR, Inc.

March 2013 Newsletter


XIKAR NATION 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!

XIKAR Team

Syndicate content