Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Few Minutes With Dick Sijmons

It seems that every fashion house and aspiring fashion designer has tried to put a watch out there.  And there is, to be sure, a very healthy market for fashion watches.  Having said that, only a few have really been able to create a brand, grow it, and maintain it.  Kyboe is one of those very few and I was fortunate enough to have one of their founders, Dick Sijmons, spare a few minutes to share the story.

So now, a few minutes with Dick Sijmons -

Courtesy of Dick Sijmons

Tempus Fugit - What was your first watch?  Was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Dick Sijmons -My first watch was a present from my Grandfather.  It was a Zenith.  And there is a sad, but funny story that goes with it!  I traded that watch for a shawl a pretty girl was wearing.  And yes, you guessed it, I never saw her again!
(Editor’s Note - Attention – if the woman in this story is by some miraculous chance reading this, please contact Tempus Fugit ASAP!)
I still regret that, and my adoration for Zenith has lived on ever since as my Father also had one. And the good news?  That one I still have, so I guess there is a bit of a happy ending ; )

But our first KYBOEwatch is perhaps an even better story -
The first "KYBOE ! watch was made by a guy who started a bit of a craze in Italy, in a hotel in Naples.  

He gave fake plastic watches to his clients and kept their expensive watches in his safe. 
My partner Kees brought one to me in Holland upon returning from his holidays in Italy.  He had been  tipped off by his niece who brought the watch to his attention.

Courtesy of Kyboe

At that moment we had been developing a baby healthcare business, which came to a sudden and dramatic halt as one of our partners had a terrible accident and tragically suffered brain damage.  Owing to this we felt that we couldn't and wouldn't go on in the baby healthcare market.
And so Kees’s holiday in Italy led us into the watch business.

We searched pretty extensively for resources and developed some special, more fashionable colors. When we started with those first plastic watches, we liked the products but the colors were awful. They were in some ways too childish and they looked much more like “promotion” watches. 
We started with what we felt were more fashion oriented colors with a smooth blue/white light inside till we were in production.  And then we got the idea to make a stainless model. The idea was to make it the biggest colorful watch for adults available.  We had the watch and my friend Kees and I knew how to promote it.  During one of our trips to Italy I was reading a book written by Jan Cremer, and it helped remove any remaining doubts, and motivated me, giving me more confidence to create the language for KYBOE ! to help clearly show who we were, and more clearly express ourselves. Our friend and photographer Hans Vos had already come up with this slogan: "Bigger is Better" so from there it was easy to come up with model names like Giant 55, " the biggest colorful watches ever "

TF - When you were a young boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

DS - Believe it or not, I wanted to have a brand.  When I was young, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of  brands like: Kruize, Dita, Grey Nicols and the nice flannel clothes that cricket brands created. Perry, Puma, Adidas, Nike, Dunlop, Lacoste… all of these brands related to my first passion : sports. Later of course all of these other more fashion oriented brands moved to magazines and city billboards.  Every image every slogan, every combination of every word.  I Loved all of those billboards!

TF - Where did you go to school?  What did you study?

DS - I studied at the Hague's Maerlant Lyceum and very shortly at the University of Rotterdam. I can be very brief about it even if it took a lot of time when I look back on it!  It was fun, and the only thing I really regret is that all my friends had left the school before I noticed that maybe I should do the same.

TF - What did you do before you got involved with Kyboe?

DS - I was a semi-professional hockey player (field hockey) and I started my own companies in France. All of them were related to import and export.  

As a hockey player I also realized that I could design and develop products for my favorite sport.  I started with hockey sticks which were sold under our own label.  SIBO Hockey France was the first company that I started with a friend who also happened to be a famous Dutch hockey player - Floris Boerstra.  We had the opportunity to have the French distribution for a “little” sports company you might have heard of – Converse.  We decided not to take on the French distribution which was a mistake in the end, but we were only 24 years old at the time.

In 1989 Peli Products invited me to their headquarters in Torrance, California to develop and sell a professional standard flashlight for industrial use.  It was also used by firefighters in France. 
So I designed a flashlight according the European EEx security rules with "commandant des Pompiers" in Paris. That flashlight is still in their collection and one of their bestsellers.

That marked a turning point for me and since that moment I only work with partners I like and trust so that I know there will never be anybody who can steal the thoughts, the joy, the fun and the spirit of my work

Courtesy of Kyboe
TF - There are a lot of watch brands in the Kyboe price category, what makes Kyboe special?

DS - There are a lot of watches in the same price category but only KYBOE ! Fits in what I feel is a clear quality and service category.  It may be hard to believe but due to this quality and service we have become known worldwide.  

And if I am honest, a big part of our business success is that we know how to be happy in the pursuit of what is left for us to develop, which allows us to travel and to live our dream, which in turn allows our distributors and shops their margins so that they can be successful as well.
One key point is that if we can survive and not be too selfish we will continue to grow and hopefully become global. With Bell Capital we can. Our clients may live in big houses and drive big cars, but we travel, discover new people and enjoy life like bohemians, constantly on the run and hungry for new adventures every day.  

That is what is special about the brand, because the people that we work with know our story. 

TF - What is Kyboe's strongest market?

DS - The French coast and Islands like Ibiza and Mauritius are the best markets for us actually. 
St. Tropez was one of the first places we went after going southwards via Lyon where I used to live.  Kees and I went shop by shop, beach by beach, bar by bar, terrace by terrace, waking up at 6 amgoing to bed at 2 am.

We both knew these places.  Kees had worked there in his youth, and I had gone several times before for holidays, and later I was there to promote a brand called USA apparel, a sport belt in different colors (colors again) designed to hold a Walkman for joggers and skiers. We enjoyed doing it all ourselves. We sold and promoted all along the Pamplona beaches. 

TF - In a difficult market right now, what are some of the biggest challenges facing Kyboe?

DS - Markets are always difficult. We were born after a war. We finished our studies when crises started.  Currencies always vary.
Suppliers change, clients change, markets change, entrepreneurs change. Even the creeps change. There are always challenges.

Keeping the spirit and the force to be able to travel, to see and to create allows us to face all these challenges.

TF - What is a typical day in the life of Dick Sijmons?

DS - A typical Sijmons day does not exist. They are very different one from the other. And thank God they are!

TF - If you weren't doing this (KYBOE !), what do you think you might be doing?

DS - I can't imagine, and I can't look back. There are many things to do in life.  A guitar player or an actor ?  I’ve always had a deep appreciation (with a slight touch of jealousy) of those folks.  So yes that could or should have been it.

TF - What do you like to do in your spare time?

DS - Spare time is the same as long as we live we must enjoy what we do every single moment.  If you mean how to relieve the mind, ball games, anything that lets me just be active without thought or worry.  No time to think about anything else but to play. Nature movies and sitting around a table full of French food, shared with  friends over drinks is another. 

TF - What advice do you have for the next KYBOE ! founder out there?

DS - There won't be ! ( laughter )
But for founders in general? I  would say just start “founding” now ! You are already too late to be a KYBOE ! founder, but maybe not too late for something else, but you’d better hurry up ! 

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