Duncan Robins, the former CEO of Yakima Product who was sacked by Watermark on June 4, 2002, has launched his own Arcata, Calif.-based, company, Boldt.
Boldt will introduce two product lines at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: "drink.SAFE" hydration systems and "ultra.LITE" headlamps, both trademarked by Boldt.
In an exclusive interview with Robins, SNEWS wondered about his company's name.
"There are multiple reasons behind the name," Robins told SNEWS. "The most obvious perhaps is it is the county the company is based in, Humboldt. Then, marketing 101 will tell you to create a name for a company that folks will remember longer than a sneeze. I also like the energy the name conveys to me, like a bolt of lightning.
"Finally, it is also an acronym that underscores some of my beliefs, that we can all make a 'bunch of little differences today,'" Robins added.
Robins, author of a new book, "Business Euphoria," told SNEWS that he is absolutely insistent that his new company operates as a community-based business that works to support all aspects of the community, including the environment. Listening to Robins talk, it is clear this leader wants to make a difference in the lives of his company's consumers, business associates and employees, as well as the world around him.
"Our industry was doing a lot right as it built itself," Robins said. "We had retailers who were the hubs of their local communities, and we had manufacturers who worked with their retailers to develop meaningful brands and profitable businesses. We also had friendships, productive relationships, and loyalty between consumers, retailers and manufacturers that were built on trust, respect and tolerance. We also had industry players who took responsibility for their actions."
Robins also believes that this industry is well on its way to becoming cold, hardened and isolated, and that worries him. "We must reverse this destructive trend! I believe that building productive relationships and addressing the social needs of people are the keys to organizational success in this new era of a networked economy -- especially in our industry."
SNEWS pointed out that there were plenty of industry folk who'd been speculating about Robins and what his newest venture would be, and that fact is not lost on him.
"There will be certain expectations around Duncan launching a company and it is important everyone realizes that this is not about me trying to create a company that will be the next biggest and greatest thing. I have managed to keep all investors out except myself. We are going to be small, quick, creative, vital, energized and driven, and if we do things the right way, growth will come," he said.
And, while Robins is very aware his first two product introductions are entering markets that are very competitive and well served by highly motivated and successful companies already, he's not deterred.
"We have innovative solutions that offer a very different approach to solving known issues with both hydration systems and headlamps," Robins told us.
For example, silicon headbands for his headlamps that are more comfortable than any headband on the market, and, with FIT.hooks, can be quickly removed from the head and worn around the waist, or placed around another object to shine the light where it is needed most. Also, computerized control of the lighting options, allowing a user to go from a bright light to see ahead to a gentle amber light for reading.
In the hydration category, he's opting for an "upside down approach" by placing the exit port and the opening at the bottom, creating a bite valve that can be taken apart, and making his system completely dishwasher-safe, Robins believes he's addressed what is still the number one complaint among consumers, cleaning their reservoirs.
Boldt's product line will be made overseas, in Asia, but even here, Robins says he was very careful about his choice, opting for a group of factories owned by the same man who, Robins says, is very friendly to his employees, so much so that he brags most can buy their own apartment and afford cell phones.
As for the local community support, all sales, marketing, shipping, design, accounting and support staff will be Arcata-based, and Robins told us he hired employee number one just yesterday.
"The whole thing for me in this venture is that while I truly care that our products are unique and interesting, I am more concerned with building an interesting company that, I hope, will be a model example of how to build and run a company for others to mirror -- a corporate lab if you will," Robins said.
SNEWS View: He's baaaack! And you can be sure any company that is or might be a potential competitor is watching very, very closely. Since his ouster at Watermark, that company, and especially Yakima, hasn't been the same. Whether that is good or bad, we'll leave for you and history to decide. What is fact is that over the last year, we've heard nothing but good things from retailers, reps, past employees and former business associates, and we've heard nothing bad, not one peep. All who contacted our offices were wondering aloud about Robins, and speculating with us what Robins would do next. We know of several major companies that took a peek under the hood, and we know he turned every one down. It was fairly clear to SNEWS from the moment he was on his own that Robins really wanted to do something special. He's just laid his cards on the table, and we're betting that this is one company that will be very, very interesting to watch over the next year and more.