Sometimes the best ideas come while visiting with friends over a few drinks and remembering cool stuff from the good old days.
At least that’s how it happened for Drew Deters and Jay Hartington, two of the three founders of the watch company RumbaTime (www.rumbatime.com), which offers playful, colorful silicone watches that have been sported by celebrities like teenie bopper Justin Bieber and fashion designer Carolina Herrera on red carpets for more than a year.
Though RumbaTime has sold well in big box stores like Kohl’s and Sports Authority, the three active founders (photo, above) told SNEWS they wanted to reach specialty retailers as well, attending the Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer markets in 2011. Now they’re coming back for thirds at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012, bringing with them the new VanDam GO-enabled watch (MSRP $35), which features a slot in the band for a small rechargeable Visa card for athletes on the go.
“I am excited for Winter OR because we’ll have the product and I do think it’s great for a lot of these little specialty stores,” Deter said. “I’m excited to get in front of them.”
As Deters and Harington sat in a bar in Italy a few years ago, they laughed and remembered all the great watches from their youth – specifically Swatch watches – and started talking about what fun and affordable watches were on the market at the time. They drew a blank.
Then the lightbulbs went on.
They called up their friend Joe Anto, a buddy from their days at Emory University, and the three started brainstorming ideas to create fun, affordable watches. That is how RumbaTime was born.
Deters said the company started soon after coming up with a business plan. They worked hard and methodically, he said, and adopted a design for the Original watch.
“The hardest part was coming up with a (company) name,” Deters told SNEWS with a laugh. They all gravitated toward a Spanish slang word, Deters said, that means, “to enjoy life and have fun. It seemed like a perfect name for what we wanted to convey for our brand when we thought of it, it was like, ‘That makes sense.’ ”
Shortly after they decided on the name, they were shipping inventory to stores from Deters’ Brooklyn apartment.
They started creating more designs and continued to work with silicone because of the variety of colors it enabled them to work with. Plus, it made for a fun product, Deters said, including the watch with the slap band, which pays homage to the slap bracelets of the '80s. "We try to make something modern but playful, fashionable but not pretentious,” Deters said. “Something colorful that makes you smile when you put it on because if it’s not fun, what’s the point?”
Many of their models are named after New York City streets, a nod to their business base. Gone are the days of shipping things from Deters’ apartment as they now have a proper New York City office, equipped with about six full-time employees, a few part-timers and various interns.
The company’s new RumbaTime VanDam GO-enabled watch (photo, left), which the industry saw for the first time at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011, looks like its original VanDam relative, but opposite the watch face is a small Visa card, which one charges with funds online, that can be used at retailers that accept contactless payments.
In addition the VanDam GO-enabled watch comes with its own unique code that users register online and input any medical conditions and emergency contacts. Registration costs $14.95 a year, Deters said.
It’s one of Deters’ favorite pieces from the collection, mostly because the former professional cyclist doesn’t like carrying too many things with him during outdoor workouts. Plus, he said, he loves the simplicity of the clean lines of the design and the fact that it’s not too bulky.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to go on a ride or run and stop at a 7-Eleven and get a Gatorade and not worry about bonking,” Deters said.
Like with many other businesses, starting up and growing a business comes with its own challenges. The three former financiers funded the company on their own, so they had to watch their financial steps closely.
The reality of the business is a bit different from the dream of it, Deters said, as there are many more details to take care of than he ever would have imagined. “But that’s part of the fun too,” Deters said.
The Stand Up Paddle Company in Laguna Beach, Calif., picked up the watches because they were different, said manager Dani Stafford.
“We wanted something at a lower price point for the holidays,” Stafford told SNEWS. The RumbaTime watches, she said encompass “fun colors, different ideas and the credit card one is really cool.”
While focusing on business is key, the three founders also like to focus on giving back by doing things like donating watches to various fundraising auctions, donating product to Toys for Tots and raising money for the Breast Cancer Research Fund. Giving back is a no-brainer for them, Deters said, and is something every company should do. Especially since they’ve met many of their goals already, he said.
“Now we’re at a point where we wanted to be. It’s what we envisioned – the branding and being able to put out cool products,” Deters said. “We’ve been growing and we hope it’s successful and hope it keeps growing.”
So perhaps one day, two young men will be vacationing at a bar somewhere abroad, remembering how cool their RumbaTime watch was when they were kids.