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Topic: The Business of Teaching Time With Kids Watches

BUSINESS DALLAS - September/October 1998


Distributes a line of watches featuring Art Wolfe animal photographs on the faces.

FOUR YEARS AGO, BILL DARNELL WAS A high school senior waiting at Love Field to catch a flight home to Tulsa after a campus visit to SMU. To pass the time, he watched a Donahue show on entrepreneurs. One of the guests was Jeff Walsh, who founded Art Gallery Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of watches featuring well-known artworks on their faces. Darnell was inspired.

     The next day, he tracked down Walsh by phone, and they talked for 30 minutes. Darnell figured if artworks could grace watch faces, why not safari animals?

     He put the idea on hold while he completed an undergraduate degree at SMU, but the dream was never far from his consciousness. He looked for competitors and perused scores of catalogs and nature stores. He called potential distributors and looked for a nature photographer whose work was well respected. He found Art Wolfe, whose photos have been published in National Geographic, Audubon, Life, and Smithsonian.

     Darnell, who doesn't seem to know anything less than full throttle, flew to Seattle and showed up at Wolfe's door, managing to get exclusive rights to his photos. Darnell then found a watch assembler in Dallas who helped him design the watch and agreed to make them. Last summer, he sold his first Safari Watch to a friend. By November he had developed a web site, which is still the primary source for sales of the $59.95 timepieces. But his credit cards were maxed out at $15,000, and he needed additional funding. He found an investor, and today, Darnell has a line of nine watches, featuring Wolfe's photos of rhinos, giraffes, tigers, lions, zebras, elephants, and colorful birds. He just introduced a colorful, less expensive line for children, called Zoobee, that retails for $30.

     So far, his biggest coup is a commitment from the Nature Company to test market his watches in 20 of its 120 stores nationwide. If sales are strong, the retailer will distribute them at all its stores.

     In the meantime, he continues working the phones, traveling the country trying to persuade zoos to carry his watches, and establishing a network of manufacturer's representatives

Home > Time Teaching Watch News and Press > Safariwatch - Sept/Oct 1998