Topic: The Business of Teaching
Time With Kids Watches
OKLAHOMA TODAY - Jan/Feb 2000
Once in a Wildlife Time …Watching Tulsa's Billy Darnell
TWENTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD BILLY DARNELL, president and CEO of Zoobee Watches, gives Oklahoma much of the credit for his success. Born and raised on a large plot of land in Tulsa, the Holland Hall graduate raised horses and cared for a menagerie of cats and dogs, many of which he adopted from the local SPCA. "My mom raised my sisters and me on an acreage," Darnell says. "So there were always animals around."
A nature lover too, he spent scads of time playing in the creeks and woods near his home. Despite this affinity for animals and nature, Darnell knew at a young age that his calling wasn't caring for animals-he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
At nineteen, before he was even a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Darnell started his own business designing watches. He saved more than $1,500 in graduation money from family and friends and used it to have forty watch samples made in Tulsa. He then convinced Art Wolfe, one of the world's best-known wildlife photographers (whose work has been featured on the covers of National Geographic and Life), to provide the photos for the watch faces. Meanwhile, Darnell managed to get the attention of a major watch manufacturer (who wishes to remain anonymous) and convinced the company to produce his whimsical timepieces.
Since Darnell launched Zoobee two years ago, the Colorado-based company has caused quite a stir, both nationally and internationally. "A man in Japan recently bought a Zoobee watch for one of his kids and is very interested in selling Zoobees overseas," says Darnell.
Darnell's Zoobee web site includes a kind of Zoobee "curriculum" and education center - animals of the month compete with puzzles and contests for web browsers' attention. "I created the web site partially because I wanted to get away from being so sales driven all the time," he says.
One final indication that Darnell is as interested in the animals as he is in making money - he donates one percent from the sale of every watch to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- Pricilla Monhkern
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Oklahoma Today - Jan/Feb 2000