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Topic: The Business of Teaching Time With Kids Watches

Entrepreneur Magazine - April 1999
RISING STARS by Laura Tiffany

Animal Planet: Where the wild watches are

The courage of a lion. The tenacity of a beaver. The cunning of a wolf. Combining these qualities with a keen business sense and a lifelong passion for entrepreneurship, Billy Darnell, 24, found his niche with Zoobees, playful watches that feature animal photos on the faces and vinyl or animal-print bands.

      In the summer of 1994, before he entered Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Darnell was inspired by a talk show segment on watch entrepreneur Jeff Walsh, whose time pieces feature fine art. Revealing an assertiveness that would eventually bring his idea to fruition, Darnell called Walsh for advice.

      Darnell's next step was to find quality photos for his watch faces. He soon discovered renowned nature photographer Art Wolfe and, knowing Wolfe's quality photos would give his company instant recognition, approached him for the exclusive rights to use his photos. Wolfe agreed on one condition: that the watches be a quality product - something Darnell secured when he struck a deal with one of the world's top watch manufacturers. In 1997, Darnell's work paid off when he finally began selling Zoobees while still in college.

      Today, Zoobees are stocked in virtually every zoo in the United States, Disney's Animal Kingdom and the Endangered Species retail chain. Darnell hopes to expand his $250,000 company, Zoobee Inc., internationally, as well as introduce new watches to the line, including an aquatic series. "I love animals," says Darnell, who contributes 1 percent of his sales to the Wildlife Conservation Society. "I always knew I wanted to create a product that would give back to society."

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