It’s an origin story you don’t often hear: Ray Kimber, owner of Kimber Kable, traces the roots of his business back to John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever.
Kimber was working for a sound and lighting company in California in the 70’s when the movie came out. Suddenly, everybody was eager to replicate the discotheque environment they’d see on the big screen: enormous flashing displays, disco balls, strobe lights.
There was only one problem: the close proximity of the lighting and audio cables hurt sound quality, as interference from the lighting cables made its way into sound systems.
Kimber analyzed the problem and came up with a possible solution.
“I was thinking back to Boyscout days and boondoggling and thought, I wonder if? And so I braided up ten or fifteen feet of counter-rotating [cable] by hand and it worked. The measured noise dropped like a rock.”
By using a braiding technique that counter-rotates sets of conductors, Kimber was able to reduce light cable interference considerably. Not only that, but he found the perceived quality of the audio itself improved. He would spend the next part of his life refining the concept and selling his discovery.
Over the next 40 years, Kimber would use his knack for finding innovative solutions and thinking outside the box to build a successful company, one that is widely respected in the audio industry.
Kimber Kable has since branched out into visual cables and other electrical components as well; their products are in demand all over the world. Located on 1900 West in Ogden, their expansive warehouse is filled with everything from headphone cables to heat-shrink tubing to vinyl records. Shipping orders hanging on clipboards dangle from a nearby desk with requests from such faraway and exotic locales as South Korea, Europe, Japan and New Jersey.
“Sorry, it’s a bit of a mess right now,” Kimber smiled, indicating the overflowing boxes of product. “Most of our customers don’t come into the main office.”
The majority of Kimber’s business is done online. Around 85% is international. Their products are popular enough that they’ve even had to deal with foreign counterfeiters.
Since that first experience with audio and lighting cables in a disco, Kimber has innovated other processes and products as well. Indeed, his career seems to be full of innovations.
Another example involves heat-shrinkable tubing, a staple among those in the audio industry. Kimber recounts how his frustration with distributors led to becoming one himself.
“I would order the exact same part number from the exact same vendor and get something different. It would be a slightly different color or it would feel different and I got so angry and I thought, I’m going to figure this out,” he said.
Kimber spoke with his competitors and realized others in the audio cable industry shared his frustration. After doing a considerable amount of research, he eventually came to the conclusion that he could fix the problem himself.
“I thought, maybe I should be the kind of distributer I wish I could find.”
Long story short, Kimber now turns a tidy profit selling heat-shrinkable tubing to his own competitors.
And there’s more. Kimber’s Wattgate electrical connectors and customizable, made-to-order cables, to name a couple, have also impacted the industry. Innovation is simply part of his nature. “It’s just the way I’m wired,” he smiled and shrugged.
And it all started with Saturday Night Fever.
John Travolta would be proud.