Our history

It was the fourth generation of the Van der Sluis family that named their group of companies Tembo. More than a hundred years ago, their great-grandfather started this family-business with a cigar-making factory in the city of Kampen (the Netherlands).

This is the story of how a small factory started out with just manual labor and grew into a group of companies where creativity and high-end technologies are paramount.

Mijlpaaltjes cigars

Hendrikus van der Sluis (1886 -1959) convinced both his aunt and uncle and his parents in law to sell their farms, so he could start a tobacco business in Kampen in 1912. Hendrikus was now a tobacconist; a business activity which would prove highly lucrative for him in the First World War. This enabled him to buy the factory of Van der Mijle with the brand Mijlpaaltjes in 1919. In 1929 he bought the cigar factory Samuels en de Leeuw.

Hendrikus van der Sluis was chairman of the Association for the Prevention of against Mechanisation of the Cigar Machines in the Tobacco Industry. He truly valued quality and enjoyed hearty, strong cigars.

Struggling times entered the company

Sons Arend (1912 - 1997) and Jan (1913 – 1967) started working at the family business at an early age. When they entered the business, the company employed 60 cigar makers and was struggling financially; it was 100,000 guilders in debt. It was a time of crisis and many customers were suffering. There was a constant fear of bankruptcy, even though the women in the Van der Sluis family helped out in the company in order to reduce labor costs. Arend even borrowed money from his in-laws from Apeldoorn.

Trading in second-hand machinery

In the 50s and 60s, the company was split up into the 'Grossierderij' (wholesale) and the 'Sigarenfabriek' (cigar factory). Cigars (both produced on-site and purchased), cigarettes, tobacco, machinery and miscellaneous other items were traded. Arend spent a lot of time on the road and learned from shopkeepers which brands of cigars were struggling and which were popular. Next, it was quite easy to make a bid on the wrapping equipment of the poorly performing manufacturer and make the well-performing manufacturer happy with just that piece of equipment he needed.

Third generation starts refurbishing machines

Every generation of the Van der Sluis family introduced a new activity in the family business. The second generation started with trading in machinery. Henk (1938), son of Arend, started refurbishing machinery. He started at the company at age 22. One year later, in November 1961, he sent customers a letter stating they could now turn to Sluis Vereenigde for well-functioning, reconditioned second-hand equipment. According to the annual figures of 1962, the accountants did have their doubts about the machinery business though: 'the prospects look less favorable for this'.

In 1967, after the sudden death of Jan (second generation), Henk’s brother Arend (1943-2016) and cousin Henk (1943) joined the family company. Cousin Henk focused on the cigar factory, while Arend and his brother Henk paid all their attention to the machinery.

Starting with machine development

The machine activities of brothers Arend and Henk led to the foundation of International Tobacco Machinery B.V. (ITM) in 1970 and Sluis Cigar Machinery B.V. (SCM) in 1977. ITM and SCM increasingly developed their own machinery. Founding ITM and SCM can be seen as the start of the group of companies it is today, with our focus on high-tech and innovative (machine) technology.

Expanding the company

To be able to better serve their customers, the brothers started to take over other companies, with specific capabilities. In Eindhoven they acquired a company with expertise in cigarette-making (1982), named ITM Eindhoven. In close cooperation with current supervisory board member Andrzej Stanikowski, Arend and Henk started ITM Poland Sp. z.o.o. in 1991. From the beginning, this location is dedicated to developing new technologies and designing new machine platforms. In 1997, the brothers acquired Technological Development Corporation (TDC) and incorporated the weighing technology into SCM.

Producing and selling end-products

In the 90s, the family started to explore new markets. Using modified cigar machinery, GreenProducts (1991) started producing paper pots. These are used for seeding and growing plants. Two years later the family started De Eenhoorn, a delicatessen shop in Kampen, next to their traditional cigar factory De Olifant. By founding PMP Poland (1997) the group can produce customized high-quality machine parts.

Focus on technology in different industries

When the fourth generation entered the family-owned business, a new impulse was given to the group of companies. To be ready for a long-term future, Arend Jr. Hester, Michiel, Marianne, Arnout and Binet broadened the scope of the group. By acquiring Imatec, Tricas (2013), Gemba Solutions (2015), EME Engel (2016), RNT Machinery, SPI Developments and TAM (2018), the group became more versatile and reaches customers in multiple industries.

Tembo, a new name for an existing group of companies 

Haven broadened the scope of activities and markets, the need for a new overall group name was growing. Fourth generation family-members think it is important that all of the companies can focus on their own expertise and market. Those strong individual companies will become even stronger, when expressing they are part of a group of expert companies. That is why in 2019, the group name Tembo was introduced and all the companies of the group are called a Tembo company. 

Worldwide presence with Tembo

At the moment, about 1100 people are employed at a Tembo company, mainly working at one of our companies in the Netherlands, Poland and the Dominican Republic. Taking all companies together, you can find Tembo at 22 sites, in 15 cities and in 11 different countries.

Sustainability investments and support 

Although every Tembo company has its own focus, our overall goal is to make the world more sustainable. The Tembo companies use their expertise to support customers in making new, alternative and better products. On a group level, Tembo is investing directly in sustainability. For example by starting a Green Technology team, whose focus it is to develop new technologies for green markets by starting a paper straw factory (Tembo Paper, 2019) to make plastic straws redundant.


Working in the cigar factory

Hendrikus selling Mijlplaatjes

Henk and Arend van der Sluis