Starting a Consumer Products Company
Interview with David Mayer, Founder of Clean Bottle
David Mayer, like many of us, always had trouble cleaning the bottom of his water bottles. Clean Bottle was born! Founded in 2010 in Portola Valley, California, Clean Bottle is now sold in major retailers like REI and Eastern Mountain Sports.
David Mayer, a former Cisco product manager, founded Clean Bottle after solving a problem that wasn't covered in the current market.
David, tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
We invented a sports bottle that unscrews at both ends for easy cleaning and drying. It solves the problems a lot of athletes have with trying to clean out the gunk and mold that often accumulates at the bottom of water bottles.
We launched in May and have sold over 100,000 Clean Bottles and are in 2,000 stores in 15 countries.
We became famous when we got creative with our marketing and promoted our product by dressing up as a giant Clean Bottle and running with the riders at the Tour de France. We got on TV throughout the month and ended up selling $50,000 worth of product in two weeks just from our online store.
Here is the video clip of it: You Tube
How did you come up with your business idea?
I am a big believer in 'scratching your own itch.' Find problems you are having that current solutions aren't solving. I am an avid cyclist and I constantly had problems with my water bottle getting funky. I'd leave energy drink in there for a few days and when I would go to get it the bottle would look like a petri dish. I'd have to throw away the bottle because I couldn't clean it out. I always thought 'if I could just unscrew the bottom of the bottle I could clean it and dry it.' So that's what I invented.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
This is an important question. As an entrepreneur you can't afford high priced consultants or expensive executives. I did a few things:
- Used my family. My dad does all my shipping. My grandfather does all my packaging. Both are retired so they are happy to help for free. Find retirees who need something to do anyways and you can have them work for cheap or for free.
- Used college and post college students. You can often find very smart, motivated people who have just graduated from college but don't want a normal 9-5 job quite yet. You can get great talent for near minimum wage.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Absolutely. We have 4,000 facebook followers and really nuture that community. We find that we get a significant amount of traffic to our site from facebook and our most loyal customers are active on the site and we can communicate with them regularly and foster that loyalty.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
We didn't have any money for a traditional marketing launch. Most of our potential customers are cyclists. So, to get the word out, we made a giant Clean Bottle costume and went to the Tour de France. We ran alongside the riders as they climbed and ended up getting on television frequently. We even had the announcers talk about us.
The promotion worked! We sold $50,000 in product in two weeks and became well known amongst the cycling industry. We are now in 2000 stores in 15 countries.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It has been much tougher than expected to get into large chain stores. We are in REI and Eastern Mountain Sports and other chains, but it has been very difficult to reach the right buyer and get a meeting with them.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Do your homework. Do a thorough bottoms up analysis to understand your addressable market, and understand your sales channel so that you can price your product accurately.
Thanks David for your time! We are looking forward to seeing what innovative marketing idea you come up with next!
Share this article
Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs