Sarah Kauss- A S’well story
There is a lot that goes into turning an idea into a product and a product to a brand. Its the founder’s vision that fuels every level of transformation. Sometimes, all it takes is an attempt to make a personal experience better in order to come up with a product idea.
It took a sip of warm water out of the plastic bottle post hiking on a desert on a hot day for Sarah Kauss to come up with the idea of S’well bottle. The idea was to have a product that was fashionable, functional and gave back to a great cause. Before starting her own venture, Sarah was working at Ernst and Young as a Tax consultant, a job she quit to become a fulltime entrepreneur. She invested $30,000 of her savings and singlehandedly managed all the aspects of the company.
Sarah wanted to position S’well as a fashion-forward water bottle that looked and worked better than any of the alternatives available then. What also worked was that the consumers were becoming more aware of the environmental impact of the single-use plastic and were looking for alternatives that would help tackle the issue. She quite literally had to hustle to make S’well the status symbol it currently is. She kept knocking the doors of the premium retailers and consciously avoided the mass in order to stay true to her vision.
The first major breakthrough came in 2011 when Oprah’s magazine offered feature S’well on its O list. This added credibility and gave the retailers the confidence to give S’well a chance. In 2013, a buyer from Starbucks proposed a trial run of placing the S’well bottles in 140 Starbucks stores. One day, CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, happened to be in the same store as Sarah. She rushed over to introduce herself and proposed a more mutually beneficial business connect.
This is how S’well became the centerpiece of the Starbucks Holiday campaign. The journey from a niche brand to one of the fastest-growing Female Entrepreneur-led companies has been very inspirational. Sarah Kauss still owns 100% of her company and hasn’t taken any outside investments.