Carrying around a water bottle is not the most convenient when you are running or doing other forms of exercise. But since you need to stay hydrated, you need to have a water bottle with you, cumbersome it may be, when you go to the gym or jog in your neighborhood.
Julie Austin created a nifty little product that makes carrying water to stay hydrated during exercise so much easier and more manageable. She invented Swiggies, a little gadget that you can wear in your wrist that solves every active individual’s water bottle dilemma. Visit http://swiggies.com to check out Julie’s invention.
We interviewed Julie and how she created her successful product, Swiggies:
Can you tell us about your product Swiggies?
Swiggies, wrist water bottles are the only hands-free wrist water bottles on the market. They come in an adult and a kid’s size. The adult swiggies hold 11 ounces of water or sports drink and the kids version holds 8. They come in a variety of sizes and can also be frozen to lower body temperature in the heat.
How did you come up with the idea for the product? What need did you see in the marketplace?
I came up with the idea after passing out from dehydration while running in the middle of the summer heat. The only thing on the market at the time was a fanny pack and they had to be washed out with baking soda after each use. I wanted something that was easier to use and more accessible.
What were the challenges you faced in turning the product from an idea to an actual prototype? How long did the process take?
The challenges were huge! I had no money and no knowledge about manufacturing or getting a product on the market. Because of that it took years of working 2 jobs to save the money and a very big learning curve of constantly making mistakes.
How are you financing the business?
I financed the business by working several jobs, maxing out credit cards, selling off whatever I owned and living frugally.
How are you protecting your business from potential copycats?
I spend a good part of every single day fighting off copycats. It happens to every inventor, even the biggest companies out there.
I have a system for knocking them off the Internet before it gets completely out of hand. If you don’t, they’ll multiply like cockroaches. I start out by being nice and letting them know they are infringing. Then, if they don’t respond or refuse to take the product down, I will contact the search engines and have them removed. Repeat offenders risk having their entire site banned by the search engines.
I also started a site called Infringer Blacklist to document the frustrating struggle I was going through with copycats. Counterfeiting is a huge problem that costs the US billions of dollars, jobs, and dangerous products. I’m putting together an ebook on exactly how I have dealt with counterfeiters without spending a dime on attorneys.
How are you marketing your business?
I have found out that the best market for my products is the promotional products market. They are always looking for something new, instead of the same old pens, hats, mugs and T-shirts. I sold 75,000 to the Dublin Marathon in one order. A typical order is 10,000 to a marathon or walk-a-thon.
I also sell them online on my site in retail and I have distributors in over 20 countries who order in large volume and market themselves.
One thing you find out with a new product is the different markets you never even thought of. I also sell them in the alcohol industry for parties, raves and Marti Gras. In the beginning I spent money on trade shows and things that never really got results. Now I just use SEO and PR.
You are currently offering your products on a wholesale basis. How did you start on this process and how has selling wholesale helps in growing your business?
I don’t sell as much in wholesale as I do in large volume through distributors. You make much less per bottle, but it’s a lot easier to sell that way. Also, 90% of my business is international. In the beginning I would get them into stores on consignment and did a lot of drop shipping. I don’t really do that anymore, but I would recommend it to get started. When you have a new product, you just need to get out there anywhere and in every way you can to get noticed.
How are you balancing your business with your personal life?
I don’t have much of a personal life! Fortunately, I love what I do. And I travel a lot for speaking engagements, which is my excuse for a vacation. You really need to have some downtime, even if it’s just a long weekend with no email or phone.
What lessons have you learned so far about being an entrepreneur?
In the beginning, I just wanted to license my patent and go sit on a beach somewhere. Yeah, right!
I had a licensing deal lined up with a big sporting goods company and it went back and forth between attorneys for almost a year. In that time the company went bankrupt and I decided I would just have to do it all myself.
I really didn’t want to run a business, but the deeper I got into it, I found out that I had more strength and knowledge than I thought.
Once you get to the point where you have employees and distributors counting on you, it’s too late to back out. You have to step up to the plate and become a leader. I now have single moms around the world who feed their kids with my product. That’s a lot of responsibility, but also very rewarding.
How do you see the business 5 years from now?
I’ve spent years getting my business to the point that it’s kind of running on a system. Having a group of distributors out selling, and having a website that sells means less work for me now. I can do the things I really enjoy, like Internet marketing, PR, and public speaking. Less than 15% of all patent holders in the world are women and I love teaching women the secrets I have for coming up with new inventions.
I just got back from training a group of Fortune 500 women executives from companies like AT&T and Coca Cola. The keynote speech was about why there are so few women inventors and what we can do to help change that number. My future goal is to at least double that 15%. There’s no reason women can’t be inventors, and in fact, women have a lot of traits that actually make them better inventors.
What lessons can you share other women entrepreneurs out there?
When I first started my business I had less than nothing. I was running from a dangerous relationship and literally had $5.00 to my name. I had to be very creative. But it was because of that creativity that I was able to become an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. I would never say that it was easy, but I was determined to never become dependent on anyone else again. I had to succeed.
So, if you have a good idea, go for it! You’ll always have people who tell you that you can’t do it, or your idea sucks, or you don’t have enough money, or any number of things. Listen to all of the advice and weed out what doesn’t make sense. After a while your gut instinct will be the most valuable asset you have.
Category: Success Stories