On Starting An Insulated Drinkware Brand And Growing Sales 100%

Published: August 28th, 2020
Jon Fox
Founder, EcoVessel
from Boulder, Colorado, USA
started December 2010
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I am Jon Fox, the founder, and CEO of EcoVessel.

My journey started when I set out to find a safe reusable water bottle to replace the current plastic bottles that contained BPA. When I couldn't find any bottles that combined function, style, and safety, EcoVessel was born. At EcoVessel, we're inspired by a thirst for adventure and a respect for the planet. We are a family-run business in Boulder, Colorado that creates premium-quality hydration bottles and reusable products that blend style, performance, and unique features. Our triple insulated drinking vessels maintain the optimal temperature of beverages while reducing dependence on single-use plastics.

EcoVessel donates a minimum of 1% of sales to environmental nonprofits through our partnership with 1% for the Planet and 5% of all our website sales. Our signature TriMax insulation keeps beverages cold for up to 150 hours and hot for up to 24 and all of our products include a 100-Year Warranty. Everything we do is led by our mission and tagline: Better Vessel, Better World.

Our sales have grown every year and our products can now be found in over 20 countries and major retailers such as REI and Target.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I grew up in a family where both of my parents started their own businesses, so I have had an interest in being an entrepreneur since I was fairly young. My brothers developed the same interests and one of them teaches entrepreneurship at an International University in Barcelona, and I have a twin brother that chef and founder of multiple restaurants in San Francisco.

To be successful, you can never stop innovating and trying out new ideas.

I studied Business with an emphasis in Marketing in college and got started in my career in technology sales in Arizona and then in the Bay Area. After working in technology for several years, I decided that I wanted to have a larger impact on people’s lives and do something that would help people, so I started an alternative health wellness center, called Whole Body Balance, in Boulder, Colorado. From there I got interested in designing and developing products and started a company that manufactured and sold water filtration systems.

I used all of my past experiences and combined my passions for developing products, having a positive impact, and sustainability and started EcoVessel. I started EcoVessel organically without a lot of start-up funding and was still operating Whole Body Balance during the first few years after creating EcoVessel. I am often able to spot trends before they hit the mass market, so being focused and having the financing and ability to scale are crucial because you only have so much time before well-capitalized competitors enter your space. We were pretty bootstrapped in the early days at EcoVessel, so some additional capital could have helped us scale quicker, but every experience you have is part of the larger journey, so I wouldn’t change anything about the experience of starting EcoVessel.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

I just started out looking for some safe and stylish reusable insulated bottles for my kids and during my search, I discovered that stylish and functional insulated bottles didn’t exist yet. We spent a couple of years perfecting our product designs and were able to launch on Amazon before the insulated drinkware space became crowded. We have been able to organically build customers that are still with us from our early days.

Over the next several years, we built a huge product offering with food containers, glass bottles, baby products, and our core insulated bottles. I think the entrepreneurial spirit and not wanting to miss out on innovation may have caused us to create too many products too soon because when you are starting and don’t have a lot of funding, you need to pick a core product and market and find success there before expanding too quickly.

Fortunately, we learned what worked and we were able to develop an incredible flagship lineup of the best triple insulated stainless steel bottles that you will find anywhere in the world. We started to get orders from around the globe and knew that we had created a brand and products that were unique and special. Our core products and technology are designed with our signature TriMax triple insulation, insulated lids, integrated strainers, protective bumpers, interchangeable lids, and all of our products include an industry best 100-year warranty.

But once people started purchasing our products on Amazon and we started getting requests from all over the world, we knew that we were creating something special and unique.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We have been steadily growing over the years and our revenue was accelerating at our quickest rate in our history through February until COVID. Since our biggest channel was brick and mortar stores, we did see a slow down in March once the lockdowns started. Our growth slowed for a couple of months, but it also invigorated our team to shift our focus and attention to our direct to consumer business and we are now seeing big year over year growth on our website and our sales on EcoVessel have grown over 100% year over year in the last couple of months,

Overall, gross margins are strong and growing and our email list now has over 100,000 subscribers. Our social media presence continues to grow as we bring on influencers and create partnerships. We have recently completed an acquisition of U-Konserve, which is an incredible company in the reusable food storage space and shares our passion for Zero Waste Living. U-Konserve is a certified B Corporation and its products can be found in major retailers that include Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Target.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

It’s been a really fun journey with a lot of highs and lows. When your initiatives don’t go as planned, you need to take it in stride, create a new plan, and keep moving forward.

As an entrepreneur, you are almost always going to suffer setbacks, but there will always be new opportunities for you to find success.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify to host our website and it’s a great platform for adding incremental 3rd party applications. We recently added texting into our business and it’s been successful at driving additional direct to consumer sales. It’s surprised us how comfortable our customers have been to use it as a two-way form of communication vs us just sending out marketing texts.

Other applications include:

Zendesk for Customer Service and Chat

MailChimp for Email Communication

Klaviyo for Automated Emails like Abandoned Cart Notifications

Emotive For Text

Privy for Capturing Emails

We have started to use texting and that has created a newly engaged audience, both for generating sales and for communicating with our customers in a quick and personal way.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I listen to several podcasts including Masters of Scale, How I Built This, and Invest Like the Best. Influential books include Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I think it’s really important to surround yourself with a strong team from the beginning because no matter how capable you are, it’s just not possible to do everything on your own. I also believe it’s important to celebrate when you have success, but to always also keep looking ahead to what your next product or idea is because there are a ton of other entrepreneurs that are creative and hungry, so if you want to continue to be successful, you can never stop innovating and trying out new ideas. There is a line from Let My People Go Surfing By Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, that resonates with me. I am paraphrasing, but the line went something like this, “By the time you tell someone your idea and they think it's a good idea, you are already too late.” Take feedback from those around you, but ultimately if you want to be creative and develop something unique, you need to take risks and go against conventional wisdom. No matter what the outcome is from your product or idea, keep your head up and never give up.

Other entrepreneurs should follow your passion but know that creating something from scratch is a lot of work, usually takes longer than you think it will find success, and you always need to remain flexible in your thinking because you never know where your next idea or opportunity will come from. It is also incredibly important that you build the greatest team that cares about your brand almost as much as you do. It’s critical that you have people around you that share your mission and passion.

Where can we go to learn more?