The founder and CEO of the fastest growing female-owned company in the United States, Sarah Kauss, talks to MWB about her mission to rid the world of plastic bottles.
When and why did you launch S’well?
It was actually while on vacation in Arizona, a sip of warm water and a conversation on career happiness led to my “aha” moment and the beginning of a business plan for S’well. I had been a user of a reusable water bottle since college, but my bottle of choice was more appropriate for camping than the conference room. On that trip, I realized that there was a need for a bottle that was not only functional, but also fashionable, and that I could be the one to bring it to market. I launched S’well in 2010.
What was the thought process behind the name choice?
S’well is a name with many meanings. It stands for the wholesome goodness of a bygone era and a happiness that comes from a positive experience. It suggests a groundswell of people coming together – in our case, to rid the world of single-use plastic – and the pleasure of simple moments like watching the swells in the ocean.
What makes S’well so unique in the market place?
The fashionable, unexpected designs and colours of S’well are unique to our brand. In addition, our innovation, process tied to quality and safety, and philanthropic efforts further help to set us apart from the competition.
How many designs do you have the in the collection now?
We offer more than 200 designs now and our latest collection offered 27.
If you could collaborate with one person or brand to create a capsule collection, who would it be?
We’d love to partner with Stella McCartney. We love everything she does!
Do you still have a hand in the design process? Which is your personal favourite?
Yes, I work closely with our creative team to determine new colours, patterns, collaborations and more. Since we operate like a fashion brand, we come out with two collections per year. My personal favourite is our Ocean Blue bottle. This was the first S’well bottle and continues to be one of our best-selling designs. Teakwood is a close second!
Who are your designs created for? Who’s your target customer if you like?
We create our designs for a range of different customers who do a wide variety of activities. From someone who’s style conscious and is selective about their accessories to someone who enjoys physical activity and needs a bottle with texture for a stronger grip. We try to make S’well a brand that everyone can love whether it is for the design aspect or the opportunity to minimize their environmental footprint.
How important has social media being to the growth of the brand? Do you work with influencers?
Social media is a key growth driver for S’well. We have a dedicated social media team that creates amazing content and we collaborate with several influencers that are fans of the brand and passionate about what we do.
In terms of wholesale, how many stockists do you currently have in the UK?
We have approximately 80 accounts, but are sold in over 300 doors in the UK market. Some of the top stockists include Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods.
Would you consider moving into other areas, such as homeware or fashion?
We’re launching new products, in new forms, this fall and excited about where this will take the brand.
What is the best piece of advice you would give someone launching their own brand?
Don’t wait for your idea to be fully baked before dedicating time to bring it to life. Focus as much time and energy as you can to making your idea a reality.