Sarah Kauss is on a mission to rid the world of plastic water bottles. The Founder and CEO of the fastest growing female-owned company in the United States, her sleek stainless steel water bottles are making a huge difference in the amount of plastic that’s filling landfills and waterways. Boasting collaborations with Lilly Pulitzer & photographer Gray Malin, the S’well bottle is this year’s must-have accessory. We caught up with Sarah who tells us how it all started and what the future holds for S’well…
Can you describe the moment you first had the idea for S’well bottles? The idea for S’well was born on a vacation with my mother. We were hiking in Arizona, discussing my career and how to find more happiness in it, when I took a drink of lukewarm water from my reusable bottle. I realized in that moment that I needed to create a better drinking experience. It inspired me to dream up a product that could keep drinks hot or cold, offer a look that could flow from boardroom to hiking trail, and feed a personal passion to rid the world of plastic bottles. I started writing a business plan that weekend and, well, the rest is history.
S’well has achieved outstanding growth in the last 7 years, what have been the standout moments of your journey so far? This has been a wild ride and there have been many phenomenal moments. S’well really took off, though, when it was featured in O Magazine following our first holiday season. We had an explosion of online sales and it gave us a new found credibility when speaking with prospective retailers. Our first key account set the stage for future growth, as well. We were able to sell well in a variety of departments and eventually attract other high-end retailers and brands to S’well. It created unbelievable momentum and helped stake our claim as a high-end, reusable beverage bottle brand. Diversifying our offering last year with the launch of S’ip by S’well was a very exciting moment. We were able to create a new line of whimsically-designed, uniquely-shaped bottles to reach a wider customer base. It has been extremely well-received and is just the beginning of more innovation and diversification to come.
You’ve collaborated with Gray Malin, what is it about his photography that works so well on S’well bottles? We love to help people dream at S’well and Gray Malin’s destination images help do just that. His photos are so enviable that you can’t help but imagine yourself in a warm, exotic place, even though you may be sitting at home on a snowy day. Plus, Malin’s extensive library of photos allow us to find amazing images that showcase his art and our bottle design.
Can you tell us about the 1 Million Bottle Project? This is an important initiative we kicked off earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival to bring awareness about the small changes we can make to create a huge impact on the environment. Our goal was to encourage 6,000 festival attendees to take a pledge to not use single-use, plastic bottles over the course of the year. By doing so, we could displace one million plastic bottles from being used. It was an amazing experience to see the excitement for our brand and the commitment of so many people to minimizing their plastic footprint.
How would you spend your perfect day off? On a perfect day off, you’ll find me boating on the ocean or hanging out by the beach watching the waves. My phone is turned off and I’m sharing a bottle of rosé with the people I love most by my side.
What does the future hold for S’well? The future promises to be an exciting one for S’well and our customers. This year alone we’ll be launching several new products, creating some beautiful new designs and announcing new collaborations that we hope will surprise and delight. As we expand into new markets, we’ll also continue to support organizations like UNICEF and (RED), among others, to bring clean water to those in need and support research to help us live longer, healthier lives.