Ocean Bottle one year later, brought to you by co-founder Will | Ocean Bottle Store

Ocean Bottle one year later, brought to you by co-founder Will

From dreaming to drinking from an OB…  

This time last year, Ocean Bottle wasn’t much more than an idea, or even close to reality... By the 31st of December 2018 we had secured a little over 500 pre order deposits thanks to our earliest supporters and we were building up for our Indiegogo campaign launch early in the New Year. The overwhelming response from the first 48 hours put us in first place on the Indiegogo page and helped us get global coverage for the campaign. This was a dream come true for us and for the impact we hoped to create on helping to save our oceans. 

The very first prototype

The inspiration for Ocean Bottle came about whilst in the Indian Ocean. There I encountered first hand, rubbish island. I realised we had to do something about this - the more I researched the harder it became to ignore. This was a global issue and it seemed like the most viable solution was to stop plastic before it entered our oceans, to put a value on plastic waste and connect as many people as possible to this solution. I went home, and that's when we had the idea in a cafe to connect people to this solution with well designed reusable products. Many people had already changed their behaviours for the better and were using these items to help solve the problem. But we knew this wasn’t enough. Now it was time for an upgrade -  way better products built for everyday use and a way bigger contribution to looking after our planet. We wanted to find a way to enable people to have a huge contribution to the solution. We started the adventure with nothing more than a survey to find out if people were interested. 86% it turned out were willing to pay more for one of our bottles, despite not having seen a photo of what it might look like. We hoped this meant that people out there would be keen to support us and join our mission and the idea was to create a bottle for a similar price to others, with a great design and give away as much of our revenue as possible to plastic collection and the setting up of infrastructure. Discussing what impact we could create per product we teamed up with Plastic Bank and after stretching it as far as possible, we decided to fund collection of 11.368kgs of plastic per bottle, 25 lbs or the equivalent of over 1000 plastic bottles per Ocean Bottle sold.


How we went about creating the product & business model...

With Plastic Bank and our design partner K8 onboard, we went about designing the world’s most needed (at least in our minds) reusable bottle. In the months that followed whilst still studying, we had pitched at Richard Branson’s start-up competition VOOM with a painted off the shelf gym bottle with a paper logo, invested over 2.5k hours in product design; deciding how wide the bottle should be (68mm because it felt just right and can fit in cupholders), its height (so that it fits under most drink machines) through to which colours to pick between (an 8 version 73 page pdf with different pantones - thank you Jess Thomasson!), taken a trip to Brazil supported by family friends, Switch Films and London Business School to film some of the work we wanted to support with Plastic Bank, collected 1000 plastic bottles in London to demonstrate the size of the impact of each Ocean Bottle, lost a centimeter of our hairline trying to make the bottle dishwasher safe with our manufacturer and spent hours and weeks deliberating about which font to use on the campaign page to how much to charge for shipping to different countries around the world.

Our first trip to Brazil to meet with collectors and make a film

We had no idea how to send 10,000 bottles to our backers…

They say starting a company is hard. They’re not wrong. We just didn’t believe them… The crowdfunding campaign was for us, an overwhelming success. It isn’t the biggest campaign by a long shot, but for people who haven’t made or shipped anything before, it was a substantial challenge which caused many headaches and complications for logistics. We cannot apologise enough for the delay getting the bottles out to our supporters and are so grateful to you for being such a patient bunch. We just hope it was worth the wait. After months of delay working on the samples with our production partner, we were finally ready to hit the big green button and start making batch one. Issues then continued to surface, including one metric tonne of Social Plastic being stopped in Shanghai sea freight customs. But finally we managed to get the bottles finished and shipped to the UK where we posted to people with Royal Mail. Here our friends at the warehouse and our small but growing team were faced with the behemoth task of labelling and sending out all the bottles in under two weeks. The bottles were then out of our hands and with our trusty partner, the Royal Mail. This did not serve us as well as we’d hoped. Instead of offering extremely low freight rates for our supporters, many of the bottles went into a black hole or were returned to us in the shipping process. 

Ed Sheeran receiving his bottles

Nothing in terms of stress levels however compared to shipping the wrong bottles to a celebrity’s wedding and Ed Sheeran’s bottles almost not making it to Hannover for his tour. We have now fixed some of the early product issues, including some orange bottles which were leaking, which was ironic for a bottle with an “anti leak” seal. Thanks to Kat, we are really excited to have a super slick logistics set up for shipments in the New Year. Since September - Cameron, Emily and Iona on the team have together managed tonnes of emails from people who have been incredibly understanding and supportive or wanting to offer help! Thank you everyone. We now also know that our bottles are car proof. One customer drove over theirs with their car and apparently it was absolutely fine after.... This doesn’t mean we recommend people running over their OBs. Also as an added bonus, we’ve also offset approximately 540,000 kgs of CO2 from the plastic collected per bottle so congratulations to everyone involved!! 

Back to the Future...

The future is what gets Team OB up in the morning. We’ve now committed to funding collection of 80 million kgs of ocean-bound plastic by 2025 and are going full steam ahead to get there and have the biggest impact possible together with our incredible supporters. 

With loads of bottles out there in use, the onus is on us to make sure we are constantly learning about how to make the bottles even more sustainably, that they live a long life and that they are able to be repaired or recycled. That is why we plan on setting up a closed-loop recycling program and hope to have this live as soon as people have bottles that are beyond their best days. It means owners will be able to send in their bottle and get it fixed or turned into a new one. 

Two of our earliest supporters soaking up some summer weather in Norway

Just before Christmas we did a brainstorm in Oslo about future products. It looks like there could be a few contenders... so we’ll be sending out some requests for feedback from the community to see what sticks. Each product we sell will always carry an enormous impact on helping stop ocean plastic. We decided to activate each bottle with a smart chip because of the perpetual impact this could enable. You can already tap your phone to your bottle with your NFC reader and register your bottle in the OB web app, although it’s just beta right now. If we have a community of one million ocean bottle owners, the impact we could create together with partners and our community would be huge. The platform is currently under development and we are looking to roll out some programmes in 2020.

2020 and beyond - entering the sustainable revolution…

As we enter this next decade, we really don’t have any time to lose. The science is unquestionable. We are on a reckless path, with many still going the wrong way. But the solutions are there to solve the problems we face. So for your New Year's resolution - we ask you to make one that’s sustainable, do more with the planet in mind and tell your friends and family to keep the planet in mind. If you’re a business owner or key stakeholder - we encourage you to look to the UN’s sustainable goals. This is the decade of the SDGs! #projecteveryone 

See you in the new year! 

Message in a bottle brought to you by Will, co-founder at Ocean Bottle 



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