Nearly four years after the initial idea was conceived, 321 Water bottles entered into production in December last year, and are now already being sold world-wide.
When we first covered 321 Water back in November 2009, the company was seeking pre-orders for its innovative reusable water bottles with built-in filtration systems. Two years on, we took a look back on the progress that has been made. 321 Water’s journey to production began when a grant was secured from DesignVic, enabling a prototype of the water bottle to be developed. It was with this prototype that founder Gretha Oost entered into the ABC TV’s New Inventors show, going on to win the People’s Choice Award in the summer of 2009. With a prototype and high levels of interest already secured, all that was left was to raise the necessary funds to enter production. The decision was made to crowdfund the product, beginning with the ‘Thirst For Change’ campaign, which sought to pre-sell 10,000 units of the bottle. As mentioned in our original article in November 2009, had that target been met, delivery of the bottles to those who placed pre-orders would have begun in March 2010. However, Gretha told us that the payment gateway for the campaign had to be shut down after just two weeks, as pre-selling with an unknown end-date was not allowed in 2009. Despite this set back, momentum continued to build, with registered pre-sales giving investors confidence. The breakthrough then came in February 2010 with a two page article in the Qantas in-flight magazine “The Australian Way”, which went on to generate a surge of interest. A couple of months later, 321 Water won a 100,000 AUD business prize in Queensland, Australia as part of a creative innovation/entrepreneurship program called QUT Creative Innovation. Gretha then went on to secure more investments until enough funds had been raised to produce and sell 8,000 registered pre-orders. With the support of a local manufacturer, the bottles launched on 6 December 2010. Now that the bottles have been in production for nearly a year — available from the company website and design establishments across many capital cities — 321 Water continue to develop. They have already introduced a customization service suitable for events or conferences, which recently enabled them to produce red bottles with TEDxSydney and PWC branding at this year’s TEDxSydney event. Looking into 2012 and beyond, Gretha told us that her focus is on growing the brand and widening distribution and marketing of 321 Water in Australia. Ultimately, there are plans for further international expansion, and possibly the introduction of other sustainability-focused products to the range. When asked how she felt about the success and trouble 321 Water has encountered, Gretha told us, “The main challenges have been raising sufficient funds and delays in manufacturing. However I would not call this trouble, but part of the process. As we were crowdfunding, we were already shouting about 321 Water, hence it was very important to keep our fans/customers informed. They have been amazing and very, very patient. I like to think we have been very transparent, honest and open about what was involved and why there was delay, and that has made it a success.” The idea for 321 Water was born in 2006 after Gretha read Anita Roddick’s book of collected essays “Troubled Water”. However, from that initial idea, it took nearly four years before the first bottle was sold. Gretha comments, “It was fairly easy to start the project, however the development of the product proved more arduous because it involves a lot of detail and adjusting. But after all the hard work it was fantastic to see the first “real” 321 Water come off the production line nearly a year ago.” A year on, and 321 Water have just produced their 10,000th unit, secured a brand licensing agreement with Qantas, and have recently supplied General Electric with a unique version of their bottles. Although there are already other products similar to the 321 Water bottle, Gretha wanted to produce a water carrier that was as stylish as it was practical. As well as a strong belief in her product, perhaps Gretha’s greatest asset has been her realistic approach to product development. Other entrepreneurs take heed: bringing an idea to market can be a long and arduous process. Ultimately, of course, it can also be an extremely rewarding one.
24th November 2011