The following is a repost from Afloat.ie
In the world of eco-conscious choices and sustainability, two local businesses are making waves. Meet Will, founder behind Kai Bottle, and Viking Marine, a local supplier dedicated to offering quality marine products. Will's journey into the world of sustainable entrepreneurship, fueled by his passion for sailing, gave rise to Kai Bottle; a brand committed to providing eco-friendly, high-quality water bottles. Recognizing the potential of Kai Bottle, Viking Marine stepped up to bring these innovative, environmentally-friendly water bottles to local markets. Join me as I sit down for an interview to uncover how these kindred companies are working together to promote sustainability while navigating the challenges of both the open sea and a competitive market.
Paige: So, Will, as the founder of Kai Bottle, can you share with us the origins of your brand and how your personal life and experiences, especially as a sailor, played a role in its inception?
Will: I founded Kai during the COVID pandemic when I needed a new venture to focus on. The Irish market lacked high-quality, sustainable water bottle options, and that's where I saw an opportunity. I observed many people were using low quality or disposable bottles, and I wanted to provide a more eco-friendly solution, one that people loved and actually wanted to use daily. One thing led to another, and within a week I had a thousand bottles on the way from our factory!
As a sailor, I always depend on high-quality drinkware. When I'm out doing ocean races or if I have a long day on the water, I want to have a bottle that's dependable. I want to have ice-cold water if it's a hot day.
This combination of entrepreneurial drive and my personal experiences from sailing led to the creation of Kai Water Bottles.
Paige: You've mentioned sustainability as a core foundation. Can you talk a little bit about the environmentally friendly practices and materials that set your brand apart?
Will: When we went through the design process with our manufacturer, we were given a list of all the different materials we could use. We focused on the most sustainable ones. All of our bottles and cups are made from stainless steel which is taken from recycled offcuts from other manufacturing lines. This way, we're reducing waste from the first source. All the lids are also made from recycled plastic.
Our products are built to last, reducing the need for replacements. We emphasise longevity and reusability.
Paige: Can I ask about the name Kai, how did that come about?
Will: "Kai" means ocean in several Pacific languages, and it resonated with me because the ocean is where I spend most of my life. It's my home, and it captured my imagination. When I was brainstorming names, "Kai" stood out as a perfect fit.
Paige: Viking Marine places a lot of importance on local Irish brands like Kai Bottles. Could you expand on how your connection to the local community and your sailing experience have influenced the development and guiding principles of Kai Bottle?
Will: Local communities are incredibly supportive of homegrown brands. Having the backing of reputable distributors like Viking Marine has been instrumental for our growth. It adds credibility to our name. When people see Kai Bottles at Viking Marine, they think, "If Viking Marine trusts them, I can too." Most of our sales come from the Dublin area because we're a local brand. We've built trust within the community, which has been essential to our growth.
Paige: Can you talk about the design principles and the visual characteristics of Kai water bottles, including the patterns, shapes, and sizes?
Will: We wanted our brand to be fun and appealing. Our colour palette is vibrant, inspired by nature - the greens of the forest, the blues of the ocean, and the yellows of the sun. This inspired our best-selling product, The Funk Bottle, which features a mix-match of shapes and colours. It's fun and attention-grabbing, becoming the signature of our brand. In terms of physical design, a one-litre capacity was essential because it suits long days on the water. We've also introduced half-litre bottles for convenience, they are ideal for dinghy sailors or to put in a car cup holder. What sets us apart is the inclusion of straw lids as standard, unlike our competitors who charge extra for them.
Paige: Where are the bottles manufactured?
Will: Our bottles are manufactured in an industry leading drinkware factory with a global reputation for quality. Kai Bottles are made in the same factory as the major players in the bottle game. We did this to ensure we were at the forefront of bottle technology. We didn't want to go to a second-rate manufacturer and end up with product defects. We wanted to make sure they had a track record we could trust.
Paige: Can you share any upcoming initiatives or new products from Kai Water Bottles?
Will: We're focusing on streamlining our water bottle line. We'll be introducing a three-tier line this Christmas, including our Steel 1L and 500ML Kai bottles as well as a new product called Kai Lite. Kai Lite is a one-litre water bottle made of high-quality, light and reusable Tritan plastic. In the near future, we plan to launch a Kai Sport range, catering to sports teams and water sports enthusiasts. We're agile and continuously adapt based on feedback from our customers. We'll also be expanding our colour range: People want Leinster Blue and Munster Red, so they're coming. A lot of people have been waiting for these, and I think they'll sell well over Christmas.
Paige: What makes Kai Water bottles unique, and what message do you have for your customers to choose Kai over your competitors?
Will: What sets us apart is that when you choose Kai Water Bottles, you're supporting a local Irish brand with a commitment to community and sustainability. Our goal is to get to the stage where we reinvest in community projects, help community sailing programs, fund charity events, and various other causes. Also, our price point is attractive. We want to make sure people can afford our bottles. We offer customers good products such as a 1L Kai Bottle for €39.99 versus our main competitors who offer a comparable alternative for €59.99 or €69.99. We really try to emphasise the fact that we're affordable as well.
Paige: Finally, could you share a personal anecdote that exemplifies your experience as a sailor and how it has influenced your journey as the founder of Kai Water Bottles?
Will: Sailing has taught me to think quickly, be adaptable, and handle unexpected challenges – skills that have proven invaluable in running a business. Owning a company can be demanding, and you need to respond swiftly to issues, much like in sailing. You don't know what's going to come around the corner. You have a squall come through, something could break on the boat. I think that experience in learning to deal with that has helped me build this brand. The ability to be agile, embrace change, and accept feedback has been crucial in both sailing and entrepreneurship. Sailing and entrepreneurship share many parallels, and the skills I've developed on the water have helped me navigate the business world effectively.
So, if you're looking to make a sustainable choice and embrace the quality offered by Kai Water Bottles, look no further. Viking Marine proudly stocks these eco-friendly, durable bottles, ready to accompany you on your adventures, whether you're a serious sailor or simply seeking a reliable and eco-conscious hydration solution. To get your very own Kai Water Bottle and embark on your journey toward sustainability, click here to place your order and make a positive impact on our planet, one bottle at a time.