Travis Rosbach describes the company he founded eight years ago, Hydro Flask, as he would a child.
He and his partner at the time, Cindy Morse, created it, helped it grow and let it go the way he would send a daughter off to college, he said Thursday. Rosbach sold his interest in the Bend-based maker of stainless-steel, vacuum-insulated water bottles in 2012 to a group of investors.
Monday, those investors announced they’d sold the company, now with sales of $54 million annually, to an El Paso, Texas-based maker of personal care products, Helen of Troy Limited. Its new owner agreed to pay $210 million.
“I was elated,” Rosbach, 37, said Thursday, sitting in sunshine on an Adirondack chair on a piece of unimproved, forested property he bought after returning to Central Oregon.
“I believe in people drinking water, I really do, and I thought that, well, if we can have the best bottle, then we have the biggest company in the world,” he said. “So, when it sold for that amount, it was just a continuation of the dream. It is just propelling itself forward, and that’s exactly what the intention was when it started.”
When Rosbach left Hydro Flask behind, he became a world traveler, a practitioner of yoga and meditation, a paddleboarder and business consultant. He only recently returned to Bend. He has no regrets about selling the company; at the time, he was ready for a change, he said.
“I was constantly on airplanes and in airports and hotels all around the world, working 90-plus hours a week,” Rosbach said. “I mean, there was no stop. I hadn’t slept in 5½ years. I was way overweight, drinking too much, living a capitalist’s dream and it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy it the least bit.”
Rosbach said he’s traveled in Europe and the U.S., the latter for the past 1½ years in a recreational vehicle. He was married for three years but is divorced now.
His spiritual side can seem at odds with his instinctual bent for capitalism.
“I don’t mind shooting trespassers, either, isn’t that crazy?” he said. “The capitalism, it just blossoms. Money just happens. The business and all that just flows. I don’t mind stopping it but sometimes it gets to be a bit annoying. It keeps me up at night.”
The Hydro Flask story began when Rosbach and Morse, at the time living in Oahu, Hawaii, learned plastic water bottles contained a potentially harmful chemical, bisphenol A. Other brands of metal containers did not keep his water cold enough, so he devised his own. Just as the recession was taking hold, Rosbach and Morse returned to his mother’s home in Salem, nearly broke, with two suitcases and 1,500 Hydro Flasks on their way from China, Rosbach said.
“The recession didn’t make any difference. That doesn’t factor,” he said. “That’s just a state of mind; that’s just a mentality.”
They sold the first Hydro Flask bottles at the Portland Saturday Market, the Deschutes County Fair and Munch & Music in Bend. The company made more than $12 million in annual sales before it sold in 2012, Rosbach said.
Success, he said, comes to him because he never learned to accept limits.
“When we start thinking in boxes and categories, we don’t see what’s on the outside of the box or category,” he said, “we don’t see the rest of the picture. So, if you don’t know that there’s a box or category that you’re supposed to be in, then there’s no need for that.”
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