Only in a mecca of outdoor product design such as Bend could Niki Singlaub be the guy who came up with not just a water bottle, or even a silicone water bottle, but a collapsible silicone bottle.
Singlaub launched Hydaway in 2015 as an alternative to using disposable plastic water bottles while traveling. Hydaway, which folds into a small saucer, is sold in 700 stores across the country, including national chains Ace Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyond. Singlaub and his four employees have spent the past several weeks focused on a Kickstarter campaign for the launch of an improved design, which they plan to distribute to stores in time for Christmas shopping.
Singlaub started Hydaway because he traveled frequently in his work as a product designer, and he wanted a space-saving reusable bottle. He even imagined packing his kids’ lunches in collapsible products that they could bring home empty and neatly folded.
Singlaub talked with The Bulletin about building and growing the company. His responses have been edited for length and content.
Q: Bend is home to Hydro Flask, which makes stainless-steel water bottles, and Silipint, which makes silicone drink ware. Who is your biggest competitor?
A: There’s two ways to think about that. All reusable water bottles have disposable water bottles as the answer. People are still buying that like crazy, and we’re all trying to stop that. There are other collapsible bottles out there. We have to compete against them to get on those shelves. There are a few different styles out there that all have a variety of flaws. Some might be lighter than ours, but you can’t clean the inside of them in a dishwasher. Some may be more cylindrical than ours, but it tips over when it’s full of water.
Q: Where does Hydaway fit in the trend of water bottles as accessories?
A: One thing we stress to buyers … is we are a bottle you can have along with a Hydro Flask, the S’well. Those bottles, especially when you’re traveling, they’re heavy, they’re bulky, they’re loud when you drop them. We’re not saying we’re going to be great in every situation. We’re definitely compatible.
Q: Have you tried to design an alternative to the plastic straw?
A: I have a lot in my mind that we could do for what we call that zero-waste kit. Something you bring with you when you travel, leave in your car when you’re doing errands. Something that replaces straws, grocery bags, that kind of thing. As a small company, we have to take one at a time and see where the biggest need is right away.
Q: What is your long-term goal for the company?
A: Who knows what the future brings. Right now we’re just like any company, trying to become more profitable; trying to get more products out there so we become more of a brand than a single product, or product line. We’re zeroing in on that zero-waste kit.
Q: You plan to start distributing through Whole Foods in the spring. How hard was it to get Hydaway into national chains?
A: You have to keep pitching and pitching and pitching because the buyers for these products have so many items across their desk. They have to choose what fits on the few pegs they have available. I have a sales director. His name is Brian Vernon. He’s amazing. He’s relentless in getting in front of new buyers. He manages the trade shows. He knows the product well, uses it constantly, doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
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