Inventor of Hydro Flask, the Most Popular Water Bottle in the World!


(upbeat music) – All right everybody,
today I have once again a very special guest. And now this is truly an amazing person that has created a
product that’s actually, I think has started a whole new category, and we’ll get to that in just a minute. So Travis, welcome to inventRightTV. – Thank you, thank you Stephen. – All right, before we
start, let’s talk about what you invented, because
it’s around the world, and I want people to really
understand how big this is. So you invented, in fact, I went online, ’cause I had to do a little
bit of homework here. I went online and it
says it’s the most used water bottle around
the world, Hydro Flask. Is that correct? I mean, is that– – I believe so. I mean I do travel a lot,
and it is the water bottle that I see most, absolutely. – But okay, so you
created this water bottle, but it’s much more than that, isn’t it? Because I looked at the
full range of products now that the company offers,
and it’s like a hundred different products that’s sold
in 17 different countries. So can we talk a little bit
about what the product is and what it does, first one. – Well, so it’s basically
a double-walled vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottle. And I had found that I wasn’t
able to keep water or ice to a temperature that I liked. I was livin’ on the beach in Hawaii and the water bottles just weren’t doing what they needed to be doin’ at the time. And I remembered my
grandpa had an old Thermos that was glass and metal,
and it was pretty okay. But that was like 1950s type stuff. And so I wondered why we
couldn’t just take metal and put it on the inside
and metal on the outside, and then put that vacuum
flask into something that we could actually portably carry. – Now Travis–
– In a water bottle. – Wait a minute, wait a minute. This sounds very complicated. What’s your background? I mean you’re living over there in Hawaii and you come up with this idea. Do you have a background
in manufacturing or metals? – Um, no, none whatsoever. My closest metal background
was scuba tanks and airplanes. I was a boat captain, a dive
instructor, dive master. I worked, I was a
commercial airline pilot. I also had a fence company
and we had metal posts for our fence, but that was
about the closest I had. – So what do you do? You come up with this
idea, and you go, look, this technology is old Thermos. I guess that’s what we’re talkin’ about. It’s old, it’s tired, there
needs to be something new. So where do you start? Do you have that ah-hah moment? Where do you go from there? – Well that ah-hah
moment was, it was really the starting point of a lot
of just serendipitous events and coincidences that took place that just kind of propelled Hydro Flask to market. Once it came out of my
mouth that I would do that, I would create something from nothing, it just started happening
on its own, almost. And I don’t have a lot of
great explanation as to how. I kind of grayed out there
for a number of units of time. And it just sort of happened. I didn’t have a lot of
experience with even using Google back then, 2007, 2008, I
wasn’t really computer fluent, and definitely way before
Ali Baba and some of those type things were available. A lot of the Chinese
weren’t even on the internet at that time. They didn’t have, they
still don’t have Google. And so it was hard for
them even to find Americans to come and work with their factories. And so, it was a lotta work. – So wait a minute, let’s talk about that. How do you get the first one made then? Did you travel over to the far east, or did you find a U.S.
contract manufacturer to make that first prototype for you? How did you do that, do you remember? – Well actually it became
a bit of a challenge because I could not find anybody in China who was willing to work with me. At that time they were
doing aluminum water bottles and that was it. There was one or two
factories that were doing single-wall stainless steel water bottles and they told me no, that
they weren’t interested, that there was no market, no way. People are just barely paying 20, they’re not gonna pay
30 for a water bottle. And so it just kinda became a challenge. Like I started to just
want to find somebody who would take a risk on me. And I was able to find a trading company which has a lot of inherent
risk in and of itself, which I didn’t realize for
a number of orders later. And that’s just, y’know
they told me that they would take a chance and make us 3,000 bottles. And they sent us a couple
prototypes which I didn’t like, but everybody we showed just loved them, and they thought that
it was the best thing they’d ever seen, and
I thought it was awful. But it gave me incentive to
create additional versions. – Okay. So how did you, tell us about
that first one you sold. Did you walk into a store
and say, “Hey look at this, “carry it.” What was that experience
and how did you do it? – Well, so the first,
we had ordered 3,000. For the first initial M-O-Q, the minimum order quantity
they wanted was 3,000. And we sold everything we
owned, I mean literally, down to the cutlery, we
sold everything we owned, left Hawaii, moved into Bend with my mom, and we only had enough money for 1500. So we bought 1500 bottles and took them up to the Portland Saturday market, her in Portland, Oregon. And showed up and they
said, “Oh absolutely not. “Nobody’s gonna want
those, that’s ridiculous. “They cost too much. “No.” So they told us no. The next day, went back on Sunday, ’cause it’s Saturday-Sunday,
went back on Sunday and said please, can we
just try to sell bottles and just let’s see what happens. And they said, fine, you can
go out by the railroad tracks and set up a table, but that’s about it. So we went out there and
set up a little table next to the Max, I mean
literally, right next to the train and it was about 100 degrees, and we put ice in the
bottles and I just started throwing bottles at
people with ice in them and they would open it
up and just be amazed that there was still ice. And I remember the first guy
who bought the first one, it was a black one, black 21 ounce, he almost started crying
at how excited he was and how, just like, like his
mind literally just popped. And it was like okay cool,
we’re on to something. And we sold enough that
the following weekend they allowed us to come
inside and have a real booth at the market. – Wow, that almost gives me goosebumps, because I started my career selling things basically with a table just
to see if people wanted it. So what a great test. Did you know at that point
that you had something? Because I know it’s been
hard, had to be a struggle, you sold everything, you’re
probably doubting yourself along the way. How did you stay with it? How did you say, look, I’m
going to keep doing this? – You know, it was, it
was extremely difficult. And a lot of naysayers. But then when selling
a product to somebody and looking in their eyes and
hearing them give feedback, it wanted, y’know I wanted to sell two, I wanted to sell three, it
just started to compound. And we had no other option. There was no plan B. It was, we need to sell these bottles or else we’re not gonna eat tonight. Like there wasn’t any other option. – Okay, so let’s fast
forward a little bit. Your business is going, I mean, there’s a lot of ups and downs I know, and I’m sure there’s a lot
of problems along the way. That sounds pretty normal. Everybody understands that. But you ended up selling it. You were at, how big were
you and what year was it that you sold your company? And how did that feel when you did it? Was it a great day, was it a sad day? Tell us about that. – Well, I (laughing) yeah,
there is a lot of back story that sort of took place in my life both professionally and personally. I had just gotten married,
my brother had just died. We were goin’ through just
600% a quarter growth. It was just outrageously and insanely big. And we’d always had a lot of issues with trying to finance the whole thing. So we started to take on investors. And I think taking on investors
sort of opened my eyes and ears and heart up to
different forms of business. And some I just didn’t
wanna necessarily pursue, and others I admired them for doing it, but I didn’t wanna partake in. But I knew that if I stepped
back and stepped out, the legacy would continue. I had good strong hope that the trajectory that they had planned for it
was the same as my trajectory for the most part. – What year was that, Travis? Was that– – That was 13, 2013, 2014,
right in there, yeah. 2013 I think maybe in April. – And how large were you at that point? Were you selling in a thousand
stores or more than that? – Oh more than a thousand. Yeah, we were all over the
country, all around the world. It was already really big. We were basically really
big really quickly. I mean within the first
six months we were already starting to be sold on the east coast, which was a big indicator
that we had already grown from, y’know, my mom’s garage. – How stressful was it? – (laughing) If I didn’t
have my motorcycle to just go ride off into the sunset every day, I would have been pullin’ my hair out. It was a lot of stress, but being a commercial airline
pilot and a dive instructor and a boat captain, you know
I’ve studied stress a lot and I’ve been in stressful
situations a lot. And I’ve studied business a lot, and so it was a manageable stress, and it was a feeder stress. I’m sure there’s some
psychological name for that, but it actually gave me mana, it gave me energy and power to continue. And then also just the
stress of there is no plan B, this will work. – Okay. How did you find those investors? – We knocked on a lot of doors, because it was right in
the middle of the recession and nobody had money, nobody had business, nobody had interests, nobody
had anything for anybody else, let alone themselves. And so we just started
knocking on a lotta doors, and I think that’s like
a friend of a friend was the first one. The second big one is
kind of a neat story. We were, it was a Wednesday afternoon and it was literally time
to close down the doors. We had no more money, we
just got in 40,000 rusted and potentially rusted
and not insulated bottles. Just signed a five-year
lease on 10,000 square feet, just hired more employees. And we had no money, and it was awful. And I remember sitting
on a Wednesday morning starting to draft up, y’know I’m sorry, we’re going out of business letter. And the phone rang, and from the front, and she said, “Hey, there’s a guy here “who wants to see you.” And I said, “I’m sorry,
there’s no more Hydro Flask, “no reason to see me any more.” And she called back and said,
“No, he really, really, really “wants to talk to you, Travis. “I think you need to come up here.” And I said, “Okay, fine.” So we sat down and he
said he wanted a job. And I said, well I’m so
sorry, we’re not hiring. And he just kept at it, and
I just kept telling him no. And finally he said, “Well
why will you not hire me?” I said, “Well, to tell you the truth, “we’re closin’ down on Friday.” And he said, “Why?” And I said, “We don’t have enough capital “to buy more inventory.” And he said, “Well, what do you need?” I said, “Million bucks.” And he goes, “Oh, so if I
got you a million dollars “by Friday can I start on Monday?” And I said sure, yeah, that sounds great. And I wanted to call security, y’know. I was like, okay, whatever dude. So he left and sure
enough, Thursday afternoon about three o’clock he
calls back and he says, “Hey, can you meet with a buddy of mine “tomorrow morning about 10?” And I thought, aw geez, he
wants me to hire his friend too. And I said no, I’m sorry,
I’m really not hiring. And he goes no, this is some money. And sure enough, the next
day, this man walks in and he says, “What are you doin’ here? “Let me see it.” And we showed him and
Cindy said that she wanted $852,714.22, whatever that number was, and I said I just want to sell bottles. And he goes, “So if I have
you a million dollars, “would you be able to sell some bottles?” And I said, “Yeah, a few.” And he wrote a check (laughing). – Wow, what a great story. How large is the company today, 2020? – Oh, oh, I mean, it’s big
enough that now they just don’t even have a CEO any more, it’s just a big corporation. I mean it’s just all Helen
of Troy, it’s, y’know. – Travis, how did they keep your soul? Because looking at the website,
looking at the products, there’s some magic there. There’s a soul there, I can see it. – Yeah, y’know, it’s built in the DNA. It was, it’s almost a
child or a living entity and the DNA that was born into Hydro Flask still permeates today I feel. Y’know we were real big
into the surf culture when we were in Hawaii, and real big into the
sporting and athletic world, outdoor world when we were here at Bend. And, y’know, I don’t wanna
say all the products, but the vast majority of
the products that they’re still putting out today are
the ones that I invented and drew up back in ’07, ’08. The technology by and
large has not changed, nor have the designs. And so I think that’s
another kind of testament to, they took my idea and
they just continued it how I was hoping it would be continued. – So last question, what
are you doin’ today? – I, well, today I’m
talkin’ to you (laughing). Today I’m working with
other companies to do pretty much the same thing. I do a lot of sourcing with China, I work with factories all
the time not only in China, but all around the world,
to help people bring their products and their
inventions from the napkin stages all the way through to home delivery. And mainly product sourcing. And I’m also CEO of a couple companies and on the board of directors of others. And I’m still inventing and
drawing up my ideas like mad. Probably two or three
a day I come up with. Your book was amazing. And I gauge a book by how
many times I’ve underlined it and marked in it and written ideas in it and highlighted it. And yours is one of my most
marked-up books of all time. And the one thing that
I keep hiccuping on, is around the contracts
and getting the contracts written properly for licensing. ‘Cause I have so many
ideas, but I just don’t have the, y’know I just can’t start
up 150 different businesses. I need to start licensing them out. – Well Travis, thank you
very much for taking us on this journey at the very beginning, because I know there’s a lot
of people that are wondering, “Can I do this?” And I think you gave
them inspiration today. – Well I hope so, good, it is possible. If I can do it, y’know,
no college education, no form of training in any of this, I know others can as well, yeah. – All right, Travis, thank you very much. – Thank you Stephen. (upbeat music)


11 Responses

  1. Craig Ward

    February 12, 2020 11:52 pm

    Typing this as I drink out of my hydroflask while eating dinner…. Such a wholesome story! I've owned countless bottles over the years and it truly is a quality product. It's interesting to hear about the creative process that eventually landed this bottle in front of me. I will continue to support!

  2. Ron reitano

    February 13, 2020 1:32 am

    And it all came down to an investor who was led to you by a potential employee. My goodness,,,faith can move mountains. And product. Nice.

  3. Robert Kaindl

    February 13, 2020 4:11 am

    I wish I could have invented something like a simple bottle… verses that required many technologies, patents, trademarks within 38 countries, Worldwide…. I even copyrighted a song I wrote and produced because I didn’t want to pay for licensing. So, congratulations on your success… i do know the Journey is challenging… motorcycles understandably is your escape, while mine is Multiengine Fixed-Wing and Rotorcraft…. The need to distract yourself or shut your brain off once in a while… I have around 8 of your HydroFlasks, in varying sizes…

  4. Hooyahfish

    February 13, 2020 4:27 am

    Thanks for the videos! They have been a huge help.

    I’m working on a product right now. I’m about to contact my biggest potential competitor to see if we can do a joint venture.
    My competitor would be a great attachment for my product.
    I would rather they make the attachment and I can focus on manufacturing my product instead of making both my product and the attachment.


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