In the dynamic world of e-commerce and product innovation, it’s rare to encounter stories that combine personal experiences with revolutionary ideas. Carina Hamel, the co-founder of Bivo, offers just that. In this insightful interview, we dive into Carina's journey from a cross-country ski racer and footwear product developer to creating Bivo, a performance water bottle company born out of a desire to reduce plastic usage. Her story is not just about entrepreneurial spirit but also about addressing environmental concerns with innovative solutions.
Carina: Absolutely. I co-founded Bivo, aiming to reduce plastic usage, inspired by personal and professional experiences. As a former cross-country ski racer and a footwear product developer, I spent a decade working in various global factories and running a product development agency. The turning point came with the birth of my child, who refused to drink from plastic bottles, leading my husband and me to question our own reliance on plastic during sports. This realization drove us to design the Bivo One, our first product, filling a significant market gap with our product development expertise.
Carina: Indeed. Our foremost challenge was engineering a metal bottle that was easy to drink from during intense activities, as metal doesn't squeeze like plastic. We developed a patented gravity flow system, making the Bivo One easy to use. It took us 18 months to perfect this technology, but the result was well worth the effort.
Carina: My background in cross-country skiing was instrumental. We connected with professional cyclists and cycling ambassadors who helped spread the word. Additionally, we sponsored a bike race series, engaging with the community and collecting emails even before our product launch. This approach enabled us to build a substantial potential customer base.
Carina: We've been mindful of our spending, focusing on word-of-mouth and community engagement. Being the only U.S. brand offering a metal cycling water bottle created a natural draw. We also invested in event sponsorships and influencer partnerships, prioritizing community integration over aggressive sales tactics.
Carina: Our message centers around community, product functionality, and environmental impact. We emphasize the ease of drinking from our bottles, their cleanability, and our commitment to reducing waste in the cycling industry. This community-focused approach has been key in building our brand.
Carina: Cash flow management has been critical. We hired a fractional CFO early on, which was invaluable in navigating financial complexities. We've had to be adaptable, securing lines of credit for inventory and forecasting as needed.
Carina: The holiday season is a busy time, with Bivo bottles being popular gifts. We double our content output but focus on storytelling rather than aggressive promotions. For instance, we share personal stories like my experiences as a female athlete to connect with our audience more meaningfully.
Carina: Despite challenges in the cycling industry, 2023 has been a growth year for us. We expanded our sales force and have plans to double our size in 2024 while also achieving cash positivity, a significant milestone.
Carina: Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. Be prepared to adapt and pivot when necessary. Connecting with other entrepreneurs can provide valuable support and perspective. Embrace the challenges, as they are part of every business's journey.
Chris: Cool. Thanks for sharing your journey and insights.
Carina: My pleasure! I'm glad to have had the opportunity to share my story and the evolution of Bivo. I hope it inspires others in their entrepreneurial ventures. Thank you for having me!