Business Success: Making Water Portable
Who: Julie Austin
Business: Swiggies — The Wrist Waterbottle
Location: Los Angeles, California
Number of employees: Zero, at present
Swiggies — a portable water bottle attached to one's wrist — were invented by entrepreneur Julie Austin. Julie now runs a successful small business based on the hands-free drinking device.
While the economy required her to downsize her staff, Julie has a number of insights that can help small business owners in a variety of sectors.
Why Swiggies? How did you get into this business?
Well, purely by accident. I was out running in the heat and I passed out from dehydration. And that's when I invented the product. I decided to come up with something that could be attached to the body that was easily accessible and light, but yet contained enough water.
And I started the business…actually I wanted to license the product and that didn't happen, so I actually ended up having to run my own business. And it kind of became bigger than I expected.
You said you had distributors — can you explain?
Well, a distributor orders in volume and then they take it and they… sell it online or they sell it [in] stores. My product is also a promotional item, so they sell to corporations and they sell in the
alcohol industry. It's a sports product, but people put alcohol in them too.
How has running a small business without any employees worked out?
I do everything. I used to have employees until the downturn.
[It] means more work for me, but then again business is down. So when a business doesn't have business, you just can't afford that extra expense.
Do you see any advantages to working on your own?
I'd learned a lot from her, but I couldn't afford to keep paying her a full-time salary and I had to learn how to do it myself. It just means I have more skills. So it can be a good thing.
I think every business owner should do that. You should know how to do shipping and warehousing and your online stuff. I think you should know every aspect of your business.
What do you look for in a new hire?
Granted when you hire people like that, you kind of risk losing them because they are just chomping at the bit to start their own business, but I just find that I get so much more out of people who have that kind of mindset. I don't want to lose them, but that's really where I have hired my people.
People that I hire are self-starters. I basically say here's what we need to do, here's the deadline and you're on your own.
It's kind of an intuition over the years of working in a business that I can tell people who need to be hand held and the people who are self-starters.
What's the next step for Swiggies’ business success?
Well, eventually I would like for Swiggies to be like a — I hate to use the word fad — because that sounds bad — but, you know, a trend.