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Business Success: Making Water Portable

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?

When you do everything, you learn a lot more… like for example: search engine optimization. I knew absolutely nothing about social media. I did have someone who was helping me with that.

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?

I want a new hire to have an entrepreneurial strategy like my own.

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.