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8 Questions With Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy

We first talked about memobottle on Feel Desain back in autumn 2014, and loved the idea so much that we even featured it in our first print magazine. Since we discovered memobottle last year, it has grown from a Kickstarter campaign into a successful brand, and the two founders, Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy, have no intention of stopping yet and are launching the A6 memobottle this October. Jesse and Jonathan were kind enough to answer our 8 Questions… enjoy!
1. We first mentioned you on Feel Desain when you were seeking funding on Kickstarter back in 2014 – what have you been up to since then?
Jonathan: It’s great to think about where it all begun and how far things have moved and expanded in a 12 month period. The Kickstarter campaign was thrilling but extremely challenging, both mentally and emotionally.

We had exposed the concept and prototypes to friends and family but the true validation came when we launched the memobottle on Kickstarter. We were exposed – the idea was out in the world and the people were going to decide. We quickly realized the potential of memobottle and its underlying message when we surpassed our funding goal of $15K within 36 hours. 45 days later the Kickstarter campaign finished – society had backed our concept and it has been full steam ahead ever since.

From October 2014 through to delivery in June 2015 we worked tirelessly (usually 15 hour days 6-7 days a week) developing, producing, testing and refining the memobottles so that the packaging and the overall experience stayed true to our original goals. During this time we spent two very hands-on months within our supplier’s factory on the production line until the quality of the memobottles met our requirements.

Jesse: After a few production delays we finally shipped out all of the 10K+ Kickstarter memobottles at the end of June 2015. This moment of shipment was one of the most relieving and rewarding feelings that we have every experienced – a beautiful moment on many levels. For the past few months we have been spending a lot of time strengthening the memobottle branding, values and identifying retailers that we consider to be a perfect fit for memobottles morals and values.The memobottle is now stocked in the Musuem Of Modern Art in Austria (MUMOK) and at over 40 locations world-wide, and growing by the day. We have set up a new production facility in Taipei with brand new memobottle production machinery to meet the increasing demand.  We now have 6 warehouses across the globe for which we ship direct to customers. This allows us to reduce the customer shipping cost, whilst reducing the delivery timeframe.

 

Personally, we have both been travelling a LOT.  Throughout the past 4 months we have spent time in Australia, Asia, Europe, UK and the US meeting retailers, PR agencies, and even potential employees.  We now have memobottle presence in 5 locations around the globe.  We feel that it is important to reflect global cultures, interests and ideals in the memobottle brand.  It also allows our images and social media to reflect a sense of worldly appreciation and adventure.The A6 memobottle will be launched on October 27th so a lot of work has gone into the marketing campaign for this – we are really excited about this one! We designed the memobottle for the purpose of creating awareness and to assist in reducing the number of single-use bottles that go into landfill. We are having some wonderful feedback from people that have switched to reusable due to the design of the memobottle and the #onebottlemovement is generating momentum!

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2. How would you describe your Kickstarter experience?

 

Jesse: The Kickstarter experience has been overall positive for us. It was certainly a learning curve for us on many fronts but the good and the challenging parts combined have helped shape what memobottle is today. Crowdfunding is such a beautiful and powerful tool; it allows an idea to be presented to the world, and it is society that decides whether they want/need it in their life. Not that long ago you had to put your house on the line, or use life savings to back your idea to reality, before knowing whether it was an ideal solution in the customers’ eyes.It’s market feedback at it’s finest.

The ability of crowdfunding to generate exposure and present a problem/solution is truly remarkable. Without our Kickstarter backers the memobottle would still be a CAD file sitting on our computer. It allowed us to create a product, a business and an environmental movement all at once – we think about this fact a lot. By the end of the memobottle 45 day Kickstarter campaign we had raised enough capital to produce tooling, purchase the material required, secure domains globally and solidify our IP protection worldwide.

It also brought many challenges with it. Attempting to manage the interests and needs of over 6000 different personalities was difficult. Some backers wanted to be informed of every detail while others preferred to be removed from regular update emails. In hindsight, with the experience that we have gained from the entire campaign we would have communicated to our backers very differently. Transparency is key. Initially we were hesitant and sometimes sugar coating the production delays. Not everything goes to plan when bringing a new product to market – hurdles and production delays are somewhat inevitable. We were forced to switch manufacturing suppliers 3 months into production – communicating this to backers was extremely challenging – some were understanding, while others criticised intensely. This was all part of the Kickstarter experience though – and has helped us to really refine our communication with our customers and build it into our customer service codes.

The nine months between the Kickstarter launch and product delivery was the biggest and most exciting learning curve of our lives. It exposed us as individuals, threw us right into the deep end, and forced us to dive into areas of knowledge and expertise that we had never had exposure to before.

Jonathan: The beautiful truth is that the memobottle would be nothing without the support and backing of the kickstarter community.

 

3. How do you define creativity?

 

Jesse: For us creativity is personal expression. It is the emotions, the thoughts and the actions. It is the new way of looking at problems. We knew we had something when people started responding with ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

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4. Where did the idea for the Memobottle come from?

 

Jonathan: There wasn’t a specific day that we decided to make memobottle a reality – but for us the triggers had started long before. The memobottle was born from two main frustrations that we had encountered within society while growing up together. Being two primary school friends from a coastal town in Australia, we were constantly spending time at the beach and outdoors. We noticed an increase in the number of plastic water bottles that would wash ashore at our local beach, and decided to look into it a little bit further. We had no idea how large this problem was initially and we were completely shocked at how in a country that provides clean and accessible drinking water, people could buy single-use bottled water and pay over 1400 times more that what it costs from the tap.

 

We had also experienced the frustrations of trying to fit round water bottles into our bags. All of the bottles out there were all designed around ease of manufacture. Because of this, car holders, bike holders and accessories followed suit. We decided to flip the equation and create a product that was optimized for transportation but still held the functionality of traditional water bottles. Jesse went to work on the design that soon became the memobottle. We knew from that point that not only could memobottle be a beautiful product, but it had the ability to become a vehicle to change peoples mentality around how water can be consumed.

 

5. Do you think enough designers are focusing on creating products which could be beneficial for the environment?
Jesse: It seems more and more designers are now integrating solutions to social and environmental issues into their design projects.  We believe it is becoming inherent in young designers to naturally seek the ethical route. Obviously more education is required around alternative materials and environmentally considered manufacturing processes but this shift in thinking is the beginning of something special. Currently there are only a few places in the world where designers are really celebrated for their abilities; saying this we can see designers are now beginning to understand the positive influence and role that they can play within society and the corporate world. When the memobottle journey began we knew that in order to effectively communicate the issue of single-use bottles we had to provide a product that was not only addressing the problem but it had to be a convenient solution. Without convenience the path to unforced change is a slow one.

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6. Who do you admire most in the world of design or creativity?
Jesse: We have huge admiration for the sheer brilliance of Leonardo Da Vinci’s mind – his creations continue to be a huge motivator for us. His ability to evaluate organic forms and produce unique analysis of his environment complements the positive progression he made to engineering and design with the technology that he had at the time. He was a true observer and innovator. Steve Jobs is another big influence.  His business mind and intense dedication to simple, clean and eye catching design, marketing and branding had a huge impact on us. We find nature itself to be a big influencer. The patterns and natural forms that occur in everything provide endless entertainment, inspiration and admiration – it’s being able to read the patterns which is the hard part.

 

7. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time? Any new products in the pipeline…?
Jesse: We have some great ideas that we are currently implementing for memobottle. The underlying aim of memobottle is to assist in reducing the number of single-use bottles going into landfill and our environment; the #onebottlemovement has been set up to create a community of like minded people who wish to move towards a more reusable society. Personally we are committed to introducing products that provide environmental benefit whilst improving life convenience and make people think differently about the way they approach the world.

 

The last few months have been exciting as we expand our retail partners around the world. Coupling with a number of Museums Of Moderns Art has been an honour in itself. Last fortnight we launched memobottle Nordics – Our personalized memobottle approach for the Scandinavian region. In the near future we are looking to personalize the memobottle branding for different global regions in order to refine the single-use bottle message locally. The product roadmap has been planned for the next 2 years and is extremely exciting – expect some really cool things to be released in the next 12 months and beyond! Overall, we’d love to think that  in five years time there will have been a significant reduction in single-use water bottle consumption and a social shift towards a more reusable society. Stay tuned for the release of the A6 memobottle on the 27th of October.

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8. What advice do you have for someone with an original idea that they’d like to make a reality?
Jonathan: Give it a shot! The best thing about crowdfunding and social media platforms is that we now have the ability to put an idea out to the world and receive some accurate and informative feedback. Once upon a time inventors and entrepreneurs alike were forced to place their life savings or their house on the line. These days, with platforms like Kickstarter, Pozible and Indiegogo we are able to let the people decide first. Our advice is to work hard and work fast, put your idea out there to the world and use the feedback that you obtain, whether it be good or bad, to refine and improve your idea. Good luck!

 

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