As a female entrepreneur, I love my fellow boss ladies and love the bond many of us have that is supportive and encouraging. Having a space to connect with like minded women who are on the same path is one of the greatest gifts. When we decided we wanted to feature fellow women chargers in life, the first person that came to mind was one of my best friends for over 12 years, Cindy Morse, founder of Hydro Flask! Lyndsey, our exceptional flock member, had the opportunity to interview Cindy and will take it from here! Aloha, Holly
Holly and Cindy in Waikiki
Reusable water bottles are in more hands than ever right now and it could very well be due to our good friend Cindy Morse. Cindy started one of the leading reusable bottle companies known as Hydro Flask. Founded in 2009, Hydro Flask changed the water bottle industry for the better when they launched the first all-insulated reusable container. The brand exploded into the market and quickly made Inc’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies list hitting 1 million in sales by 2011. With the rising awareness against single use plastics, Hydro Flask is a solution for many in exchange of plastic water bottles. Not to mention they keep your drink icy cold or steaming hot for hours on end. We sat down with Cindy to chat about her humble beginnings with Hydro Flask and how it’s given her the opportunity to move on to new endeavors.
1. Let’s take it back to the beginning before the creation of Hydro Flask- what were you interested/involved in beforehand?
Prior to starting Hydro Flask, I had owned other companies. Most recently was a sign shop and before that was a fence company.
2. How did these events lead to the inspiration to start Hydro Flask?
While working at the sign company, my partner went to get us a couple of water bottles (Nalgene) to have at the shop while we were working. Nalgene bottles were reusable plastic bottles that we usually used. The store had discontinued selling them because they contained BPA. That was an “a-ha”moment.
3. What was your vision for the company from the beginning? And how did it start to evolve as Hydro Flask began to grow?
We started thinking about making stainless steel bottles to replace the plastic ones. I wanted to do something more. One day I was drinking my coffee out of an insulated coffee cup and I thought “why not make insulated water bottles”. I started doing some research about vacuum insulation and types of stainless steel. Soon Hydro Flask was born. We originally started selling them at the Portland Saturday Market in Oregon. A sales rep for sporting goods found us and loved the bottles. He wanted to represent them and soon turned us on to other sales reps. Next thing we knew several stores were carrying Hydro Flask and we were growing exponentially. We started introducing new sizes and styles, including a food Flask and growler.
4. How did these events lead up to selling the company? What we’re your thoughts/emotions on letting it go?
As we continued to grow it became harder to keep up financially. We needed bigger and bigger orders to supply all of our venders. Profits were great, but cash flow was difficult. We had to look for options and decided on an investor. He was able to supply the financial support needed to keep growing the company. I thought that the company was at a point where I could return to Hawaii and continue on as CFO. That wasn’t as easy as I thought. It got to a point where I wasn’t happy with some of the decisions being made and decided it was time for me to get out. It was a little bittersweet selling the company, but it was the right time to do it. The investor who bought the company was able to continue growing Hydro Flask and after a few short years sold it for $220 million.
5. Did you find any advantages/disadvantages being an entrepreneur based in Hawaii?
The biggest disadvantage to run Hydro Flask from Hawaii was shipping. Because they are produced overseas, it was difficult and expensive to ship to Hawaii and then ship back out to the mainland. We decided it made more sense to set up headquarters in Oregon
6. What were your responsibilities with the company?
My title at Hydro Flask was CFO, although I really did some of everything. Upon starting the company it was just my partner and I. So we had to do everything. Soon we started growing and rented a warehouse. Before we knew it, we had several employees and expanded, taking over the unit next door. My responsibilities soon shifted to overseeing the employees and focusing on bookkeeping.
7. What do you attribute the quickly growing success of the business to?
The great thing about Hydro Flask is that it isn’t limited to a specific target market. It mostly grew from word of mouth. We did very little marketing, mostly just some social media, and yet we continued to grow. Twice a year we would go to the Outdoor Retailer Expo. This was a great opportunity to get noticed by more retailers. We knew we had something good when some of the big vendors wanted to know more about us and soon began copying our designs.
8. How did your experience starting Hydro Flask influence how you spend your time since selling the company?
I’m definitely an entrepreneur at heart and I knew I would be on to something new at some point. Anytime you have your own business you learn something new everyday. Hydro Flask taught me a lot and I will be able to use so much of that as I move onto my next project.
9. Do you have any desire to start another company? What would that look like?
I am working on something new right now. It’s still in the infant stages of development. It’s something that I wanted for myself and think many people will find it beneficial.
10. If you had one piece of advice for someone starting their own business, what would it be?
One thing I would tell anyone starting their own business is don’t be afraid to do it. The most important thing is to do your homework. Understand your market and keep in mind that everything cost more than you think it will. In the end, owning your own business can be one of the most rewarding things you can do.