APPRENTICE star, Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE and vice-chairperson of West Ham FC Karren Brady answers all your careers questions.
Today she’s chatting to Heather Nicholson, 50, from Hove, Sussex, who launched her reusable stainless-steel bottle business, One Green Bottle, with the help of godaddy.com.
Karren finds out how Heather went full-time with her business and is helping to hydrate Team GB as they go for gold in Tokyo.
What inspired you to launch One Green Bottle?
My background is in industrial chemistry, so I know that chemical compounds can easily leach into drinks from certain types of plastic water bottles. I didn’t want my son, Sam, to have a plastic bottle at nursery, but back in 2005 you couldn’t buy stainless steel versions.
I started bringing them back from Asia when I travelled there for work, and selling them over here. For years, my business was a side hustle – I wanted to spend time with my son, so it just rolled along in the background.
How did it become a full-time business?
Ten years ago, I was in a car accident and damaged my neck. For five years I was in pain with migraines, and pretty miserable. It meant my business dwindled – but when I began recovering five years ago, I decided to go full throttle with One Green Bottle.
I really wanted to create a business that aligned with my beliefs. If you’re selling a sustainable product, I think you should do it properly – when you dissect a lot of “green” businesses, their supply chain isn’t all that ethical.
After consulting with some eco groups, I decided to bring my bottles into the UK via slow boats from China, which cause less marine degradation and have lower emissions.
My manufacturing site is approved to a high environmental standard, and we even buy recycled material from ocean-harvested sources, like fishing nets, to make our bottle caps. From a business perspective, it doesn’t make great sense – our cashflow isn’t always great – but I feel like it’s the right thing to do.
It’s thanks to our high standards that we’re gaining a lot of attention, including supplying Team GB at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is really exciting.
What’s special about your product?
I’m proud to say our customer reviews are all really positive. Once people find us, they love us. We sell good quality, durable bottles and keep spares, so your purchase won’t become redundant if the cap breaks.
For every bottle sold, we recover 25 discarded plastic bottles from the ocean, and we have zero-plastic packaging and a zero-plastic supply chain, which took a lot of hard work to achieve.
This year, we’re joining up with Ocean Generation, a clean-oceans campaign charity who’ll be supplying our bottles to young people aged 16-25 who are engaged in climate education. And, of course, we’re supplying Team GB with water bottles, to help keep them hydrated as they compete.
What role has your website played in your success?
Because we don’t have salespeople, customers have to find us, so our website’s been really key. Things are continually changing online, so it’s hard to keep up, but we have regular conversations with GoDaddy to help us stay on top of things.
As a result, our website is user-friendly and visually dynamic, and GoDaddy has turbocharged our SEO. Rather than doing the work for us, they teach us how to do things ourselves – stuff that would take me weeks to learn on my own.
What’s your top tip for starting a new business?
Being able to do something I truly believed in and loved made a big difference. You need that passion to be able to work around your other commitments in life. I also work with people I love – they’re like my sisters: a really happy gang.
“The success of One Green Bottle shows you how a digital presence – with a professional website and strong SEO – can be crucial to the launch of a new business. The efforts Heather has put into making her company as eco-friendly as possible, with a zero-plastic supply chain, are really impressive too – she’s setting a great example to other start-ups.”