Kate Cutler and Tal Soltz, bkr, Women Entrepreneurs
Both Kate Cutler and Tal Soltz reached out to me about their product, bkr. I was intrigued. They sent me the bottles and we scheduled a call. They built a company around a cool modern reusable water bottle. As today is the year anniversary of their launch it is fitting to read about them today. In one year they found themselves selling the product in museums, hip stores, boutiques and getting a lot of press. Their story is inspiring. They pivoted their careers and found themselves in business together, happy and working harding than ever but loving how the flexibility in their lives is well...life changing.
Kate grew up in San Francisco going south to UCLA for college. She majored in sociology, spent a semester abroad in Madrid where she honed her Spanish speaking skills. When she graduated Kate went directly to law school at Hastings. After law school, Kate practiced law for more than 12 years. She started out as a litigator for commerical law and grew into managing litigation for their clients in London. She said that at one point she got sick of fighting people. Originally she took a job with a small firm that got acquired by another firm and then got acquired by an even larger firm. So although she worked in 3 different firms, it was always the same people.
When I spoke to Kate she didn't seem so enthusiatic about the practice of law. She said she went to law school because she really never thought she'd be a lawyer for that many years. What she really liked was the academics. The hobby of law academics became a real job and she wasn't sure she ever loved the practice.
Tal grew up in Southern California and went to college there too. She comes from a family that puts a huge value on education. She grew up with the mantra that education was number one, keep close to your family, stay home and be the top of your class. She achieved all of that. Her parents are Israeli so she spent every summer in either Israel or NYC and spent one random year in Winchester London at 15 living with her mom and stepdad. Like Kate, Tal went directly to law school after graduating from college yet after graduating from law school she spent some time traveling on her own through Europe before going to work.
Tal took a different direction in law than Kate. She went into child advocacy. She really enjoyed the legal part but the job definitely had a bend toward social work and the life decisions weighed heavily on her after awhile. She got really good at going to trial and that was her favorite thing. She knew how to win for the kids which was extremely gratifying.
Tal had this idea a few years back after reading about the dangers of drinking water out of plastic bottles. She didn't want to drink out of metal container because it tasted like a canteen. What kind of product could be healthy and clean? We are shipping water in plastic bottles that take over a hundred years to decompress. It makes no sense. She had gone to law school with Kate's husband and asked his advice on her idea. She thought to herself, I have this idea but how do I start? She started by doing research on the water bottle industry.
Slowly she started putting one foot in front of the other. For two years she worked as lawyer during the day and as an entrepreneur on nights and weekends. She put together a power point and hired a young designer with her own money to create her product. The designer built some 3D models. Tal had a friend who had sold his company to Microsoft and asked him to be an advisor. He said yes and put her in touch with some people.
Once she had finally created the beaker for the water bottle and realized she needed a partner. She sent an email to her closest friends and said she was looking for someone to do this with her...was anyone game? She had dinner with Kate and Tau was surprised when Kate mentioned the email saying that she was seriously thinking about coming on board. After lots of conversation, Kate pulled the plug and jumped on board.
Once the two of them came together, things ramped up. They started to plan for launch and distribution. All they had was a photo of their product on an iphone. Launching a consumer product business is very different than launching a web company. They found four great engineers who were connected to manufacturers in China. They trusted their gut and went for it.
The first product they lived with but wasn't exactly what they wanted and they began to tweak it as they used it. They wanted something simple, purposeful, timeless with no bells and whistles. They also had to built a website.
Both Tal and Kate went to Los Angeles and literally walked the streets trying to think about who would want to buy the bottle. They branded it as an accessory besides being inspired by wellness and sustainability they wanted the bottles to be sold in the right locations to start so that the brand would build in that direction that they wanted. They looked at museums, design shops and hip boutiques to get inspiration.
Their first order was from Turpan. They did a silent happy dance when they got the order over the phone. Tal had done a lot of research on how to sell to Turpan and it paid off. Then they did a trunk show for Henri Bendel and the smaller stores started pouring in. Having those two stores confirm that they myBkr was a good product is the reason all the other stores poured in. It is a herd mentality. When a larger retailer confirms the product it makes it easier for the smaller companies to buy in. Taking a leap of faith into a new category is not easy for many.
They launched the website which was a success as they used a special VIP code. You could give 5 other people your special code and they too could buy a bottle. That was key and the orders starting rushing in.
It has been a year that they have been in business. Their product is seen as a fashion product and they definitely plan on adding more products to their line. They want to be the Apple of environmental iconic products that people use to consume. It is impressive how two lawyers went about figuring out how to build a brand around a lone water bottle. The two of them are focused and head over heels that they have their own life, their own business and have never been happier in their work life. Their story is inspiring and guarantee there are more women out there who have the same story...after 12 years in a more traditional job jumped ship to start their own thing. i LOVE it.