Memobottle: Challenging the Fundamental Nature of Carrying Liquids

The story of two friends who combined their different professional skills into a successful team

Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy, co-founders of The Flank company, have been close friends since childhood. Living an hour south of Melbourne, they've spent many days discovering the Australian outdoors together. After completing primary school, Jonathan and Jesse's paths briefly separated, but they managed to remain close friends throughout their high school years. Jesse went on to study Product Design and Engineering at Swinburne University, and later to work at a prominent Melbourne design company, Tricycle Developments. Meanwhile, Jonathan completed a Bachelor's degree in Commerce at Monash University and joined a Big 4 Accounting firm. By this time, Jonathan and Jesse were living together; constantly brainstorming creative ideas and initiatives. Recently, they've successfully combined their business and design skills in the Memobottle.

The Memobottle: unique, eco-friendly and easily transportable

The idea for the reusable water bottle first arose from Jonathan and Jesse's shared love for the outdoors, and consequential concern for the environment. Jesse has been researching and designing reusable alternatives to plastic bottles since his university years. “We have always been disgusted with the overuse of single plastic bottles, and developed a passionate desire to reduce their disastrous effect on the environment,” Jonathan points out.

The Memobottle simultaneously solves another problem, one of practical nature. Its rectangular design in A4, A5, and letter size makes the Memobottle easily transportable, while keeping the functional aspects of traditional liquid containers. Jonathan recalls how frustrated they have been throughout their university years and work life by “the inability to fit water bottles in carry/laptop bags.” They’ve started questioning the circular bottle shape trend and decided to step out of the box. The creative spark Jonathan and Jesse inherited from their fathers, both artists, undoubtedly played a role in coming up with the innovative paper-shaped bottle.

“It is one thing to develop an idea that you think can be successfully brought to market, but an even greater challenge is determining how you want to market the idea”

After a year spent on testing and refining the Memobottle, prototypes have been made for each bottle size in order to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Technically, making prototypes for transparent bottles was not an easy task. “We ended up machining the two halves of bottles separately and gluing them together,” Jonathan describes their way of coping with the difficulties of accurately representing the final product. But they did it successfully; the goal of raising A$15 000 was met in the first 36 hours of the campaign. A guest at the Kickstarter launch event set out to implement a celebratory shot for every A$300 pledged, but due to the immense interest that policy was quickly withdrawn. By now, Memobottle raised more than A$ 260 000 and in the coming weeks, production will commence to meet the initial orders.

Co-working across the globe

Jonathan believes their typical working day to be “probably very different to your standard startup company”. Because he lives in San Diego, California, and Jesse is in Melbourne, Australia, all of their correspondence goes through international communication platforms. They haven’t physically seen each other since almost a year. “The time difference can be frustrating, but it also allows for one of us to be working around the clock”. They have divided their work tasks according to their different skill sets; Jesse coordinates the design and manufacturing elements, while Jonathan focuses on the business and PR aspects.

The Flank team works well together and responds to everyday challenges with continuous learning. “Whether it is a crash course in Trademarks, or dealing with third party logistics companies, we are forced to constantly think on our feet.”

According to Jonathan, “a product or an idea can rarely sell itself”, so it is necessary to find out what makes it desirable. They’ve spent a great amount of time on this element, and found that “the most engaging thing about the Memobottle is that it overcomes both social and environmental frustrations and improves convenience of everyday life.” Thus, Jonathan’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep in mind that “it is one thing to develop an idea that you think can be successfully brought to market, but an even greater challenge is determining how you want to market the idea.”

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