I’m always impressed when people can manage to innovate and make interesting one of the more basic items in life. And bkr did just that. They improved the average water bottle so that it was something you wanted to have with you at all times and therefore ensuring you were more hydrated.
Founded by Tal Winter and Kate Cutler, bkr is “the antidote to cheap, disposable plastic bottles, and the key to skin that glows from the inside.” I’m so excited to have Tal & Kate a part of the latest installment of Witty Conversation With and hope you find their story as inspiring as I did! I personally keep their Spiked bottle on my desk nowadays at all times to ensure I’m drinking up. (And, as my brother marveled the other day, it practically works as an alternative to a stress ball – ha!)
Tell me about yourselves in 3 sentences.
Tal: To quote Marilyn Monroe, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
Kate: I love dinner parties at my house where there is inappropriate conversation, dancing, every glass is used and we laugh so hard we cry. You want me on your team at Trivial Pursuit, you don’t want me on your cycling team–I have only ridden a bike a handful of times since I had a pink Schwinn with a banana seat, and it shows. And I do not wear sensible shoes.
What is bkr? What does it stand for?
bkr (pronounced “beaker”) is a throwback to high school chemistry class when we all used glass beakers. In keeping with our minimalist aesthetic, we spelled it with the least amount of letters possible.
Our mission statement is and has always been “beauty will save the world.” We wanted to make something so beautiful that it could change people’s habits and in turn, change the world. Our water bottles inspire people to drink more water, get naturally glowing skin, and ditch plastic along the way.
What inspired you to leave your jobs as lawyers to start bkr?
We met at San Francisco’s Hastings College of Law and have been friends ever since. We were young lawyers who were both successful in own different areas of law but always felt there was something else out there. We always knew that the prescription for gorgeous skin is sleep and water, but we found ourselves drinking from tons of plastic disposable water bottles. It didn’t make sense that intelligent, sophisticated people like us were essentially drinking from trash. We couldn’t find a reusable bottle we loved, so we decided to make exactly the bottle we wanted: something beautiful, effortless and chic. We knew if we wanted it, other people would too.
What does a typical day look like for each of you? What’s been the most challenging thing about running your company? The most rewarding?
Tal: Typically I sit with the creative team all morning and we make sure that we hit all of our deadlines. Then we’ll go to Barneys, Chanel or the MoMA for inspiration. Then we come back inspired and dream up some really cool campaigns, projects, collections — it varies day by day. Then I tell myself not to eat too many M&M’s, usually fail, and run back home to my kid.
Kate: I spend the early morning with my two boys (age 8 and 4) – getting them to eat, get out the door and get to school on time. When I get in to the office, I usually have calls with our international distributors – whether it’s Stockholm, Seoul, or Dubai, we catch up on how the brand is growing, the doors that are opening and what we can do to support them. I spend the rest of the day working with different members of the bkr team. Sometimes it’s focusing on PR or marketing or I get involved in long-term sales strategies or looking at the new product ideas. Every day is different, busy and challenging: that’s what I love about it.
The most rewarding part of our jobs as been seeing our invention in the hands of everyone from Gisele Bündchen to Natalie Portman and in the pages of every magazine from Vogue to Forbes. Going from two girls with laptops on a couch to an office full of talented, passionate people a block away from Valentino is pinch-worthy. Signing bottles, taking fan pics and making speaking appearances at launches in London and Stockholm is equally incredible.
But, like all things, there are challenges every day. For one, building a luxury brand takes time. We’ve said “no” far more than we’ve said “yes.” And in a bootstrapped company that only ever raised a tiny friends-and-family round of funding, that isn’t easy. Building a brand is hard enough, but building a well-loved luxury brand that’s disrupting the beauty space with little capital is challenging to say the least. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.
How do you come up with ideas for each campaign/collection?
We’re pop culture, fashion, and magazine junkies. We go to museums, we travel, we surround ourselves with people who are curious, creative, interested and interesting. Our entire team is all that and smart too. We create what we want to have. We imagine what people don’t even know they want yet and we trust our instincts.
Your product can be found in the hands of so many celebs, how were you able to get your product into the hands of such influential people so early on?
We think that people just genuinely love their bkrs whether they’re celebrities are not! We don’t know them personally, but wish we did. When we see celebs like Reese Witherspoon, Blake Lively and Jessica Alba carrying around bkrs it’s pretty surreal and amazing, but honestly it’s just as exciting when we see a chic woman we don’t know walking down the street, bkr in hand.
You liken your water bottles to a step in a beauty routine. Why is hydration such an essential step in skin care?
Simply put, water is the absolute foundation of your beauty regimen. If you don’t drink a lot of water, there’s no point in investing in expensive skincare products! Most people don’t drink enough and if you’re even 2% dehydrated it shows on your skin. And bkr helps you drink more water. Our customers always tell us that they’re obsessed, and they’ve never been so hydrated in their lives! We believe bkr is a beauty essential – it’s a prescription for looking and feeling gorgeous.
Water bottles are always in tow at workouts – what are your favorites way to stay in shape?
Tal: Chase a one year old around.
Kate: I love going for long walks all around the city.
What’s next for bkr?
Tal: We always want to take risks, create outside of our comfort zone, not play anything safe, and give our diehard fans reasons to love us even more.
Kate: We’re also continuing to grow internationally and of course will continue to expand in beauty — that’s where bkr has really found its home.
Thanks so much to Kate & Tal for being a part of this series! And if you don’t yet have a bkr, what are you waiting for!?
p.s. Witty Conversation with Away’s Head of Marketing and with the founder of Cookie DO.
[Photography courtesy of bkr]