A Q&A with the Former Accountant Who Launched a Global Brand and Turned an Industry on its Head

January 9, 2018

By Ryan Dinger

Courtesy of S'well


In light of the meteoric rise S'well has taken to the top of the market, it's clear why inviting the brand to speak at the upcoming 2018 ANA Brand Masters Conference was a no-brainer. Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of the chic water bottle company, is a former accountant who has taken an unknown brand and turned it into a multimillion dollar business. Ahead of her brand's session at the #ANABrand conference, we sat down with the New York native to get her secret to success, her take on entrepreneurship, and what brands need to do to be successful in the future.


Sarah, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. From 2014 to 2016, your company realized a huge increase in sales, going from $10 million annually to $100 million in just two years. What has been the driving force behind that success?

Word of mouth and patience have been huge drivers of our growth. We are a premium product and needed to ensure at the outset that our retail partners were a brand fit. This means that we were methodical and extremely selective about who we worked with — even if it meant our growth was slow at first. We also made sure to get our products into as many hands as possible to help more people experience the surprise and delight factor of S'well. Taking our time, finding the right partners, and allowing people to become familiar with our bottles set us up for exponential growth. We created desire and then found ways to diversify our product as opportunity presented itself. And people love to spread the S'well love.


What is your thinking when it comes to marketing a product like a S'well Water bottle?

For years, we've let the beauty of our products and amazing performance be our marketing driver. Desire and delight has spurred word-of-mouth marketing and contributed significantly to our growth. Over the last year, we've grown our team and expanded our marketing efforts to include a more holistic approach that includes media, digital, creative, and additional storytelling moments.


What is one thing every brand needs to ensure success in the future?

An openness to change and risk taking. A brand has to be willing to evolve and adapt to the changing marketplace in order to maintain growth and success. It also has to be willing to take chances on new ideas and approaches to business. In our case, we've continued to reinvent the way we service our customers, design our products, and engage our teams. We've evolved what we want to be to continue to offer more to our customers and team. And we aren't afraid to try something new — it keeps us on our toes and constantly learning.


What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

My advice is simple. Don't wait for your idea to be perfect to jumpstart your entrepreneurial journey. Talk to people to work through the challenges you're facing or to learn more about what you don't know but need to know to get your idea off the ground. Your idea or business is going to evolve, so don't think that everything has to be in place before you start to share it with the world.


You can get more advice and insights when Raquel Lachman, VP of marketing at S'well, speaks at the 2018 ANA Brand Masters Conference, March 26–28, in Dana Point, Calif.

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