‘Seeing how plastic pollution affected wildlife was eye-opening’
GOSIA MILLER, 44, lives in Hout Bay with her husband Greg, 42, and their twin girls, Indiana and Arizona, five. Gosia’s side business, Glass Sipper, sells reusable glass straws online.
THE IDEA Last year, I watched a really upsetting video online of a turtle struggling for breath, because a plastic straw was stuck in its nose. I felt strongly about doing something to help curb the plastic pollution that was having such a devastating effect on our wildlife. Although I have a full-time job in events and socialmedia marketing, I felt so passionate about this cause that I decided to look into supplying reusable glass straws as a side business, and so
Glass Sipper was born.
HAPPEN I jumped online and found a local wholesale manufacturer of borosilicate-glass items – this glass is strong, durable, dishwasher-safe and, crucially, is plastic-free. I ordered a glass-straw sample from one of these wholesalers to test it out, and then used this as a base to draw up a more userfriendly design with a curved lip, in two different lengths. The idea for Glass Sippers is that they are reusable, so I knew I had to package my straws with a brush you could clean them with. I found another company that manufactures brushes, and after testing different kinds of wire for the bristles, settled on one type best suited to my product. Using money I’d saved up, I placed an order for 100 of my glass straws and brushes. The next challenge was the packaging. While Greg got cracking on the design, I had to figure out how to make it recyclable and strong, as I wanted customers to be able to carry the straws in their bags. It took about 50 prototypes until we were happy. Finally, with the straws all neatly packaged, we were ready to sell. As I’d be running Glass Sipper after hours, it needed to be an online business, so I set up a basic website using Shopify. Greg photographed the product, and I uploaded the images to my site and to the social-media accounts I had opened. Glass Sipper officially launched in July 2017 when I changed my Instagram bio from ‘launching soon…’ to ‘order now!’. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a little free time, a bottle of wine and a Wi-fi connection!
LEARNING CURVE Socialmedia marketing wasn’t enough for my brand, and orders came in slowly at first. I needed to find my core target market, so I reached out to brands who shared my eco-friendly, anti-plastic vision. After six months of pitching to the right businesses, orders started to pick up.
HIGH POINT My biggest order yet has been from the boutique lodge Tintswalo Atlantic. They ordered 200 branded straws in January as a corporate gift for a US trade show. It gave my business a great New Year’s boost.
WHERE I AM NOW Glass Sipper is growing steadily. I’ve gone from having the odd handful of orders to making around 200 sales a month. I have also partnered up with a few establishments in Cape Town like Nude Foods, who stock Glass Sippers in store, making it more accessible to the public. I haven’t been able to draw a salary just yet and still spend my evenings working on the business, but I have received great feedback from clients, family and friends. The reward for me is the feeling I get knowing I’m proactively fighting to protect animals from careless pollution. >>