‘See­ing how plas­tic pol­lu­tion af­fected wildlife was eye-open­ing’

Woman & Home (South Africa) - - New Directions -

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.

MAK­ING IT

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. >>

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