Carina Hamel / Bivo

Start Here Podcast | Episode #81 | 10/03/2023

After many years of ski racing and cycling, Carina Hamel and her husband and co-founder, Robby Ringer, were done drinking from moldy, plastic water bottles. They set out to revolutionize the water bottle, and Bivo was born. An innovative metal cycling bottle with a high-flow nozzle, Bivo makes it efficient, easy, and fun to stay hydrated on your ride. In this episode, Carina shares her story of how an active lifestyle and a career in the shoe business drove her to solve the problem that nobody else would.  

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Carina Hamel  00:00

I saw brands succeed and I saw them fail. And I saw like which mistakes they made. And I think the biggest lesson I learned was Don’t forget any piece of the business like we hired a PR agency before we even launched our brand because we didn’t understand PR like that was something we had never really worked with. And so, you know, they helped guide us through the first year of business where we didn’t really understand anything PR related but it was taken care of and covered for us and that was such an important piece.


Sam RG  00:32

from Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies it start here, podcast sharing the stories of active and aspiring accidental entrepreneurs. Today we sit down with Carina Hamel, co founder of Richmond based Bivo, the company that has completely reinvented the cycling waterbottle welcome. This is Sam Roach-Gerber David Bradbury recording from the Consolidated Communications Technology hub in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Hi, Carina. Hi. Oh, my goodness. I’m so happy to have you here.


Carina Hamel  01:00

Yeah, I’m happy to be here. Thank you.


David Bradbury  01:01



Sam RG  01:02

We’ve been trying to pin you down. You’re busy lady busy building a business. That’s right. Yeah. We just got back up from our big big road trip that we did this summer that was trying to spread the word across the country. So I just got back a week ago after a month and a half on the road with our two little kids. And it’s nice to be back.


David Bradbury  01:21

What, what, what sort of route did you take?


Carina Hamel  01:24

So my co founder is my husband, Robbie, he drove out to Montana from the East Coast. So he stopped in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Iowa for event called Ragbrai. And then we did Montana and Colorado for a series of different cycling events with the kids. And then I flew home and he drove back through Texas and Minneapolis before coming back yesterday.


Sam RG  01:46

How cool yeah, how old are the kids for a trip like this?


Carina Hamel  01:49

They are two and five.Yes.


Sam RG  01:52

Oh, my God being the mother of a two year old. Kudos. I’m impressed.


Carina Hamel  01:56

Yeah, thanks. It was actually it was. I was very nervous about the driving because my kids are really bad in the car. But they did great. It was and it was good to push them. I think like they now have a game where they play work. So that’s cool. Like they saw us working really hard. And now they’re playing that game. So that’s kind of cool.


David Bradbury  02:14

So it’s never too early to start on your workforce.


Carina Hamel  02:17



Sam RG  02:18

It makes me happy.


Carina Hamel  02:19

I know. Oh, yeah. It was awesome.


Sam RG  02:21

So as little Guerilla Marketing meets family vacation,


Carina Hamel  02:25

yeah, more it was it was definitely heavy On the work front. But my inlaws came with us to to help with the kids while we were working events, but it was full. Yeah, it was full


David Bradbury  02:35

2024 You might get Sam and Jeremy and Lochlan to go.


Carina Hamel  02:39

Yeah, it’s very possible. Yeah, that sounds good. We put her back up. Yeah.


David Bradbury  02:43

What is your company?


Carina Hamel  02:45

Yeah, it’s a performance stainless steel cycling Bottle Company. So we it’s the first metal bottle is designed to fit in a bike cage. And then we optimize the flow of water so that you could pour and drink really easily. So it’s a gravity flow patented system that we started developing in 2019.


Sam RG  03:04

I feel like this is one of those things where I’m like, why has no one changed this yet?Because it’s gross. Those plastic bottles. The water tastes like plastic.


Carina Hamel  03:14

Yeah. Yeah, it was shocking. Honestly, when we came up with the idea, we were really surprised like it was, it was that lightbulb moment of like, holy cow. This doesn’t exist in the market. Yeah, we better go for it. I was before owning Bivo I had owned a footwear design and development agency. And I ran that together with Robbie for 12 years, and or 10 years. And so our background was in product development. And we always worked with the startups that had different ideas, and we always kind of we always wanted to start our own something someday. But that like that, like, huge hole in the market, I didn’t know if we would ever find it. Ours, you know, our Yeah. And we found it, which was really,


David Bradbury  03:55

what year did it start?


Carina Hamel  03:57

We came up with the idea in 2019. We launched in 2020.


Sam RG  04:02

Wow, that’s quick. So how did was you know, researching competitors? A big part of that beginning?


Carina Hamel  04:10

Yeah, so we went home we were actually I went skiing, our daughter had just gone to daycare and she was refusing the bottle. So we were talking about bottles a lot and then I was a cross country ski racer, I raced at UVM and so we were out skiing, talking about our daughter drinking out of plastic and then we took a drink out of my old Nordic drink belt that had like black mold around the rim and it was just gross. And so we realized every time we exercise we too drink out of plastic and so we went home and started researching immediately it was just like get on the computer start looking around and we just couldn’t find anything.


Sam RG  04:45

That’s so cool.


David Bradbury  04:46

Wasn’t I mean when did when did those other brands that were producing you know, higher price point stainless? Right around that time was that what made it popular because they kind of like made space in the market. You sell a $35 $40 bottle.


Carina Hamel  05:03

Yeah so they were probably about 10 to 15 years ahead of us, actually. But they just didn’t have a bike bottle. And so that’s what is actually great because the market was ready for the price point compared to a plastic bottle. But it just was a hole that that hadn’t been filled yet.


Sam RG  05:20

Yeah, that’s so cool. And I imagine it’s the type of product that sounds easy to start, you know, when you’re like, oh, just we’ll make it in metal. But then like, when you think of like the waterflow, and all of that, like, it’s actually pretty complicated because those bottles you squeeze. And that’s how you get the water out. So yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that, like engineering challenge?


Carina Hamel  05:40

Yeah. So we, our background, again, was in footwear development. So my, a big part of what I had done for the parent company Keen, and my first career outside of college, was helping find factories for brands, and so are for for Keen, specifically. And then I left and started my development agency, and a huge part of that was helping brands find factories. So that piece of it, and then like the whole product development process, that was something that even though this was a water bottle, and we had previously worked on footwear, it was a process I was really comfortable with. And so I knew how to like go through the steps. And typically, it takes like anywhere from 18 to 24 months to bring a product to the market. It’s a long, it’s a long process. And then on the other side of it, I was the consumer. So I’m a cyclist, myself, I was a ski racer, I know what performance has to look like. And so that was our first thing is like, Okay, well, if we can’t squeeze metal, how are you going to drink out of it? And so we immediately started looking at the engineering and trying to figure out how can we get water out as quickly as possible. And we knew that it had to be equal to or better than plastic essentially to drink out of. So we actually hired a third party engineer who’s a Vermonter. And he formerly worked at NASA. So he helped us do a lot of like fluid dynamic testing, and all sorts of like, just, you know, trying to figure out how to get that water out. And so after about, I don’t know, I think we probably took about six months to really figure out the concept behind the technology, and then an additional 12 months to bring it to market from there.


Sam RG  07:20

And it’s so important to hire the person that’s an expert in the thing that you’re not.


Carina Hamel  07:25

totally Yeah. And the thing is that this kind of funny, I joke, it’s really hard to get water out of a bottle, but it’s also hard to keep it in. So like the leaking part of it, too. That’s also was something that was hard. Like, once we figured out how to get the water out, then we had to just make sure that we were like all the all the measurements, everything is super has to be super tight. And so that was a tricky part of it, too.


David Bradbury  07:48

When you have temperature changes, you know, altitude and things like that, that might play a factor. So sounds like you got it right. And after like one or two prototypes? Is that accurate? Or open for prototyping?


Carina Hamel  08:03

Yeah so in terms of actually opening the molds, we opened two bottle molds and we opened one, lid and nozzle mold. So what does that mean? It basically means like the part that you like, the injection of the lid, okay, into, that’s like a really expensive part of making the bottle. So we only had to do one of those. We did a ton of 3d printing. We had hot glue guns. And we were doing rapid prototyping for a few months before we actually started working on the mold drawing, which is like the thing that shapes the bottle itself.


Sam RG  08:34

Cool so if you’re talking to another entrepreneur who has a physical product, do you have any advice for that prototyping phase because I feel like there is a lot of work that goes into it because you know there’s a lot of money that goes into it aswell so you want to try to get those issues out earlier.


Carina Hamel  08:51

Yeah we we used 3d printing to really I mean, molds can the molds can be upwards of $25,000 for example. So to open a mold and then have to reopen it, that’s a really costly mistake if you if you mess that up. So utilizing technology such as 3d printing, and just being scrappy with the booty cereals that you can kind of like I said glue together or like test out in different kind of fast ways. It saves time and it saves money.


David Bradbury  09:23

So your prototypes were plastic for a while, right? Yeah,


Carina Hamel  09:27

or like 3d printed nylon. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


David Bradbury  09:31

And then um the molds did you do those locally or did you use the network you’d had from Keene of local someone?


Carina Hamel  09:42

Yeah, we found a factory. So we found nine different stainless steel water bottle factories in China outside of Shanghai. I think about 90% of the world’s stainless steel bottles come from outside of Shanghai. We tried to make it in Mexico. We tried to look in the US but we weren’t able to To get any facilities. So we use the factory that we we established a relationship in China within China for the molds as well.


Sam RG  10:09

And were there any like in terms of like 3d printing? Like before you got to that phase? Like were there any? Did you guys just buy a 3d printer? Did you rent one or borrow something like how did you there’s


Carina Hamel  10:19

some yeah, there’s different services that you can actually use online. There’s also now via the Vermont technical school in Randolph, we’ve been using them quite a bit for actually laser etching like custom, awesome facilities and amazing facility. It’s so cool. So we’ve been starting to use them now. So if you’re a Vermonter, and you have like the new prototype, you want to make Oh, definitely look at them. But we use an online service when we were when we were I think it’s called Cloud, 3d cloud or something like that, that we that we used for, for 3d printing at the time.


Sam RG  10:54

And so I mean, I couldn’t help but notice that you said you thought of the idea in 2019, you started in 2020. I mean, we got to ask, like, how did COVID impact? Did it hurt or help you? Because you were starting kind of in that environment? So I’m sure you had some extra time on your hands, but maybe not all the resources you needed?


Carina Hamel  11:13

I mean, I think it helped us and hurt us. I think it was a mix. So our plan was to biking is an interesting one in that your cyclists has a really good relationship with their local bike shop, and everything was shut down. So when we finalize our, our bottle development, and we’re ready to place the purchase order, it was actually April 2020. So a month after COVID hit, we put a pause on it, we actually said this is, we we’ve self funded through launch. So it was our money that we were putting into this. And we were very nervous about spending. Like I said, we had a baby. She was 18 months at the time. So our daughter, so that’s like, I don’t know, a lot to put on the line when you have a young kid. So we postponed for a little bit. And then we just realized that the bike industry was going to have a little bit of a boom because it got people outside and nobody could do anything inside. So it actually ended up being a decent time for us to launch just because the bike industry was going kind of crazy. We did not launch in stores, we decided to just launch direct to consumer to begin with, because of COVID. And that was that. I mean, it honestly ended up fine. It we hit our we hit exactly our projections that we had anticipated, but to like $4,000 or something crazy. But but we I think the thing that probably hurt us the most was events are really good for us. And so nothing was happening. And it was harder to get our name out there as much as we thought we would be able to because there just weren’t things,


David Bradbury  12:49

which was part of that tour you described.


Sam RG  12:53

And no supply chain issues?


Carina Hamel  12:56

Shockingly, we had well, we did have an issue with production, our first batch of production did have a problem that we had to delay our launch because of and that was because our factory was in China. We couldn’t go and oversee production. That was always like my number one rule for our footwear clients was if you’re going into production for the first time you have to be at the factory. So unfortunately, we received our bottles, and they were there was a problem with the exterior coating. So that had to we actually postponed four by four months to start shipping bottles. And that was really devastating. But otherwise I say I actually my initial reaction was No, we didn’t have supply chain issues was kind of funny. I forgot about that. But no, we were small enough. I think we were able to squeak through where we didn’t have delays to our manufacturing. So that I think surprised us because we were still working in footwear at the time and their footwear was a mess. Like everything was a problem in footwear but in bottles for some reason. Our factory was just able I think there’s like less components more and more automation. Yeah, everything came from the same location whereas in footwear materials were coming from Taiwan or Thailand wherever into China or orchestrates that country to country Yeah, city. Yeah, one thing that did happen was our bottles got stuck in.


David Bradbury  14:28

the boat who’s like in Long Beach. All those boats that were hung up.


Carina Hamel  14:31

Yeah like an extra month or something at one point to get the bottles in but nothing terrible.


David Bradbury  14:37

So yeah. Do you have patents or property? Yeah. How important is that to the business and how was that process?


Carina Hamel  14:46

Yeah, so we we got a patent on our utility patent on our gravity flow nozzle. We didn’t do a design patent because I think that matters last we really focused on the utility. The engineer hang of it. So that took actually, we just got patented officially about less than a month ago. It we still we’ve been patent pending that whole time. So it’s a long process. It’s an expensive process. And it’s it’s good for, I think, honestly, it’s, it’s helpful if we ever want to sell Bivo, because it increases the value. But as a small brand is hard to defend those patents. So I think it’s it’s definitely a debate people have as to whether or not it’s worth it to go after it, because it the big people can come in and just walk all over you essentially, because we are starting to see some people.


David Bradbury  15:45

Let’s get them. No one picks on Vermont.


Sam RG  15:49

That’s a hard decision. We we’ve worked with a number of companies that have sort of like, do we do we do or do we not do it? Like, yeah, do you have any advice on like, why you decided to move ahead with it?


Carina Hamel  16:00

Yeeah we wanted to try to protect ourselves as best we can. It definitely scares people off from from infringing. Also, if like, if we are infringed upon, there’s opportunity to go after claims, is like if you do want to sell your your company is something that adds value. So for us that was a that was important. So I think that, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s whether or not you have the funds, essentially to do it, I think. And I and it’s important to find a lawyer that advises you along the way. Because you could also, you could go after every country and spend so much money, only to find out that it wasn’t worth it. And you can select countries strategically there where there is an actual market. So just making sure you pick the right lawyer to help you advise you through that process is important. We actually ended up with the a lawyer who is a cyclist himself. And he has like a vested interest in who we are. And he believes in our brand. And so it’s just nice to get the right people on your side.


Sam RG  17:05

One of those things that’s just worth investing in right from the start. I mean, I get a lot of entrepreneurs that are asking like, hey, you know, I need some legal advice around this. But you know, I’m not sure whether I should hire a lawyer or try to figure it out. I’m like, please don’t try to figure it out. Because we’ve also talked to the companies that did try to figure it out themselves.


David Bradbury  17:23

And it’s more expensive and timely to undo something, if you can.


Carina Hamel  17:28

Yeah, I think that’s, you know, running my footwear agency for 10 years, I worked with probably 30 different, like startups or medium to medium sized companies. And it was so helpful, because I saw brands succeed, and I saw them fail. And I saw like, which mistakes they made. And I think the biggest lesson I learned was, don’t forget, any piece of the business. Like, that’s a simple thing to say. But it’s easy to like push something aside that you don’t maybe understand or not hire the right person if you don’t understand it. And so I think that’s, that’s always something that I come back to like, let’s not like we hired a PR agency, before we even launched our brand, because we wanted to make we didn’t understand PR, like that was something we had never really worked with. And so we hired Press Forward out of Middlebury, Vermont, and they, you know, they helped guide us through the first year of business where we didn’t really understand anything PR related, but it was taken care of and covered for us. And I’m not sure if I had if I hadn’t had the experience of my footwear development agency that I would have recognized that that was such an important piece to, to make sure we had.


Sam RG  18:41

Yeah, and I think a lot of brands kind of do it retroactively. And it’s not that it’s too late, but it’s just a lot harder. Yeah. Whereas if you hire them before you can establish the brand and, and have a proactive plan. And that sort of makes it a lot easier. So obviously, you have a lot of experience from your previous company that has helped clearly and such an interesting background, I would never have thought of that kind of transition, but it makes complete sense after you’ve explained it. Did you overlap with the companies? Did you? Is the other one still alive? Or how did you kind of transition that because I know folks have really hard time when they’re starting a new company to figure that out.


Carina Hamel  19:21

So the the plan was to run both until we became cash positive at Bivo. But COVID really threw a wrench in that system. We also decided to have a second kid so that also threw a wrench in the system. So we ran mine, the footwear developmentagency through the end of 2021 and COVID really did hurt the the supply chain and so it was like constant we still couldn’t go over to our factories. It was constant fires trying to be put out then right when omicron hit Our son was supposed to start with his nanny, and I was still on maternity leave, and my nanny got COVID. And so it just like extended everything. It was just like the spiral of like, okay, we can’t do it all. So we shut that down. It took me about six months to kind of transition. I got all of our employees, our employees were still in Portland, Oregon. That’s where we were living before Vermont. So we got all of our employees placed with our clients. And we tried to like ease the ease the transition for the clients, too, because we really liked all of them. And we wanted to make sure they they succeeded because it was a mess of a situation of with COVID. And so yeah, we shot that down after it took me about six months, make that transition, and then I became full time on Bivo in August, I guess 2020.


Break  20:52

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David Bradbury  21:33

Can we talk about pricing? And, you know, it’s really tough to figure out what to charge. You know, you sort of know what what it costs. But how did you test it? Know It? Yeah. What’s your philosophy on pricing?


Carina Hamel  21:46

Yeah so we had a lot of advisors in in, I guess, from my footwear days, too. And I think the top piece of advice from salespeople was make sure you price your product so that you can make good margin at both wholesale and direct to consumer. Because we did like I said in the beginning, we wanted to make sure we were in retail shops, we did want to try to do as much direct to consumer as possible, because the margins are better. But just making Yeah, making sure you have that margin, the appropriate margin to be profitable. So usually, the rule of thumb is anywhere like four to five times the price, like any product you look at, that’s basically what it is four to five times the price of the cost of goods.


David Bradbury  22:34

Yeah, what’s your retail price?


Carina Hamel  22:37

We’re anywhere from 34 to 49. We have four different models.


David Bradbury  22:42

I can’t believe I don’t have one like spent like, ungodly amount of money on my bikes. And I have a shitty little free black bottle now that has mold in it. And that’s why I don’t see the mold because I have a black bottle.


Sam RG  22:55

You gotta get a Bivo.


David Bradbury  22:56

Yeah definitely. The color you like the color. I gotta figure that one out. I gotta wait until the kids go back to college, because my boys will take that stuff and then then I can’t get it back.


Carina Hamel  23:06

It’s a common problem we have been told about the kids steal the bottles.


David Bradbury  23:11

Do you sell a family pack or something like that. You solve it for Christmas?


Carina Hamel  23:13

We do do like holiday packs.


David Bradbury  23:18

Yeah. Cuz I’m we’re not looking for any more like hostility and friction in the house. Like we do needs to be more tranquilo. Right. Yeah. Okay. Yeah.


Sam RG  23:26

So you talked a little bit about how COVID impacted your kind of strategy in terms of DTC versus being in stores. Can you talk about how that has kind of shifted and what the breakdown looks like now and sort of where you’re headed?


Carina Hamel  23:43

Yeah. Yeah. So we, when we launched direct to consumer, it took us about a year until we started really getting into retail shops. And it was partially just because we actually were selling enough bottles direct to consumer and stores, we’re still kind of getting back and open. And our resources are limited in terms of time. And so it took us about a year to start getting into into retailers. Now we hired a an agency here in Burlington method outdoor so they’re in charge of our sales, national sales. And so they have some we have some reps across the country as well as they have some internal people helping sell more locally. So we’re about we’re about 30%. What we do is we do some customization so custom bottles for events or for brands. So we’ve done some collaborations with below Velocio apparel, which is a company out of New Hampshire, nuun and GU so different hydration, nutrition companies. So that makes up about 30% 50% is direct to consumer and the remaining is


David Bradbury  24:57

That’s a great balance.


Carina Hamel  24:59

Yeah, it is is changing and shifting more to wholesale because we are having good sell through at wholesale, which is great. And so I foresee this but the bike industry this year is hurting. It’s down just like after the boom, it’s back down. So the custom is actually getting smaller and wholesale is growing and direct to consumers staying about the same as it has been.


Sam RG  25:22

So I love watching that change for companies as grow. It’s so interesting to me. So one of the things you mentioned is how great events have been obviously you did the road trip. Talk to me a little bit about your customers and like, how has that how has like being around them influenced the company? Any surprises like you thought they would be but who they actually are just yet to hear that kind of anecdote?


Carina Hamel  25:50

Yeah. So I think our when we when we came up with the idea, I think our number one concern was the weight of the bottle. Because we were in Portland, we were around a lot of road cyclists, a lot of my friends are road cyclists, and they are definitely more sensitive to the weight of on the bike.


David Bradbury  26:07

Nice way to say they’re more sensitive versus neurotic.


Carina Hamel  26:11

I should say it that way


Sam RG  26:13

That PR company is really working.


David Bradbury  26:16

Really smooth out the edges on that.


Carina Hamel  26:21

But then the gravel scene has been so huge, especially in Vermont, then they don’t care as much about weight. So I think that was a surprise like that that didn’t matter as much as we anticipated. Another thing that was it, we started with a non insulated bottle because of weight. We were concerned about that. Also, we didn’t think people care so much about drinking cold water while writing because they’ve never really had it. So we launched an insulated bottle a year ago. And that now makes up the in the last three months. It’s about 70% of our sales, which is kind of crazy. It’s just like really taken over. And what is interesting about that is we are hitting a lot of people in southern states, Colorado was really hot. I mean, the heatwave this summer was crazy. So cold water, and when they find out that they actually can have it. They’re just loving it.


David Bradbury  27:12

Do you have to sacrifice volume to keep it in the cage?


Carina Hamel  27:17

Yeah, so our biggest insulated bottle is 21 ounces, while our single wall the biggest is 25 ounces. And those are about the same height. So it does take up space, it takes up a little extra, it does weigh a little bit more. But the benefits seem to outweigh all those negatives for people. So that was surprising. The other interesting thing it was getting out and like getting out of the state of Vermont was really good because it’s a whole different consumer. There’s like a mass market consumer that we really hadn’t talked to before. So big event that Robbie my husband went to was Ragbrai which is a ride across Iowa. It’s a six day ride. It’s a party on a bike. Just like slipping slides on the side of the road. Random people have like spaghetti dinners at their house to just welcome people and it’s just a it’s like a giant and every night there’s a concert. And it’s not like a It’s not like a small concert. It’s like the spin doctors. I don’t know if you’d remember the spin doctors. I didn’t even know who they were but yes, lazy bones. So yeah, so it was that was an interesting one. Because it wasn’t a competitive event. It was just for fun. And it was 30,000 people that do this, ride. But so things like that, where you get out and you see different people that you’re not, or different types of writers that we’re not necessarily exposed to here. That’s been great, because we get to have different conversations. And we learn a lot from our customers. And so that was a really fun change.


David Bradbury  29:00

Because my friends would have done that event. They get on a bike once a year. And that’s the go there. Yes. So they’re not. Yeah, they’re not the what we would see on you know, some of these back roads around here. Really cool.


Sam RG  29:13

That’s cool. So you had mentioned self funding, self funding, the business leads through launch? Can you just talk about your capital path in general and how that’s shaped the company?


Carina Hamel  29:25

Yeah so we have only done that friends and family round. We and that has been by friends and family. It’s like that’s a pretty loose description, because we do have associates. Yeah, exactly like connections through a lot of connections through our previous careers. And there’s like an old colleague or a friend of our old colleagues. So we we are about nine months away from being cash positive. So we’re hoping to squeeze through. Well, we’ll see. It’s, I mean, it changes it does change a lot. I think as a startup, you have to be quite flexible. We’ve raised more than me, I think one like anticipated needing. Right now we’re, we’re growing quickly, and we need to buy more bottles than we anticipated. So we’re probably going to need a little extra help whether it’s through a line of credit. But yeah, we’re we are trying to get through, we saw a lot of brands raise money, too much money, I think. And then they just spend it. And so this has allowed us to be, we call it scrappy, but smart. So like, we have to be super scrappy, like, we wrapped our own car for the road trip, right. So it has Bivo all over it. But it was our personal car, we didn’t buy the big van and like, do something fancy, like we have to be really smart about how we spend our money. And so while that like, in many ways, makes it really hard, it also is good, because we can be quite strategic. And I think we make good decisions. So on the reverse side of that we saw so many companies raised enough money that they would just like, basically be throwing fuel on a fire. And I think that that’s not a sustainable growth path. And so, and they also I saw a lot of product decisions being made around the investors that came in instead of what was smart for the brand. And so those are the things that we’ve been really working hard at, like, trying to hold it tight enough without being stupid and like doing Yeah, what’s best for a sustainable growth of our business?


Sam RG  31:26

That’s awesome.


David Bradbury  31:29

Was there anything you liked about the fundraising process like asking people for money, it’s a different sort of, thing.


Carina Hamel  31:36

I like to learn like I love being that’s one of the things I knew product development. So well, I didn’t know much of the other element, like running a consulting business is very different than running a brand. And so I’ve had to learn so much about the entire business. And so I did leave that piece of it, I let the fundraising element of the business and yeah, I hate asking people for money, it is not fun. But at the same time, it’s cool to like, figure out the structure and understand how it all works in, look into the future and see what we might need and really have your hands on the pulse of what the business needs. So while there’s the painful pieces of it, everybody, we ended up with the best people. So I feel really lucky, and I feel very supported. But I think the biggest thing that we learned through it is like do hold true to what you are like trying to to execute, because I think it’s it would have been really easy. We’ve been I mean, a lot of people have tried to persuade us to just go big and raise a ton of money. And we’ve held we’ve held strong away from that. And we’re really happy we did and we’re really very happy with the people we ended up with as investors


David Bradbury  32:52

We get, you know, 340 people last year I can was for different advice. Not all of them were looking for money or seeking it. But was there some network group training module? Like anything that you can think looking back now that would better prepared you for that funding element? Because you didn’t come from that, like you said, you came from? The design the product? side of things? Just always looking to offer something new or use one of our partners.


Carina Hamel  33:23

I guess Yeah, some sort of like, even when I when we started, when we came up with the idea, we’re in Portland, even trying to get a lawyer who knew how to start, we’re an LLC. So getting a lawyer to structure how to do what we ended up with is a convertible note. For some reason, that was a lot easier to find people who knew how to do that in Vermont than it was in Oregon, which actually really surprised me. But just just lay up a network of people who can point you in the direction of like, even how to set up the documents. That was actually probably the hardest thing is finding the right person to set up the documents for us.


Sam RG  34:00



David Bradbury  34:01

Thank you.


Sam RG  34:01

That’s why it’s important to talk to other founders.


Carina Hamel  34:04

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.


Sam RG  34:06

What’s the Bivo pledge?


Carina Hamel  34:09

Oh, yeah. Yeah,


Sam RG  34:10

it’s a nice gear switch.


David Bradbury  34:14

That’s not working, Sam.


Sam RG  34:15

You said you hate fundraising so I’m trying to get you away from that topic.


Carina Hamel  34:19

Yeah, we’ve applied so we’ve offered that to retailers as well as brands and individuals. If you pledge to never buy a plastic bottle, like bottle again, we donate 2% of our sales to our Bivo Fund, which is we’ve donated to Local Motion we’ve donated to Richmond mountain trails, a variety of different nonprofit nonprofits that support cycling or the environment in some way. So it’s basically doubling the percentage of our profit that goes to those nonprofits.


Sam RG  34:54

I love that I am constantly talking to founders that want to give back somehow even before They’ve started their company, I think this is such a Vermont thing. And a lot of them try to like do something complicated with their business model. But I’m like, you can just kind of like set up a separate fund or like you can like donate in certain ways. And like you can still have a for profit business, and do good. And I think that’s such a great example of how you can incorporate that into this.


Carina Hamel  35:20

Yeah and we built that into the business right from the beginning. So it’s always on our plan. And we knew that like, again, back to the pricing question, like those are things that we made sure to consider. And like, yeah, so definitely build it in right away as possible.


Sam RG  35:35

Such good advice. Yeah.


David Bradbury  35:36

So you maintain a blog? Right? Active and up to date, like, how on earth do you do that? Because yeah, most blogs sort of guilty as charged. Yeah.


Carina Hamel  35:46

Neil Banton was our advisor for we are part of launch VT. And he was our advisor. And he’s awesome, he still helps us today. He was like, we just got perfectly paired with with somewhat with him. So he has been the driving force behind the blog. And he, he was COO of MailChimp. And they did a lot of blog writing. And it’s like, very much like push versus pull. So like, pull your brand and pull your consumers into your brand tell stories. So really, what we’re focused on is, like, we aren’t trying to sell we’re trying to tell stories around cycling and who we are as a brand. It is a lot of work. Like every every Wednesday, I’m like up frantically after the kids go to bed. I’m like, okay, Linktree is ready. All like everything’s just like it is like, yeah, it’s a time consuming. It’s also really hard to come up with ideas all the time to talk about right. But it does. It’s it I think that consistency and I’m I’m trying to create a relationship with our consumer, essentially. So that’s that’s what that what the blog is about. And it’s all connected to our weekly newsletter as well.


Sam RG  36:56

Super impressive. I think it’s that’s like one of the first things to slip, right. I think companies get really busy. But I think it’s important like I there’s nothing I hate more than when I go on a website and the blogs from like, nine months ago. I’m like, yeah, come on, like, I got it. But I just I do think it’s really powerful. And, you know, we’re trying to do more of that at VCET, just storytelling and you know, being real people, because that’s, that’s what people want to hear


David Bradbury  37:22

We’re sending out a newsletter more than once every 12 months.


Sam RG  37:24

Yes. Yeah. Hard to hard to prioritize. But we noticed good. So great. Kudos.


Carina Hamel  37:33

Yeah, no, I think you do get a lot of I think there’s always the about page on your website, you can only say so much. But I think if you can read through some of the blogs, and you can see who we are as people and our values, and I hope yeah, I hope that people do appreciate that.


Sam RG  37:50

That’s awesome. Are you sticking with bottles? Is that? Is that your sweet spot?


Carina Hamel  37:55

For now. Yeah, I mean, I definitely see like we are we call ourselves a performance product company, because we wanted to let that stay open. We still have so many people to reach from a bottle standpoint. So I think that is another piece of advice that we’ve gotten a lot from different advisors is like, don’t just try to keep creating product, focus on the product you have and sell it like that. Because that well again, we have limited resources, we don’t have a ton of time, time is probably our biggest limit. And so if we focus on creating new product instead of selling what we already have, I think it’s just as it’s a distraction. And so we’re in the mindset that like yeah, we can keep coming out with new products but nothing like crazy at the moment and just stay focused on our bottles.


Sam RG  38:46

I love that, so true. And like what better than that road trip to like remind you’re like, Oh my God, so many people don’t know about us yet and want this and yeah, especially when you’re trying to stay lean and you’re, you know, working towards profitability. I think that’s super smart. Yeah.


David Bradbury  39:02

Sorry. I spaced out trying to think of what color I want.


Carina Hamel  39:06

New colors launching.


David Bradbury  39:08

I’m like my Santa Cruz has those colors. The other bikes have this, my ebike is sort of bright blue. So


Sam RG  39:15

Carina has a lovely bright, bright blue. What’s the name of this blue?


Carina Hamel  39:20

Good question. What was that? I think it was bright blue. It was a limited edition. And we have no more we sold out so


Sam RG  39:29

It doesn’t matter. Yeah. We don’t like that one anyway.


David Bradbury  39:31

Was a little shameless. I get where she’s coming from? We’re at the end, Sam.


Sam RG  39:38



David Bradbury  39:39

yeah. You take the last question.


Sam RG  39:42

Well, before we get to that just real quick. You mentioned a couple you mentioned Vermont Technical College you mentioned did LaunchVT any other like local resources that have been really helpful for


Carina Hamel  39:53

Yeah, VOBA Kelly Ault


Sam RG  39:57

Kellyyy, we love Kelly.


Carina Hamel  39:59

Yep. And then I honestly even just in the beginning, like Hula was great, because there’s so many brands in there. We did peak pitch, which also was just a great networking. You know, I think so fun. Yeah, it’s super fun. And I think the thing about Vermont that’s so special is that people really rally behind you. So as soon as you start and your name gets out there a little bit people are very willing to help. So I think just the general network of Vermont is a very special one.


Sam RG  40:29

I think Jenna from hands down, introduced us. She was like, you have to be Carina. And I’ve been meaning to because I, my husband works at VYCC. And I’ve driven by and seen your sign and I was like, I love Vermont, because somehow someone makes that connection.


Carina Hamel  40:43

Absolutely. Yeah.


David Bradbury  40:44

Love it. Love it.


Sam RG  40:45

All right, Dave. Take it away.


David Bradbury  40:48

Okay, magic wand time. If you could change one thing in Vermont. What would you do? Would you do?


Carina Hamel  40:59

Well, I missed the rainy summer. We picked the good summer to be gone, apparently. So I think I think the hardest thing to be, if you’re speaking from a business standpoint, it is far from things. Like it was really good to be in Colorado for the summer, for example, because there were so many events and so many people. So I think that’s probably the hardest thing about building a business in Vermont is just like the proximity to everything.


Sam RG  41:29

Totally. All right, we’ll work on getting Vermont closer to stuff for you.


Carina Hamel  41:32

That’s also a really big benefit. Yeah, right. You know, it’s just


David Bradbury  41:36

Didn’t someone want a highway built once or something? We had somebody one of our 80 or so podcasts.


Sam RG  41:43

Yeah, we’ve had some good answers.


David Bradbury  41:45

Just, I mean, we don’t need 5 million people here. Right?


Carina Hamel  41:47



Sam RG  41:48

No just adjacent, if they could all move to New Hampshire, that’d be great.


David Bradbury  41:52

They’re all in Stowe actually, sort of egregious. Thank you so much for sharing this portion of your journey with us today. This has been start here a podcast sharing the stories of active aspiring accidental entrepreneurs. The series supported by the Vermont Technology Council and Consolidated Communications. Let’s get on our bikes and go drink Bivo.