Tal Winter and Kate Cutler are living the dream. Best friends since law school, these two decided to leave their stressful law careers behind and go into business together and launch bkr (pronounced BEE-KER). When faced with toxic (not to mention, ugly) plastic water bottles that did only harm to the environment, Tal and Kate had their “aha” moment. Why not produce beautifully designed, highly covetable and collectable bottles to replace the trash and help save the world while doing it? Their celebrity following is enviable, Vogue and Forbes have taken notice and we’re mildly obsessed here in the heymama office. They’re just two girls who decided to go for it and we’re glad they did.
It didn’t make sense that intelligent, sophisticated people like us were essentially drinking from trash.
We’re so excited to meet you – we’re big fans of your bottles! What inspired bkr?
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 was your biggest challenge in starting the company?
Probably the hardest thing to achieve when starting a company is momentum. You can have a great idea, you can work until you’re falling over, and you can build the best team with the most fabulous people. But, it takes some real magic to gain momentum.
Why do you consider bkr to be a beauty essential?
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 products! Most people don’t drink enough and if you’re even 2% dehydrated it shows on your skin. 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 like a prescription for looking and feeling gorgeous.
If you listen to your customers closely, they’ll tell you who you are.
Why is bkr different than other water bottles?
It’s hard to drink enough water — it’s often considered a chore — but we’ve been told time and time again that bkr is the solution. It makes something as mundane as drinking water a joy. There’s something magical about bkr that changes everything about the way you drink water forever: the combination of how pretty it is, the clean glass bottle, the small mouth — it’s soft and effortless. We describe it as the bottle equivalent of the perfect t-shirt: It feels right and fits right, it’s effortless, and it becomes a staple.
What are your respective roles within the company?
We like to say Tal is the brand voice and Kate is the brand protector. Tal leads the creative direction: her focus is on the brand, product innovation and customer engagement. Kate focuses on strategic growth and distribution ensuring that bkr remains true to the brand, philosophy and mission and also manages bkr’s international expansion.
What sort of marketing have you done to date and what has been the most successful? You mentioned you’ve done a ton of research on marketing of the water industry, but how have you positioned yourself in the marketplace and what tactics have you used?
The most important thing we did was really listen to our customers from day one. If you listen to your customers closely, they’ll tell you who you are. We both did customer service in the beginning and Tal did all the social media for years. We put a lot of effort into writing to bloggers and editors ourselves. Our customers told us bkr was the reason they were finally hydrated and that it was a skin game changer. They were addicted and this was their most loved beauty essential. We listened and now we’re in luxury beauty across the world.
Most people don’t drink enough and if you’re even 2% dehydrated it shows on your skin.
Congrats on your new baby Tal! As busy working mamas how do you make the most of your family time? Any tricks that make the family/career juggle work for you?
Don’t try to be everywhere at once; try to be where you are and be present in the moment. That means that if you’re at home, don’t check your phone, and if you’re at work, try not to worry about your kids every few minutes!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Be a problem solver. Don’t just alert your boss or team about a problem: be prepared with three ideas on how to resolve the issue, which you recommend, and why. That’s what really makes you stand out.
Your bottles keep making fashion cameos everywhere from Gisele Bündchen to Natalie Portman! How would you describe your own personal style in 3 words?
Tal Winter: effortless, edgy, relaxed.
Kate Cutler: uniform, timeless, tailored.
The water industry took something essentially free, packaged it in trash, and made it sexy. And we looked at the way luxury fashion and beauty brands market themselves. Then we tried to outdo all of them.
How were you able to market something that is usually so un-sexy like a water bottle as a covetable fashion and beauty accessory?
You might be surprised, but we looked at the way that the water industry markets water — not the way the water bottle industry markets water bottles. The water industry took something essentially free, packaged it in trash, and made it sexy. And we looked at the way luxury fashion and beauty brands market themselves. Then we tried to outdo all of them.
We love that you stay on top of fashion trends with your styles (hello studs!) and colors. How are you able to predict what trends are in the pipeline? Do you use any trend monitoring services or have relationships with the brands?
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.
What is the startup culture like in San Francisco?
People think it’s homogenous, but there isn’t one startup culture; every company creates their own. At bkr, we try to create a culture of people who like each other, are smart, and genuinely enjoy working together.
Do you have 3 Pearls of Wisdom on Motherhood and Career?
- Be where you are. If you’re with your child, be with your child. If you’re at work, work. Everything is a balancing act.
- Don’t try to do everything yourself. Ask for help and accept it. Delegate.
- You can be an amazing mom and follow your dreams at the same time. (We’re both proof of that!)