You may have seen their vibrant-hued water bottles in the hands of Gisele, Reese, and Charlize, but you may not know that bkr, a company reaching iconic status, is Bay Area-based and led by two enterprising women. Founded by two friends who were driven by the inability to find a water bottle they loved that also didn’t end up in a bottomless trash bin at the gym, these dynamic women and mothers have built a company that listens to its customers and has a culture where creativity is met with taking risks, instead of cautiousness. I was greeted at the door of their bkr downtown San Francisco office by Tal Winter and Kate Cutler, both with 1L bkr’s in hand, as a chic crystal chandelier sparkled above us, and sleek white desks and a moodboard wall-to-die-for turned a boring corporate office space into an inspiring haven in which to work. Once you sling a bkr by your side all day, in my case the Spiked Tutu 500ml, you’ll soon feel lonely – and dehydrated! – without it. Come read what they have to say about maintaining a productive business partnership together, how they turned their early doubters into their biggest fans, and whose hands they want to get bkr into!
How did you two meet, and when did you commit to this journey of founding bkr?
We met in law school in San Francisco and we’ve been friends ever since. It was many years later that we started 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 people like us were essentially drinking from trash. We couldn’t find a reusable bottle we loved. And to us, drinking out of metal wasn’t an option – it smelled weird and tasted tinny and wasn’t dishwasher safe. We decided to make exactly the bottle we wanted: something beautiful, effortless, pure and chic. We knew if we wanted it, other people would too. We launched bkr in 2011.
What is behind the name bkr?
bkr (pronounced “beaker”) is a throwback to high school chemistry class when we all used glass beakers. In keeping with our minimalist aesthetic, we spelled it with the least amount of letters possible.
What are your backgrounds?
We both spent many years as lawyers and that experience teaches you some very important things: to be prepared and do your research, to pay attention to detail, to negotiate fairly but fiercely, and to not be intimidated by anyone or anything.
How was your idea received by friends and loved ones once you decided to start bkr?
Our moms believed in us, which is huge (wink wink) and so did many of our friends. But a lot of people thought we were crazy. We left established careers to do something we’d never done before. And, frankly a lot of people thought it was crazy to make a water bottle from glass with a small mouth. We just trusted our instincts and haven’t wavered since. And, as it turns out, the small mouth and the fact that the bottle is made of glass are two of the things people love most about their bkrs. Some of those early doubters are now some of our biggest fans.
What advice would you give to business partners in developing (and maintaining!) a successful business relationship?
Buy matching pajamas and share a king-sized bed! Just kidding. Although that is something we do. Just make sure that whoever you start a business with is someone you could imagine wearing matching pajamas and sharing a hotel room with (or something akin to that) because it’s basically a second marriage. One of the reasons we’ve been successful is we do like each other so much and work together so well.
It is hard to see a celebrity walking around without a BKR bottle after a workout of just when out and about. Whose hands would you LOVE to get a bkr into?
Michelle Obama. She’s smart, passionate, authentic, inspiring and has a ton of style.
You are based in San Francisco. What is unique and special about having your headquarters here?
It’s such a creative hub and a place where taking risks is totally normal.
What is your biggest dream for bkr?
We want to continue to take risks, create outside of our comfort zone, not play anything safe, and give our die hard fans reasons to love us even more.
Original images for 24 East by Lauren Andersen.
Fore more information on bkr, go here.