It’s suddenly the holidays. And in the theme of ringing in good cheer, HYDAWAY has announced that its Kickstarter backers should begin receiving their collapsible bottles as early as this week. They’re now also for sale on the company’s website.

This is an especially satisfying announcement to make, because this scrappy startup has gracefully triumphed over an unexpected manufacturing snafu that threatened the future of the company. You might recall that founder Niki Singlaub raised $263,086 via a crowdfunding campaign last spring. It’s fair to say people looooooved his idea: The campaign ranked in the top 1% of all Kickstarter campaigns, attracting more than 5,700 supporters.

It was fun to watch Singlaub’s invention grab people’s attention (still doing it: HYDAWAY was in the WSJ just this weekend). And at the close of the campaign, many thousands of backers were eagerly awaiting their new bottles. No stranger to product development, Singlaub had been working with a silicon products manufacturer in China for two years, prepping for this first big order.

hydaway_niki_large

But in startupland, even the best laid plans can and do quite suddenly implode. Singlaub went to China in July to put the final touches on the HYDAWAY bottle design before production began. That was when he learned that his manufacturer was in financial straits.

“My liaison told me that our factory was in dire financial trouble and wanted us to pay 50% more for the production tooling and 20% more for the products,” Singlaub says. “This is after the tooling was paid in full and we had agreed on the product price. My liaison informed me that they were going out of business and grasping at straws to get whatever money they could to settle their debts.”

Are you stressed out? Because I am reading that. To his credit, Singlaub remained transparent with his Kickstarter backers, sending an update on the situation and what it meant for them. He then continued to send updates — 22 in all — and responded to the questions on the Kickstarter site.
You know that old saying about how it’s not how you handle success, it’s how you handle adversity (or maybe that’s not the saying at all). Anyway Singlaub reports that the vast majority of HYDAWAY backers waited patiently, and only a handful asked for a refund. Here’s a sample comment from his campaign backers:

Nikki, don’t lose any sleep over the factory closing. Everyone understands, and we can wait a little longer if necessary! Enjoy your weekend!
And this one …
Just received your update. I know what it’s like to deal with difficult situations like companies going out of business when you are relying on them. Not to worry. I am behind your product and trust you will find another company to produce this product. Best of luck.
In the meantime, Singlaub scrambled and found another factory, which then worked round the clock to produce all of the Kickstarter rewards and pre-orders in time for the holidays. “After seventeen years in product development, I have never seen such an aggressive sample and production timeline hit with a product that’s now actually better than the previous version,” he says.
Ready to roll. Photo courtesy of HYDAWAY.
Ready to roll. Photo courtesy of HYDAWAY.
The bottles are now en route to people’s houses. Did that feel kind of like a happy, holiday tale? I thought so. To sweeten it up ever more, Singlaub announced today that HYDAWAY donated $2,631 as part of the 1% for the planet promise the startup made during its Kickstarter campaign. Backers voted on which nonprofits to support, and the Ocean Conservancy and Plastics Pollution Coalition won.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley