When you add someone who comes from a country where one of its most famous tales is about water, a dyke and a boy’s thumb, to a country that has a preoccupation with water – either too much or too little – you end up with a New Age entrepreneur.
Meet Gretha Oost from The Netherlands who came to Melbourne in 2004 to establish the sustainable design and product development company called Half A Teaspoon.
Starting with a goal to make a positive contribution to the environment by bringing products to market that inspire consumers to use water consciously, she tapped into the ABC’s television program – The New Inventors – where she took out the People’s Choice award to make a number of business splashes with her new company.
So, let’s see what drives Gretha and what explains her success, where so many inventors fail.
“I always had the dream of starting my own business and so the Half A Teaspoon Pty Ltd business was born,” she recalled. “The name Half A Teaspoon is based on the fact that if one litre represents all the world’s water, only half a teaspoon is the available fresh water for all of us to use. It is about putting our scarce water resource into perspective.”
Gretha arrived here with a marketing background, formerly high-flying with the likes of US Airways and Continental Airlines.
“The year before I arrived in Australia I travelled on my pushbike for charity – Oxfam – through the Andes in South America,” she explained.
This affected her thinking on scarce resources and sustainability and led to 321 Water.
“The name 321 Water explains the amount of water required to manufacture bottled water,” she informed me. “It takes three litres of water to make one litre of bottled water and so 321 Water is a beautifully designed, reusable water bottle with a distinctive, French press filter system.”
So, how does it work?
“Simply fill 321 Water from any tap then plunge with one fluid movement to create fresh filtered and great tasting water anywhere you go,” Gretha said.
OK, so what we have here is a caring inventor, but it was the savvy entrepreneur who leveraged The New Inventors and then used the internet age to muster a ‘crowd’ to help fund the expansion of the business idea.
“Over the past two to three years the business has gone through the early product idea generation stage through to concept development, tooling, refining, crowd funding – the only water bottle and quite possibly the only consumer product in the world to do it – through to ultimately producing a product, that only existed on paper, with the support of the early adopters and investors. We are now six months after the first production run and are growing from strength to strength.”
Gretha admits it has often been one step back for two steps forward building the business, accessing funding and maintaining the motivation to keep solving problems.
“The good thing is that eventually you are going forward, you are getting closer to the end goal even though it takes a lot longer than you wish because of big things like IP related issues to delays in manufacturing process due to a heat wave in China!”
How did she hang in there?
“Perseverance coupled with passion – you have to believe in what you do otherwise you might as well stop. Also, celebrating every step forward.”
She also thanks the people around her.
“We outsource every service and our view is – the best person at the best time at the best position.”
I think she put her finger or maybe her thumb right on it!