What is your favorite part about living in the PNW?
Access to the outdoors. The major NW cities have so much to offer in terms of day-to-day living, but we've also loved the easy access to get into the mountains to snowboard, hike, explore lakes or to the coast to have a beach day and catch some waves. Having iconic mountains like Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood in the skyline of our cities create a connection to these mountains even when you can't be out adventuring. That was a huge inspiration for North.
Did you ever imagine the explosive reaction that North Drinkware received on kick starter?
Not really. We had high hopes of exceeding our goal - maybe 50-75K in pre orders. We never expected $531K in pre orders for The Oregon Pint. We are so grateful for the interest and commitment to local makers in the PNW. Not only did the community, media, and brands rally behind our concept to spread the word and back us, they have continued to do so as the years go on. Kickstarter was an amazing platform to work with, and gave us tremendous confidence in validating our concept to become a sustainable business.
Your success on kick starter is incredible! Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for the young innovators of tomorrow who wish to start their own business with a novel product such as your own?
Storytelling is a huge aspect of how launching your concept. With new audiences you have a small window to capture their interest and get them intrigued to learn more. Make sure your story is clear, and how you have positioned yourself is authentic to the brand and yourself. It can be uncomfortable to put yourself personally out there - but if the product is a good concept and you've explained your story and "why" - it'll get backed. Also, don't spend all your money building your Kickstarter program. Kickstarter is a platform to "kick start" your business. If your video is too polished because you hired an expensive agency I might wonder if you really need my backing to get started? Put your program together, tell your story and make your ask real to get your business going.
In your "about" page you mention that Matt and Leigh are originally from the east coast - where on the east coast are they from and do you guys plan on doing any future glasses based on east coast mountains such as your Vermont tumbler?
Yes, Matt and I both lived on the east coast for the first 20+ years our our lives. We met in Vermont working for Burton Snowboards and spent many years adventuring around New England. We now have the VT Pint and Tumbler featuring Camel's Hump in the base of this collection. VT was a natural choice because we had a personal connection, and they have a thriving craft beer scene....try and get your hands on a can of Heady Topper!
Considering that you all seem to be very adventurous and outdoorsy travelers of the US coasts, do you plan on taking any trips outside of the US or doing a glass based on a 'foreign peak' in the future?
We have lots of ideas in the works, and have become much more sophisticated in our product planning and launches over the last two years. Different mountains have created technical challenges in development, which is also providing learnings for future mountain glasses in the years to come.
Have you guys ever hiked any of the larger peaks showcased in your glasses?
Yes, but more so spent time in the winter in and around these mountains. Camel's Hump is a hiking mountain, which Matt and I have summited dozens of times during our years in VT. We were also lucky enough to spend some time in Yosemite two years ago and while we did not summit Half Dome, the sheer size and scale is awe inspiring. In the winter we've all enjoyed many days on Mt. Hood at Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows and backcountry snowboarding. We also did a North team trip to Crystal Mountain and while we weren't snowboarding on Rainier, the views from Crystal were spectacular and very inspiring. And if so do you have a favorite trip? The Crystal Mountain trip was a highlight as it was a team trip post Kickstarter, post our first holiday season and a good time to reflect on how crazy the first 18 months had been. Matt, Nic and I love snowboarding and we find "chairlift meetings" are some of the most productive.
What were the most difficult obstacles you faced in the process of bringing such a unique product to market successfully?
Making a handblown product with artisans on a mass scale is something that hasn't been done. Matt and Nic worked tirelessly with our glass blowers to dial in process, optimize mold materials, create quality standards and ultimately come up with a process that is repeatable so we can offer a consistent product for sale. That said, with every glass taking two days and 15 steps to be handmade we love how each one is unique.
Where did you guys go to school and what did you study? Did any of you take courses or follow curriculums that inspired/helped you to come up with this idea and foster the process of creating these glasses?
I attended University of Vermont and studied business and international marketing, Matt graduated from Hampshire College specializing in product design and development and Nic graduated from Berkeley College with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Our college degrees have supported our success but I believe our combined 30+ years in the professional world helped shape our strategy and approach to launching North and building our brand. Most of the things we task ourselves to do for North we have been doing for brands or clients in our careers.
The detailed craftsmanship is amazing, how long did it take to perfect the mountains using 3D printing?
We went through a variety of prototypes in 3D and through 3D printing before we moved into our final tooling. Our real challenge for this project was less about the design of the product and more about the design of the process.
Have you three learned to blow glass in the process of working with Elements Glass over the years or do you mostly work with 3D printing?
The short answer is...poorly. We can get through making a few cups, but we're far from experts and most of the cups we make end up looking terrible. The team of glass blowers that we work with are truly amazing artists and experts at their craft. There are so many steps in the process of making one glass that could go wrong and they consistently keep it tight. One of our goals when we get more free time is to spend some time getting as good as we can making the glasses along side our experts. It's such a magical process and inspiring all around. Luckily we have the right team in place making our glasses every day.
What other projects/mountain peaks would you like to expand to next?
I'm excited to share that we will be launching our next glass on July 10. We will be announcing which state and mountain range on June 30 via social and our e-news. Here's a small hint...we will be launching the 5th state we mention in Kickstarter as the top 5 craft beer markets. We have additional glasses in the pipeline to launch pre holiday this year so heading into fall we'll have 12 glasses in market.
Shop North Drinkware at Standard Goods, online or in store!