Carter Kostler saw some disturbing statistics about childhood obesity that he didn’t like. He witnessed first hand at his own school the rampant consumption of sugary sport and soda drinks by kids and new this was a leading contributor to obesity and diabetes in kids. He decided decided to innovate a solution from something he saw in his own home… fruit infused water. Carter watched his own mom make delicious and healthy fruit infusions in large pitchers at home, but then not being able to take the fruit infused water easily out the door, he’d watch her resort to soda during any on-the-go afternoons. From observing his mom and his desire to help kids have a better solution for tasty drinks, he came up with his original prototype for the Define Bottle at age thirteen. With support from his parents to help with all the leg work of industrial design, patent attorneys and manufacturing, Carter was able to create the perfected Define Bottle.
I caught up with Carter and asked him some questions about his Define Bottles and the journey to create them.
How old were you both when you got the idea for Define Bottle?
I came up with the idea for the Define Bottle when I was 13 years old. My mother would make fruit infused water every day in big pitchers however, when she left the house she would grab something unhealthy like a soda. I wanted to come up with a healthy, natural way for people to hydrate when on the go. A big part of my mission is to get people of all ages off of sugary drinks such as soda. I sit on the Youth Advisory Board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation whose goal is to help fight childhood obesity.
What gave you the idea to create them and how did you transform that idea into a business?
I wanted to come up with a healthy, natural way for people to hydrate when on the go. The first thing I did was create a few sketches of my idea and presented it to my parents. Fortunately, they thought it was a great idea and supported going forward with the idea. We went through a lot of work such as finding an industrial designer to bring my idea to life and having to work with a patent attorney to make sure my idea was not already patented. I felt like it really became a business when we had product and I was up late fulfilling orders. It was great seeing the orders come in and knowing that there were customers out there that wanted to order a product that I invented.
How much were your parents involved in your business planning? What did they teach you?
When I came up with the idea for the Define Bottle I was only 13 years old. Although, I had a great idea I needed my parents help navigating through all of the steps to bring my product to market. My parents were great and we all discussed every step so I knew what was going on and could give my input. As I got older I was allowed to make more decisions independently. I am involved with all aspects of the business from customer service, sales, and right down to riding my bike to the post office to drop off packages. For example, I thought our product would be great for Whole Foods and my parents and I discussed it. They drove me to our local Whole Foods and I went in with a bottle and asked to speak to the produce manager. I told him about my product and explained why I thought it would be great in their store and they invited me to come out and do the Whole Foods farmers market. I did the farmers market for a few weeks and sold out every time. I am now on the shelves inside our local Whole Foods and do demos as often as I can.
What has been your biggest challenge in getting started and how have you overcome it?
Manufacturing has certainly been our biggest challenge. When we received our first shipment, the bottles were defective and I was really disappointed. We worked with our industrial designer to find a new manufacturer and now the bottles are perfect. There are a lot of highs and lows when you own your own business. It is a constant roller coaster and you really never know what the next day will bring. I would say that is one of the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur – you never know what is around the corner. Another challenge has been learning to balance a business and still be a kid. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to make Define Bottle successful but fortunately my friends and family are really supportive. My friends often help me fill orders and get the job done.
You recently filmed an episode on ABC’s Shark Tank what was that like? Were you nervous?
Unfortunately, I can’t say too much about Shark Tank until it airs but yes, I was certainly nervous and am excited to see the episode on March 14th!
What are your plans for the future; will you keep designing and inventing?
Yes! I have new versions ready to come out and will continue to work on my mission of trying to get people off of soda. This past year has been exciting and it may be hard to top. I met President Clinton (he received our first 600 bottles for the attendees of his Health Matters Conference), met the First Lady at the Partnership for a Healthier America conference where I spoke in front of 800 people, filmed for Shark Tank, made Entrepreneur’s top 100 most brilliant companies of the year, and sold thousands of bottles. Being an entrepreneur is exciting – once you start it is hard to stop.
What advice would you give other Kidpreneurs who want to start their own business like you did?
My best advice would be to prepare and have your family’s support. It is important to know from the beginning that there a lot of highs and lows and there is no such thing as overnight success. It takes a lot of hard work and you have to be strong to keep moving forward. Also, expect the unexpected!