Craig Madaus – Inventor of The Bübi Bottle

[quote style=”boxed”]With a good idea, specific goals and the right attitude, you can be unstoppable.[/quote]

Athlete, entrepreneur and principal of Ocean Sailing Consulting LLC, Craig Madaus has traveled the world in search of adventure and new trails to run. Throughout his travels, Craig found the single most frustrating challenge he faced was staying hydrated. To Craig, store-bought bottles were environmentally intolerable. Conventional refillable bottles took up as much space empty as they did full.

Craig toyed with ideas about how to solve this “bottle dilemma” until January 4, 2011, when he finally had his “Eureka” moment. It was then that he envisioned a refillable water bottle that would flatten or roll up to fit easily into a pocket, pack, briefcase or gym bag. Craig began working with a designer and a manufacturing facility to produce a collapsible bottle, made from BPA-free materials, that is anti-microbial and resistant to both heat and cold. He got what he was looking for—and more.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on a smaller Bübi Bottle for children between the ages of two and twelve. It is going to be a 14-ounce bottle with a special cap and spout, which will also be marketed to runners and cyclists. I am also working on producing an insulator band called the Bübi Hatch. After that I hope to develop a bracket that will allow the Bübi to mount securely onto a bicycle frame.

Where did the idea for The Bübi Bottle come from?

I was standing watch on my normal 2:00 to 4:00 a.m shift, on a brutally rough sailing trip from Connecticut to St. Thomas, when the idea that became the Bübi bottle first came to me. The trip took 14 days, with high wind and incredibly large waves. The boom broke in half on the first day out of Bermuda. We sailed the remaining 800 nautical miles on the jib alone.

It was on this trip that I began to realize I had what it takes to take on bigger challenges. But it wasn’t until after a hot yoga class, when I was carting my clothes and a useless, empty water bottle full of air from the studio, that the idea crystallized. I began discussing my idea with a few friends, who encourage me to pursue it. One day I was telling Kelly Torrance, the most creative person I know, about my idea, and he sketched it on paper and then drew it in CAD. After that my search was on for a manufacturer who could provide a grade silicone product. Capping silicone had never been done before, but the material was perfect. In theory I thought the cap should, in theory, seal and that the convex bottom should stand.

In early May of last year, we made the first test mold. The first prototype was a bust, but it had so many promising attributes it made sense to persevere. With some tinkering and changes, the next mold got closer to what I had envisioned. I visited the manufacturing facility and worked out some small details, and on December 17th, 2011, I received the first shipment of bottles.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up around 6:00 a.m. every day, ready for my new adventure in the Bübi business. There is plenty to do, and as they say, a job well-liked is never work. First I check to see how many orders came through overnight and answer any other inquiries. Then come meetings with designers and phone calls with both prospective retailers and the fulfillment house. That pretty much constitutes my day job. Starting at 9:00 p.m. I begin communicating with my distributors in other countries. I finally get to sleep about 2:00 a.m.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Dreaming, working hard and finding the right people to help bring my vision to life. Over the years I have had several ideas that I gave little consideration to pursuing. Later I was surprised when someone else made one of the very same ideas that I had previously a reality and brought it to market. As an inventor, it is really important to find like-minded people who are not simply interested in living for the status quo. They give you energy and encouragement.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I get excited about things that improve the environment and meet a genuine human need—products that change a paradigm and make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked on a chicken farm for two hours (which were the longest two hours of my life). But the job taught me to be selective. It taught me that work just for work’s sake isn’t satisfying for me. Work has to be something that both interests and engages me. Chicken farming did neither.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I really have no regrets. My business is progressing beyond my wildest dreams. The learning curve has been steep. Several people have offered to invest, and others have offered to license my patent. Taking them up on their offers would have been the easy way out, but I wanted to build this product myself. I guess it would’ve been nice to have had a staff from the beginning, so I wouldn’t have had to go at it alone. I would have loved to have a sales staff and some clerical help to take care of the paperwork for me. But I know this help will come in good time.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always go with your gut. It helps to have a can-do attitude and to avoid negativity. You also need to create a plan and stick to it. With a good idea, specific goals and the right attitude, you can be unstoppable.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge, for me, was developing a functional website that integrated an interesting design with e-commerce and inventory control. Creating the graphics took a great deal of effort and several attempts working with multiple website developers. Then a developer hooked me up with Magento, a great fulfillment provider. But even now, with all that in place and sales building, I am still working to refine the design to make the Bübi Bottle even better.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Keep your eyes and your mind open. Don’t accept status quo. Everything can be improved if you think outside the box.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I wish that everyone would take responsibility for their own actions—environmentally, socially and economically. As a one-man guerrilla marketer, I can only control what I do. So to try to inspire change in others, I first make sure that I set an example for others to follow. I try to not gossip, to help others when appropriate, and to make sure I am the best person I can be. Hopefully, the example I set is contagious.

Tell us a secret.

I haven’t eaten chicken in 25 years!

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Facebook has been instrumental in creating the Bübi brand, and the response has been wonderful.
  2. Google is a great source for finding information and tools for marketing!
  3. Dropbox has been a great help in sharing graphics and working documents.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Creating an idea is wonderful, but if you can’t get the product out to customers or develop a brand behind the product, the idea will surely die.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. Seth Grodin has great business sense and is inspirational.
  2. Oprah. I love her wisdom and insight.
  3. Charlie Sheen. All work and no play would make me a dull boy!

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud a lot, but the last time I did so, I was crossing the street in New York, reading an email from a new retailer client. It read, “Do you want to trade companies or can I buy stock in yours?”

Who is your hero?

Without a doubt, my Aunt Stacy. She has helped tremendously throughout the process. Whenever I feel anxious, I know I can call her for support. Her favorite way to calm my anxieties is to say, “If you don’t do this, how will you know?” My parents, Betty and Melvin, have always been huge heroes to me as well. They have always listened to my dreams and supported me. And anyone who follows his or her dreams, challenges fear and tries something out of the ordinary is a hero to me.

What in your background prepared you for your current business success?

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, and after I graduated from school, I began working in the printing industry. It was great preparation for what I’m doing today, because although I ultimately worked in print sales, I had to understand the entire printing process—the manufacturing process, if you will—in great detail. I think that experience was a great teacher. I have always had ideas for new products, and my experience understanding the printing process taught me that I could understand and work with design and production people at a fundamental level to develop and produce the best possible product.

Where can entrepreneurs looking to start a business find good assistance?

SCORE. Their business mentors are so knowledgeable and have been indispensable in helping me make many of my decisions. Without the assistance of my mentor, the Bübi would not be what it is today. Plus, all their services are free, so you have nothing to lose by contacting them.

Business aside, what gives you the most pleasure?

Hands down, my children. I have three sons and a daughter—Jason, Karissa, Alexander and Christian. I loved to spend time with them and watch them grow—physically and intellectually. And they have been great motivators for me to try, in some small way, to make the world a better place. That is what the Bübi bottle is all about—making the world a little better, environmentally, while meeting a common human need.

What are your hobbies and how do they help you?

My favorite hobby is sailing. A business associate took me in a small boat in Cincinnati many years ago, and I found sailing to be invigorating and challenging. A few years later, I moved to a condo off St. Mary’s By The Sea, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. My neighbor had a 27-foot boat that needed repairs, but he didn’t have time or knowledge to fix it. So I did the fixing and he taught me to sail.

My proudest moment was taking my father for his first sail about 20 years ago. Since then, I have gone on many trips, several of which were off-shore trips. Sailing brings me in close touch with nature. It makes me appreciate the quiet and the peace away from the demands of business and the noise of the world. Nothing is more relaxing than taking a boat out, setting her sails and riding the wind and water. And just like life, the sudden squalls or heavy seas you encounter are invigorating. They make you think on your feet, respond instinctively and cherish the return of calmer waters.


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