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Meet Adam Callinan of BottleKeeper in El Segundo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Callinan.

Adam, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My cousin/co-founder Matt Campbell was trying to drink a beer from a red party cup whilst on the beach and it was warm and disgusting in minutes. So he though, “why can’t I take one of those stainless steel water bottles, cut it in half, stuff it with neoprene and put my beer bottle inside”? And BottleKeeper was born. We launched the company in 2013 via a successful crowdfunding campaign — used to prove that people other than our parents would enter their credit card info and click “buy” — and shipped our first orders in January, 2014. Since then, we’ve heavily leveraged technology and automation to build a very lean but scalable direct-to-consumer business — we had zero employees until 2017 and could/can operate BottleKeeper from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Now that we do have a small but lethal team, we’re continuing to grow fast and are on track to do $15m in 2018 while working to rid the world of the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries, maybe even decades…

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Of course not! This IS a true startup story, chock full of tales of trials and tribulations at the hand of Murphy’s Law. We have bootstrapped the company and its growth since the beginning, with no outside investors or debt, so we really feel the mistakes and missteps.

We had our first fulfillment center lose 50% of our first inventory order (which almost put us out of business in month 2); we had our first order of painted BottleKeepers (in early 2015) come back just over the legal limits for lead paint, despite our manufacturer assuring us it was “lead free” — but we couldn’t destroy the product or we would have gone out of business, we had to figure something out. So we bought a bulk amount of commercial paint stripper and a bunch of lab coats and gloves, and manually stripped the paint off of over 3000 units in our garages, which my dad then clean and sanded down by hand. In the end, we were able to sell the newly cleaned BottleKeeper units as our original stainless steel color option! It was crazy though; the paint stripped was so strong that it would burn through the elbow length industrial gloves in about 30 seconds, so we had to act fast! And invest heavily in more rubber gloves…

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about BottleKeeper – what should we know?
We design, manufacture and sell products for fellow cold beer enthusiasts. This started with BottleKeeper, a 3-piece stainless steel bottle that’s insulated to keep your inserted beer bottle colder, longer, and protected from gravity induced explosions. We’re the inventors/patent holders (we have 3 and a 4th pending) so we’re surely best known for that but the business structure is what is the most unique — we’re very efficient in how we operate and heavily leverage feedback and data to make decisions. We try to remove emotion and personal opinion from the equation as much as possible while implementing steps from the scientific method (both Matt and I have degrees in Molecular & Cellular Biology, so we’re kind of science nerds!)

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Focus. Many companies get caught up in the onslaught of opportunities that start to appear with any amount of success and they take on too many things at once — commonly referred to as “shiny object syndrome”. I’ve always thought that you only have 100% of your time and if you split it up 4 ways, you’re only going to be able to commit 25% to each item, which highly unlikely to be successful. So we’ve been very careful to focus on a single mission; to create a unique customer experience with a direct-to-consumer business. So as retailers started coming after us to sell BottleKeeper, which started in 2015, we politely said no — we wanted to remain focused on the consumer experience. This worked well for us because now that we are ready to add on another sales channel, we have over 3000 US retailers on a wait list to sell BottleKeeper, giving us not only a pretty significant starting point but a lot of leverage in how the product is sold/displayed/merchandised/etc.

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Image Credit:
All internal, owned by BottleKeeper.

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