With over 16 million plastic bottles ending up in UK landfills every day, it’s safe to say that the planet is in the middle of a plastic crisis. Cue S’wheat, the world’s first reusable bottle made from plant-based materials.
In recent years, the true extent of the climate crisis has come into the public eye, inspiring individuals and corporations to switch to more sustainable alternatives. Though, finding a good bottle to replace plastic ones can be difficult.
Reusing an old plastic bottle might seem like a good idea but studies have found plastic particles can seep into the bottle’s contents. Many find glass bottles impractical and some say that steel alternatives can leave a metallic taste in the mouth.
This inspired Amee Ritchie and Jake Elliott-Hook to create the perfect reusable bottle. Made from plant-based material, the S’wheat Bottle is double ended for easy cleaning and, thanks to the large amounts of bamboo and wheat straw in its design, is antibacterial and anti-odour.
When asked what inspired the duo to come up with the planet-saving alternative, Amee explained, “From a young age, I was always trying to earn money. Coming from a low-income family I was always looking for the next idea to support myself. As I got older, I realised that not only did I create these side hustles for money but I also enjoyed creating something of my own. I knew that at some point I would love to take a business further but also realised I should probably go to college and try to get a good job. So that’s what I did. After 4 years of studying beauty therapy I realised I wanted to do something where I had more control over decisions.”
She continued, “In our last year of study, myself and my co-founder, Jake, came up with the idea for S’wheat. It came about when we both made some changes to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, the first change being to consume more water. However, we were left disappointed with the reusable bottles on the market. They were all so difficult to clean, heavy or just impractical. That’s when we decided we have nothing to lose, let’s try to make our idea a reality.”
After 18 months of designing, testing, and engineering, Amee and Jake were ready for the final stage of production. Though, to get the bottle into the hands of the public, they needed £10,000.
Back Her Business: Win £2,000
With only 1/3 entrepreneurs in the UK being women, the Back Her Business programme was designed to close the gender gap in business by providing female founders with the tools needed to break down common barriers such as confidence, capital and opportunities.
As part of the programme, we ran a competition offering women the chance to win £2,000 as long as they reached their crowdfunding goal.
With half of S’wheat owned by Amee, the duo entered their business into the competition and, along with 11 others, were chosen to crowdfund for their idea.
They set up their campaign and in just 30 days they had raised £21,437 from 272 supporters. This included £2,000 in prize money, £3,000 in match-funding as part of the programme, and a further £5,000 pledge from the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Regional Board.
When asked about the Back Her Business programme, Amee told us, “When I first heard about the Back Her Business programme, I was slightly relieved and very excited. I was relieved that something was being done to make a difference in our society and encourage more women into business. When I was asked to be a part of the programme I was over the moon, without the help of the Back Her Business support we would not have been able to launch and grow our business this fast. It was everything we needed and more to succeed and I am extremely grateful for this support.”
She went on to day, “Winning the Royal Bank of Scotland Back Her Business additional funding was such a surreal moment! I was in complete shock when I found out that I would be one of the three women selected to win a share of the funds, then when I found out I won the vote which made us the first-place winner I was speechless. I think it still hasn’t sunk in! The fact that RBS, Crowdfunder, and the general public believed in us and our product is hugely empowering and I am so grateful to everyone.”
On being a woman in business, Amee said, “I have found some obstacles in this journey as a woman in business. I think the most common and frustrating thing is not being taken seriously and being underestimated by others in business. It can often feel as though others just can’t hear you.. or they are choosing not to listen! Sometimes I feel that if a male was to say the exact same thing I just said, everyone would praise him.”
Where is the S’wheat bottle now?
Since crowdfunding, the duo have been going from strength to strength. The S’wheat bottle has been released to the public with Prue Leith showing her support for the plant-based alternative.
“We began our Crowdfunder campaign on 3rd August 2019 which coincidentally was also my 21st birthday. It ran until 3rd September where we had almost doubled our original goal. We then went straight to work to begin our first production run. Our products arrived on the 12th November which was an insane moment to finally see the complete products. On the 29th November we dispatched all of our Crowdfunder orders to our customers. We had an entire van full of pre-orders which again was a surreal moment. Since then we have been working on launching our new and improved website alongside working with retailers to get S’wheat out into the world.”
They also appeared on Channel Four’s Buy It Now for Christmas where they pitched their bottle to an audience of real shoppers and a panel of retailers.
Top crowdfunding tips from S’wheat’s female founder.
After running such a successful crowdfunding campaign, receiving £10,000 in grant-funding, and making TV appearances, Amee left us with her top tips for anyone thinking about setting up their own campaign with Back Her Business.
“Get prepared! Before you launch your Crowdfunder make sure you have prepared everything that you will need and more. Things like social media posts, image content, marketing emails, press release etc all take a lot of time. By preparing these in advance you can produce quality content instead of being rushed and put on the spot.”
“Use the support from the team at Crowdfunder as they have created so many useful guides, including statistics and important notes. Take the time to implement this. The team will keep you accountable for your project as they really want you to succeed. Use this to boost your confidence when you are having a down moment. They have also created a Facebook group which you can join and receive support from other women in the same position as you!”
She went on to say, “You must first believe in yourself before anyone else will believe in you. At times you will doubt what you are doing and you need the ability to keep on going. I would also say the most important thing is to listen to your own intuition. You don’t always have to input other people’s advice. As women, I feel that we have a strong sense of knowing when things feel right or wrong, use this to our advantage!”
Feeling inspired by Amee and Jake’s story? Check out our Back Her Business programme and take your first steps in making your dream a reality!