Travis Rosbach speaks about Hydro Flask at Berkeley Forum event

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Hydro Flask co-founder Travis Rosbach spoke about his journey creating the company and his intended purpose for the water bottles at an event hosted by the Berkeley Forum on Tuesday.

Rosbach said he decided he wanted to create the company after seeing that stores were no longer carrying plastic water bottles because of the unknown health effects of bisphenol A. Rosbach said while he did not know anything about water bottles, he knew he wanted to create the company.

“Something had come over me in the moment, it was bigger than just me,” Rosbach said. “It wasn’t ego, it wasn’t Travis’s 30-year-old pride, something higher came through.”

Rosbach continued to describe his experiences testing different types of metal water bottles that could not keep drinks cool. Rosbach added that he was inspired to adapt the design of his grandfather’s thermos to create an insulated water bottle.

According to Rosbach, he and co-founder Cindy Morse spent several months coming up with a design to be produced in China. Rosbach and Morse, who previously ran a signage company together in Oahu, Hawaii, had an estate sale and moved in with Rosbach’s mother in Oregon to buy the first batch of 1,500 Hydro Flasks.

According to Rosbach, the two first sold their water bottles at a Saturday market in Portland, Oregon.

“It was actually really exciting, because everything we had done up to that point started to pay off, and we had enough gas money to get home that night,” Rosbach said. “Over time, we found that these 1,500 bottles were starting to sell really well.”

As the company continued to do well, Rosbach and Morse hired two employees and began to work with sales representatives.

The company experienced setbacks when Rosbach found rust in a shipment of bottles, however.

“It became too much for my partner, so she took off back to Hawaii, and it was just me and the employee,” Rosbach said. “Towards the end of the week, I came in and I was all by myself. Our first employee was gone, and it was just Travis. That was a tough time.”

Rosbach was about to shut the company down when he was approached by someone who wanted to donate $1 million to keep the company alive.

During the moderated question and answer part of the event, Rosbach discussed his motivation in continuing the brand. According to Rosbach, his goals with the company were to eradicate single-use plastic water bottles and increase access to drinking water.

“Living on the North Shore, we watched plastic wash up on the beach every single morning,” Rosbach said. “If you’ve never seen plastic wash up on the beach, it’s a scary, scary thing because there’s no end in sight, and one of the things I really wanted to do was eradicate single-use plastic water bottles.”

Rosbach, who sold the company in 2012, has since become a practitioner of yoga and meditation, a father and a business consultant.

Campus freshman Lia Weiss-Ishai said she enjoyed the fact that the speaker was relevant to campus students.

“I really admire his hustle and how he has maintained his personal sense of identity through his struggles as an entrepreneur,” Weiss-Ishai said. “I can see his face light up when he was talking about his company, his product, and that was very inspiring.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.