VASO: Mathew and Stephen
Step aside soggy paper straws, there's a new sustainable drinking accessory in town! Enter VASO – the glass straw startup hoping to save the planet, one sip at a time.
Names of founders: Mathew Porter, Stephen Mellor
Location: United Kingdom
Date Launched: 1st August 2019
Number of employees: 2
Age of founders: 34, 38
Which university, if any, did you attend? Nottingham Trent University
Founders Mathew and Stephen have had the final straw with single use plastics, and the damage our wasteful habits are having on the planet. Hoping to sip their way to success, this startup is causing a stir in the drinks industry with their glass straws – the must-have bevvy accessory of 2019.
So, set your soggy paper straw aside and slurp up VASO's startup story!
Tell us what your business does:
VASO are a UK based brand that sell a range of glass drinking straws to consumers and business.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
With an ever-increasing public awareness of waste polluting our oceans creating a national willingness to find reusable solutions to single-use plastics, we decided to explore solutions ourselves.
Research showed an emerging market for reusable straws and search data that showed an increasing interest in reusable straws. After assessing the pros and cons of potential reusable straw solutions, we decided to opt for a glass-based straw that had benefits over other competitor’s products.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Within other territories outside of the UK there were other brands launching glass straw product ranges and becoming a popular choice amongst consumers. There were also search data signals within the UK which showed a rapidly increasing growth for reusable straws and glass straws.
The potential for rapid growth was further reinforced by the government’s announcement that they would be introducing a ban on single use plastic straws in April 2020. Following the aforementioned announcement, many companies had started to replace single use plastic straws with paper ones and the public feedback of paper straws has been overwhelmingly negative, which further enforces the desire for reusable straws that provide a better experience for consumers.
What were you doing before starting up?
The founders were, and still are, employed within the glass manufacturing and online marketing industries. These roles and the varied experience that each of us have, has helped us rapidly develop VASO in our spare time and come to market during the infancy of what is an emerging market.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
One of our founders has been running a successful business for over 7 years, so this experience has lent itself well to starting VASO. During their years at University, the desire to launch their own business was at the forefront of their minds, but a willingness to gain experience within the sector came first and foremost before partnering on a business five years later.
How did you raise the money?
Due to many of the founder’s relevant skillsets, many of the elements required for the business to launch could be undertaken by themselves. The requirement for capitol was then greatly reduced and allowed each founder to contribute the funds evenly.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The initial business model is to provide two markets with our glass straws and related products. Firstly, we offer products to consumers via a variety of online channels and soon other traditional retail channels.
Secondly, we offer B2B solutions to a variety of sectors including hospitality, gastronomy, tourism and others. Future plans include expanding in to other reusable straw solutions and possibly other reusable product lines.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We initially experienced challenges with finding packaging solutions that met all of our criteria to provide a fully sustainable and recyclable retail product. After approaching numerous companies, we finally found a provider that understood our ethos and goals and help us to develop a solution that met requirements.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our first big breakthrough came whilst attending a food and drink festival, the overwhelming feedback of the product, our brand and what we had brought to market was just fantastic. The reception that we received helped to reinforce our belief in the product and has helped to boost our initial launch.
Along with this, there have been numerous features of our products by a wealth of online influencers, product reviews, competition partnerships and even a magazine feature.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Our advice for any budding entrepreneur would be to always assess what you are doing and adjust accordingly. Understand what you are offering, what competitors are offering and how your business, product or solution is different or brings added value over them.
Also, understand your market, customer base and their needs, so that you can provide them with what they require or would like. By understanding all of these aspects you can quickly adjust and adapt to maximise your offering, relevance, penetration and market share.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Hopefully in five years’ time, the VASO brand will be well established within the sector and our products will be widely adopted. More importantly, we would like our mission statement to have been realised, which is to reduce single use plastics, spread awareness of their damage and provide consumers with a great alternative that enhances their experience.