Ocean Bottle, co-founded by Nick Doman (featured above left) and Will Pearson (featured above right), makes and sells reusable water bottles to tackle the problem of ocean plastic.

For Nick Doman and Will Pearson, one decision changed everything: choosing a particular seat on their first day of business school.

“We were the first people each other met,” says Nick. “We spoke about loads of different things but plastic was something that we were both really driven to do something about.” Before long, they were coming up with business ideas.

In 2019, Will and Nick launched Ocean Bottle, a reusable water bottle company. Ocean Bottle products are dishwasher safe and vacuum insulated. Cold drinks stay cold and hot drinks hot.

Every Ocean Bottle sold funds the equivalent collection of 1,000 used plastic bottles from riverbanks, roads and beaches. “Environmental and social impact is at our heart,” he says. “Collecting 1,000 plastic bottles in weight per Ocean Bottle made, was the first decision we made as a business. And every single decision we make going forward reflects that.”

Ocean Bottle opened a business bank account with Starling in 2020. Starling is a digital, branchless and paperless bank that provides customers with debit cards partly made from recycled plastic.

Combining purpose with profit

“The rate at which plastic is flowing into the ocean is accelerating. We need to do more than cutting out plastic straws and bags to shift the needle,” says Nick, 27.

In less that two years, the Ocean Bottle team has sold more than 100,000 bottles, which equates to the collection of more than one million kilograms of plastic. A portion of the water bottles were pre-sold through their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which helped the company become profitable in its first year. Their bottles have even been used on an Ed Sheeran tour.

Ocean Bottles are reusable, recyclable and dishwasher safe

Protecting the planet

To collect used plastic and recycle it, Ocean Bottle works with Plastic Bank, an organisation that pays people for plastic collection with credits that can be exchanged for cash, medical insurance, healthcare or microfinance for starting up a business.

“Plastic Bank tackles the problem in a way that wasn’t done before - it removes plastic before it reaches the ocean,” Nick says. “It works on the IBM blockchain, which means transactions are much more transparent. Some plastic collections have been set up in grey or black markets. What that does is breed opportunities for people to exploit marginalised communities.” In other words, Plastic Bank and the blockchain provide a solution by having a fully transparent audit trail.

Ocean Bottle works with Plastic Bank to collect and recycle plastic

Through Plastic Bank, Ocean Bottle funds plastic collection in four countries: Haiti, Brazil, The Philippines and Indonesia. “It’s essential that everyone in our team knows what we do and how we do it and what it really means,” says Nick. Ocean Bottle arranges team visits to the places Plastic Bank works so that everyone can see its impact on the ground.

Support from Starling

Like many businesses, Ocean Bottle saw a reduction in sales when lockdown hit in March 2020. “We’d been growing very fast up until Covid. We then saw a change in customer sentiment. Clients started delaying orders. But we wanted to continue our growth as nothing had changed for us, the virus had just caught us off guard.”

When the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) launched in April 2020, Ocean Bottle approached Starling to find out more about their eligibility. “Starling immediately saw what had happened and realised the issue wasn’t structural. It was a dream - everything was done in a couple of weeks compared to the months we were quoted from our high street bank,” he says. Ocean Bottle became a Starling business customer and received a CBILS loan shortly afterwards.

“The CBILS loan gave us that breathing room. It meant we didn’t have to make any rash decisions.”

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