Grace Kisilu is the Founder of Wish Bottles, an environmentally sustainable startup that sells eco-friendly premium glass water bottles.
The company which she founded a year ago produces 300ml borosilicate glass bottles.
“The idea of having a sustainable eco-friendly water bottle came from the frustration that residents in Nairobi experience with the littering of single-use water bottles. In my daily commute to and from work, I could see a lot of plastic pollution in the streets and that could be accounted to the single-use plastic bottles.”
Hydration is a necessity but I felt there should be a sustainable alternative.” Says the 25-year-old graduate of International Business Administration from the United States International University in Nairobi.
“Hydration is a necessity but I felt there should be a sustainable alternative.”
Single-use plastic bottles are goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are meant to be disposed of right after use.
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.
Also, exposure to plastics, as well as the chemicals that are added to plastics during processing are harmful to humans. The chemicals which are known as endocrine disruptors could cause health impacts including hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems like infertility, and even cancer.
“These single-use plastic bottles are everywhere. And this whole time I kept wishing that someone would come up with a product that could help reduce the plastic bottles we have around; I decided that I could do something about it,” she tells Founder360°.
With a mission to offset the amount of plastic waste getting into the environment, Grace Kisilu started Wish Bottles in August 2019, an eco-friendly glass water bottle made of borosilicate glass.
Borosilicate glass is a type of glass with silica and boron trioxide as the main glass-forming constituents. The glass has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, making them more resistant to thermal shock and can withstand accidents that would break other glassware.
“Glass is reusable in so many ways and our packaging is eco-friendly as some of the material used in our packaging is made out of maize and eco-friendly leather.”
Wish Bottles offers a lightweight 300ml water bottle that can fit in almost any bag. The glass is also partly sheathed with an eco-friendly removable leather which serves as a handling grip.
The startup has partnered with local companies to have the bottles more personalised as well as the branding process made easier.
“Our aim is to have wish bottles completely sourced in Kenya or Africa if need be so as to create an authenticity to the brand”
Grace Kisilu resigned from her job at the Fair Trade Organisation to fully focus on running Wish Bottles which currently has a team of four including her.
She recently sat down with Founder360° to share more on her one-year entrepreneurial journey.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur? And coming up with Wish Bottles?
I wanted to find a solution to a problem that so many of us face. Starting wish bottles was a leap of faith but with the support of family and friends, it’s been a very pleasant journey.
What do you think has contributed to the success of Wish Bottles in such a short time?
When I started Wish Bottles I was able to tap into the power of the community around and creating a product that is a niche to that community. For Wish Bottles, we have the #wishbabes where our customers can leave reviews on the website, join in on social media, discounts as well as hydration tips.
Having a community that rallies behind your product is the best form of marketing any business can have. We are trying to create a FANOCRACY and have our customers engage and create referrals on our behalf. Word of mouth is still the most trusted means of marketing.
“Having a community that rallies behind your product is the best form of marketing any business can have.”
What is your greatest entrepreneurial achievement to be proud of?
Celebrating the one year anniversary of Wish Bottles has been an amazing stepping stone. Statistics indicate that most businesses do not make it through their first year… but here we are grateful we have received from our customers.
What leadership lessons can you advise a young person who is venturing into entrepreneurship?
Start where you are with what you have. There was a time I was overthinking because I did not have enough capital in the business. But moving past the fear and stepping into the unknown with faith is the best thing anyone can do for themselves.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get you where you are now?
The biggest sacrifice I would point out is investing the money I had into learning. E-commerce is still a growing space in the Kenyan market and it offers abundant opportunities to sell your product.
“But moving past the fear and stepping into the unknown with faith is the best thing anyone can do for themselves.”
When starting out, I barely knew how to do E-commerce right. I dug deep to find some of the most E-commerce gurus and did a few online courses which I would recommend to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
Do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person? How?
Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to be more empathetic towards peoples’ needs. Some of the best businesses are cultured towards understanding the needs that your customers have and looking for ways to best solve them.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your entrepreneurial journey? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
Having our one year anniversary was very nerve-racking for me. Getting the logistics right, looking for avenues to use social media and getting the new website up was a bit challenging.
Some of these fields were new to me. Being open to learning from mistakes has been a key so far when moving forward as well as letting others who have experience advise on how we to move forward.
Top 3 websites/Apps that you can’t imagine your day without?
Instagram drives over 95% of all traffic to our website. This has been an amazing marketing tool. Shopify allows me to view all the orders placed and edits needed without having the hustle of always logging into a computer.
I started using TikTok as a marketing tool because there are currently no ads placed on the platform and its organic reach is very high and it’s also my go-to app when I want to have a break from work.
What’s your favourite quote for describing entrepreneurship?
“Start where you are and with what you have.” This quote brings me so much strength
If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you name it?
The Wishing book!