How many of you have had to give up on your plastic water bottle because it was impossible to clean? Probably all of us. Carina Hamel, former nordic skier, saw this problem and used her product development expertise to design the first stainless steel bottle with a flow rate fit for cyclists, co-founding the company Bivo.
Carina moved to Norway at age 16 to attend a ski academy, where she learned about her love for new cultures, languages and experiences. Through this experience and a job in product development for Keen Footwear, she realized she wanted to work internationally and began footwear development consulting, setting up new manufacturing partners and facilities globally. She started Bivo, a carbon neutral company, to be the solution to the cycling water bottle problem.
She loves to play with her kids, ski, bike, and run.
This week, Sonya and Carina spoke about her path to entrepreneurship, her work ethic, becoming a mom and her vision for her company.
“What I do is I just kind of focus on my goal, which was starting this company and making it work. And so that’s what I was working towards not working towards the bottom, but working towards the top. And so I think if you just continue working towards that top line of, let’s make this work, I’m really excited to do this race, or I’m really excited to build this company, you just work every day towards that goal.“– Carina Hamel
Here is a coupon code to get free ground shipping in the US for Bivo stainless steel cycling water bottles. Use SonyaLooney_freeground at checkout.
- The courage to go after your dreams
- Where work ethic comes from
- Retirement from professional sports
- Courage to start her own business
- Her biggest surprise when she became a mom
- Choosing priorities
- Running a business with your partner
- Health benefits of using stainless steel bottle
- Choosing to make environmental decisions
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- Learn more about Bivo
- Related podcast: Refuting the Motherhood Penalty with &Mother’s Molly Dickens
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Sonya Looney: Carina, welcome to the show.
Carina Hamel: Hi, thank you, Sonya.
Sonya: So exciting to meet you. And upon meeting you, I got to learn more about you and I thought, man, this is a really awesome woman who kicks butt and I can’t wait to have her on the show.
Carina: I’m really excited to be here.
Sonya: So initially, we connected over Vivo, which we’ll get into in a bit. But upon getting to learn more about your story, you’re a really brave person, and you have been somebody it seems that is, is willing to take risks and go after something that is a vision and something that you want. When did that actually start happening? Or when did you start noticing that happening in your life as a pattern?
Carina: I think the first time was maybe where it stood out to me the most when I was 16. I was a cross country ski racer. And I lived in an area where we didn’t have a lot of other cross country ski racers. And I was always loving the weekends when I would come up to Vermont or Maine and be able to see all my ski friends. And so I was trying to figure out a way to be around more skiers and I had applied to a ski academy in Norway. And I had asked my parents if I could go, and they told me that that would be okay, as long as I figured out the entire program myself. So I was actually 15 at the time when I was figuring it all out. And so by the time I was 16, I was able to move over to Norway, after getting accepted to a ski academy and figuring out a host family and everything all by myself.
Sonya: Wow. So your parents really believed in giving you autonomy?
Carina: Absolutely, yeah. And I think when they told me that it would be okay, as long as I figured it out, I’m not sure they really knew what they were getting themselves into. And then when I actually made it happen, I think it was really hard because I’m also the baby of the family. But they have always fostered making sure that I explore and just be who I am.
Sonya: So what was that like moving to Norway when you were 16 years old?
Carina: It was really, honestly before I went, so I didn’t speak any Norwegian. So the summer before I left, I had taken classes, just to learn a few words. And I was told before I was going from the ski academy that they the teachers would know is coming in that I would just be able to learn in English. And so before I left, I had never been abroad and I was super excited. So I’d never even really been around people who didn’t speak English, like constantly around me. And so I arrived and I was like totally freaked out to be honest. It was a really hard transition. But it was pretty quick that everybody was just so welcoming and it was so cool to learn a new language and experience something completely different. So I did fail all my classes that year, which was pretty funny because I was supposed to be a sophomore. But I just took that year and learned the language and learned a different culture and used it as a growth opportunity that really has shaped the rest of my life, I believe.
Sonya: How did you know to frame that as a growth opportunity? Because I think that people can do that in different ways, depending on who you are in that moment.
Carina: Yeah, I think it was the language thing, I think that was probably the most interesting, I would sit down with my host family every night at dinner. And my host father would laugh and say that he lost a lot of weight that first few weeks of me being there because he would say everything in English and then everything in Norwegian. And I think that just the learning experience or the learning opportunity for me to learn a different language was just such a cool opportunity that I just grasped it and loved it and moved forward.
Sonya: Yeah, so you’re focusing on the things that were fun and the things that you were learning and it sounds like you had a really great host family over there, too.
Carina: They were amazing. Yeah.
Sonya: Another thing that is already popping out to me is a work ethic piece of somebody, a high school kid, a lot of times, high school athletes have been working hard at something, whether it’s a sport or music or something like that, but it seems like there’s like the talent piece, which I don’t like talking about talent very much because I think talent is often oversold. And there’s also the work ethic piece and need to have ability and work ethic in order to be successful, like you have been in your endeavors. Where did you learn work ethic? Or was that something that was just sort of ingrained in you or that you just naturally took to?
Carina: I think it’s ingrained in me in some ways. Both of my parents, they’ve always done kind of their own thing as well. And so my dad was a contractor, he had his own business and my mom ran that with him. They also started the youth ski league in my area that they grew to 250 kids by the time my sister was eight or something after starting when she was five. So I think my parents always showed me that there’s a way to create your own path if you work hard towards it. And so I think that it was definitely something that was just shown to me, from the time I was born. I mean, I was born into having an older sister who’s starting to ski with other kids. And I just grew up in that environment where people were working hard in front of me, specifically my parents, but then also the older kids who are training towards their sport as well.
Sonya: What was the experience of moving up in the world as a skier like for you, and how did you stay grounded during that time?
Carina: I think I do really thank my parents for a lot of things, because I think they did a really good job making sure that they didn’t put too much pressure on me. I remember when I was 12, I think I made the junior Olympic team and they actually decided that I was just too young to go, it was in Alaska. And so I lived in Massachusetts, so it’d be a big flight and a big trip. And I think they just saw that I was too young, and that I didn’t need to have that experience yet. So I think that they always helped temper that and made sure I didn’t feel too much pressure. So that was great because I think it’s too easy when you are good as a young athlete, that you get pushed too hard, and then it becomes not fun. And so we always focused on having fun. And we would run through stinging nettle patches and just like laugh together on the other side, you’re super itchy. And stop on the side of the path on a big run and like climb up some really steep hill and just go up and down and up and down and roll in mud and just have a lot of fun. So I think that that really helped me. It was just my life and I loved it. And it wasn’t something that I had to be really good at. It was just something that I was having a lot of fun with. And that was one thing that my dad and I always talked about, like how do you know when you’re done as an athlete? Hs perspective and my I totally agree with him now it’s just that you have to be having fun. And when you’re not, you’re done.
Sonya: That’s a really interesting perspective, because, and hopefully you can shed some more light on this for me, because I think about this a lot myself. It’s not going to be fun every single time you’re going out to train every single time you line up for a race, it’s not going to be fun. Generally, it’s going to be fun. So where’s that line of, I’m having fun, but I’m still pushing myself versus this just isn’t fun anymore.
Carina: Yeah, I think there’s always the level of curiosity too, like, well, what can I do more? And I think that, because I went through years where I had bad races and training was… I had some health issues, and I was not having fun training for entire I think it was probably two full years of not having fun. And coincidentally, I also was racing terribly and I don’t think I wasn’t having fun because I wasn’t racing well. I wasn’t having fun because I didn’t feel good. But I was still curious about what skiing could be as a career or for myself. And then I think what I did was I pushed it one year. And I was like, okay, this is still interesting to me, I want to see if this is what I want. And it was pretty clear that next year that it just wasn’t what I was wanting anymore and so I moved on. So I think it’s probably different for every single person. Because I think that there’s years that aren’t going to be fun or that you’re not performing well and you kind of know that it’s just a piece of the road that you’re in and that it will get better. So I think it’s just a constant check is this what I want for my life? And is it continuing to be fun for me?
Sonya: So can you take us really quick what your ski career looked like? And I mean, we could spend a whole podcast talking about that, but I want to make sure that we you know, keep going and talk about some of the things that you’re up to now too,
Carina: For sure. Yeah. So I raced one year after college, I reset University of Vermont. And then I was on the world junior team as a 19-year-old and I made the U23 ski team. So that one year after college is the year that I race professionally. And that was my test of is this something that I want to continue to pursue.
Sonya: And I mean, how did you decide to move on from that?
Carina: I think it’s kind of hard to exactly say, I just knew. Like I just was done. And I was starting to be really interested in different careers and exploring opportunities that might show me the next path in my career. And I was definitely nervous about it because I was always the ski racer like that was my identity, especially even just in my family. My sister is a mathematician and she was pursuing her academic career. And I was always the skier and so it was hard for me to know that I was going to be moving away from something that everybody around me defined me as. And that was definitely a scary time, it was hard to know exactly what was going to give me the same amount of passion that skiing had given me my entire life.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that that’s something that isn’t talked about nearly enough is the identity piece of whether you’re an athlete or whatever it is that you’re doing. A lot of times, there’s these inflection points in our life where we’re hanging on to something, maybe because we’re just afraid of shedding that identity and moving on to something else, or adding a new identity in addition to what you’re already doing. So, what did you do to figure out what your next your next project would be or your next direction in life would be knowing that you’re leaving something that you worked at your entire life that you’re also really good at?
Carina: Yeah, I got lucky in that I was introduced to the owner of Keen footwear. And through high school and college, I’d worked in an outdoor store. And I was always interested in products. In particular, I was interested about how product could affect me as an athlete. And so I was always kind of curious about how product was made. And so when I met the owner of Keen, he had suggested that if I wanted to learn more about product development, and that was something that honestly, in high school and college I didn’t even know was really a thing. You kind of think, okay, products get designed and then they’re made. And there’s this middle piece that isn’t really talked about. And so that was the next path into my career was a footwear product developer. And so to learn footwear product development, I moved over to China and worked there for three months, just going between different factories and seeing the manufacturing process. And immediately it was just, yeah, it was fascinating to me. And I think coming back to one of the reasons why I think my experience in Norway show up throughout the rest of my life is just, it gave me that love of exploring a new culture and a new language. And this was a whole completely different opportunity to explore, but something that was new, and was another great learning experience for me.
Sonya: Yeah, it sounds like that value of exploration and curiosity. Or maybe that is one of your strengths. That’s informed a lot of decisions that you’ve made. And then you ended up starting your own business? That’s another pivot point. So how did you make that decision?
Carina: Yeah, I so about five years after I started working in product development, I realized that one of my strengths was forming relationships internationally with different factories. And that was one of the really challenging pieces in the product world is finding the right manufacturing partner. Again, I think that comes back to the fact that I just really love international experiences. And I was going to places in the Dominican and Thailand and Korea and China and Taiwan, all exploring new manufacturing techniques and factories. And so when I was doing that, I was realizing that this was a piece of the puzzle that a lot of startups have a hard time with. So it was right around when Kickstarter was becoming popular and it was before you needed a prototype to actually get on to Kickstarter. And I was noticing that a lot of brands were being successful in their launch of their product on Kickstarter, but then they had a hard time mass producing it. And so I left in hopes of helping startup brands find factories and helping them develop their products. So I did that specifically in the footwear space. And I started that by myself in 2012, I believe, and I ran that for 10 years working with brands with different anywhere from outdoor to performance, anywhere in all the way to high heels.
Sonya: How did you find clients?
Carina: Networking, it was all networking, word of mouth. I really love meeting new people. And when I was starting the company, I set a goal of meeting with three new people every week. I never knew what it was going to come out of those meetings, but I knew something would and it just became a trickle effect. I was based in Portland, Oregon at the time, and that’s a really big footwear hub. So people would come specifically to Oregon for footwear help. So it really was a lot of word of mouth.
Sonya: Something that pops up in my mind about this is about having the courage, again you have a lot of courage and all the decisions you’ve made have required having that courage, but deciding I’m going to start my own business because there’s a lot of things people listening might want to do in their life. I want to do my first ski race, I want to do my first bike race, I want to start a business, I I want to have a family. But it’s really scary to take that next step. And with a business specifically, like you’re leaving something where you probably know how much money you’re going to be making for at least your short-term future, whereas whenever you step into the world of I’m sort of my own business, it’s sink or swim. And a lot of people are really nervous about taking a step like that. How did you approach that thought process?
Carina: Yeah, I was 28 at the time. So I was fortunate in that I was not in a relationship. I didn’t have kids. I was literally, I was responsible for myself. My sister had just had a baby and I kind of laid out worst case scenario, what’s my worst-case scenario, if this doesn’t work, and that was I was going to move back to Montreal to be with my sister and take care of her son. And so I think sometimes laying out worst case scenario is actually a really good game to play. Because you’ll find out that there’s always going to be an option. If you want to do a race, and you’re scared to do it, worst case is you walk your bike up the hill, and that’s okay. So I think that playing that that game is sometimes helpful, because it puts it all in perspective.
Sonya: Something that I struggle with, with thinking about worst case scenario, which I do all the time, is making sure that that doesn’t become the focus. Because I think if you’re always thinking about the worst-case scenario, then it makes it really hard for you to meet your goal or surpass even what your own belief or limit is of yourself. So how do you make sure that you’re not so focused on worst case scenario all the time?
Carina: Yeah, I mean, so that was a one-time thought, like, okay, this is the worst case, and then I never really thought of it again. I’s kind of like you have it there as a baseline. And then you just for me, what I do is I just kind of focus on my goal, which was starting this company and making it work. And so that’s what I was working towards not working towards the bottom, but working towards the top. And so I think if you just continue working towards that top line of, let’s make this work, I’m really excited to do this race, or I’m really excited to build this company, you just work every day towards that goal.
Sonya: Yeah, there’s a lot of optimism there like playing as if you’re going to win whatever winning means, instead of playing not to lose. And one of those has a deprivation sinking, constricted feeling. And the other one is more of an open, energetic feeling. Did you have any speed bumps along the way where you wanted to give up or you thought this isn’t gonna work ad you had to keep going and be resilient?
Carina: Yeah, all the time. I mean, every single day. Running a business is really hard. There’s always curveballs that are thrown at you that you are not expecting. And there’s definitely moments where, and this is more actually probably applicable for Bivo, my water bottle company, where you just never know what you’re gonna get thrown that day. And so, early on in my footwear business, it honestly, it was a consulting business, and it was only me, so I didn’t really have to worry about salaries other than myself at that time. I think once you do add employees, it adds a level of complexity and responsibility that’s harder. And so I grew with the business. I think that was something that was a very fortunate thing for me to have as I grew up. I mean, I was 28 when I started it. So I kind of grew with the business. A lot of things that I was always questioning when I was working at Keen or other jobs in the past, I started to understand more about business as I got older and had more experience. And so there was never moments early on in that footwear business where I thought I should give up and quit because honestly, it was pretty successful really quickly. And I actually had found something that people really needed. And so I became the expert in that field and it just grew naturally. So that was kind of a unique situation. But with product, there can be problems on the production line that you try, you plan as best you can and as detailed as possible, and there are things that still go wrong. And so I think most of my previous headaches were around product problems that happened at the factory.
Sonya: And what made you decide to move on from that business and start Bivo?
Carina: So I actually started well, I had a baby in 2018, my daughter, she’s four years old now. And I really surprised myself coming back from having her. Probably based on this conversation already, you can tell that I really do like to work hard, and I like to work towards something. And so when I had her, I fully expected to just come right back to work and just continue working and continue as life does. And I was so surprised when I had her that I just want to spend more time with her. And it was really hard for me to go back to work. And so after a few months, of really, II did take three full months off for maternity leave and then I slowly came back into the footwear business over the next three months, 20 hours a week, maybe. And I was having a hard time with it. I just honestly, it was kind of like that fun factor. Like I wasn’t having as much fun with it. And I wanted to work towards something that I really was excited about if I was going to spend time away from my daughter. So my husband and I, my husband actually had joined my footwear business about three years after I started it. And so he was helping run it at the time when I was out with on maternity leave. And I came back and we decided that we would put some effort into starting our own brand. And we made this very conscious decision, we’re going to come up with something. This is part of what we did for footwear, we came up with ideas for different footwear companies. And so we put our minds to it. And I think within three months, the idea of Bivo came about.
Sonya: Wow. I mean, if you can come up with anything, so what made you come up with that? And I guess for people that don’t know, what is it?
Carina: Yeah, so Bivo is a performance hydration company. Our first products are performance water bottles designed for cyclists, and they are made out of stainless steel. And we’ve optimized the flow rate so you can drink really easily and quickly.
Sonya: So what made you decide to do that? Because I mean, you’re like, let’s design a product. That’s a pretty big category, I guess.
Carina: My daughter was the second hardest baby at the childcare that was 40 years old to feed out of a bottle. And so we had lots of conversations about bottles. And literally, I think the only other baby that was harder than her had to drink out of a spoon. And our daughter, she actually just skipped the bottle and went right to a sippy cup. And I really hated feeding her. We tried so many. And I really hated feeding her out of plastic and buying all these plastic bottles. And so my husband and I were talking about it while we were out skiing one day, as we were drinking out of a moldy plastic drink carrier that Nordic skiers use called drink belts. And we were like, why do we do this every day, every time we exercise, we drink out of plastic. And so quickly, we went home and started researching it and found out that there really was not a solution for riding bikes or performance sports in general. And within that week, we started designing our first bottle.
Sonya: Yeah, and I mean, I want to talk about motherhood before we talk about the bottles, but I’ll just quickly say that they’re awesome. I was really surprised when I got one. The flow rate was something that you had told me about, but I was really surprised with how lightweight it was because I have all these stainless steel bottles, but they’re all so heavy. And that was kind of a doubt in my mind. And when I got the bottle, I was like this thing’s really light.
Carina: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Yeah, we launched with a single wall, stainless steel bottle. Because we were worried about weight, we wanted to make sure that they were lightweight for riders.
Sonya: So let’s go back. Because I don’t want to gloss over whenever you became a mom for the first time. And now you have you have a son as well. But I wanted to talk about that surprise that you had, because in our culture, it’s just a very confusing space, I think for women, and what does it mean to be a mom and it’s really different for everybody. And how there has to be flexibility around what this means because some people will have a baby and immediately want to go back to work; they do not want to be home with their baby. Some people want to work part time, some people they stop working completely, not to say that they’re not working because having a baby is incredibly time and labor intensive. But your expectations of yourself could potentially change, or what you want out of your life might change after you have a baby. So how did you wrestle with that? Because you said I worked really hard. I’ve done all of these things as a high achiever and then not to say that you weren’t a high achiever after you became a mom but you wanted to take a little bit more time with your baby.
Carina: I think it’s another time where like, running your own businesses is very challenging. There are so many things that are very hard. And I touched on a little bit on just even like the responsibility of having an employee and you have to make sure that you can pay them and continue forward. But I think in this instance, being a business owner and having that flexibility was extremely helpful for me, because I could craft my own maternity leave. And I recognize that that is very privileged. And I am very grateful for that time that I had. So I think what it did to me is, and I think this is why we do need more women in business and running companies, it made me realize that whenever we have an employee who has a baby, the flexibility that needs to be there for that mom is really important. And I think that you do need to give women time, because nobody knows what they’re going to feel like when they have a baby. And nobody knows what their pregnancy is going to be like or their recovery from pregnancy is going to be like. Everybody is different, no matter how healthy you are, or unhealthy you are, it’s every single person is going to react differently. So I think that it’s it really has shed some light for me on how there needs to be some change in our society and system, in particular, in the US, we don’t give our women enough time. We don’t give our parents enough time, either, because the partner needs to help as well, because you’re also recovering from a very big event of giving birth. So I think that, yeah, it’s honestly highlighted some problems I see in our society. And it makes me excited to potentially help make a change, both from a government standpoint, but also just as a small business owner and making sure that we take care of our employees.
Sonya: There’s an organization you’re probably familiar with called And Mother. And I had, I’ll link it in the show notes. I had one of the founders on the podcast, but this I think that this space is a really a space, it’s starting to create change. There’s a lot more people putting their hand up and saying, wait a second, there’s something not right here. And it’s exciting, but it’s also hard, because change is slow. What are some things that you think need to happen in the near future that maybe people listening are like, I’m an activist about this, I want to take action, like what are some things you think people can do?
Carina: I think you can talk to your employer about more flexible maternity and paternity parental leave. I think that there’s data out there that shows even four months off versus three months shows that there’s a much higher retention of keeping a mother at the workforce. And it’s expensive to replace an employee and you don’t want to lose people. So I think that there’s ways that you can hopefully make change at your company. I recently became part of Let Kids Grow, which is a program in Vermont that is trying to create better childcare in the state of Vermont for in particular infants through to preschool, because it’s a really big problem. And if you can join groups and advocate through groups like that and be part of a bigger movement, you can make bigger change.
Sonya: Yeah, I need to check that out because where I live in Squamish, I mean, I’m sure that everyone listening is like, yeah, I have that problem, too. But it just seems like it’s everywhere. This is a huge problem for kids that aren’t school aged yet. And a lot of times, I guess this is stereotyping a little bit, but it seems like it always ends up falling on the women and even women who are working full time. During the pandemic, whenever everybody was working at home and kids had to be homeschooled, it still fell on the women.
Carina: Yeah, most of the time, it does. I mean, obviously there’s exceptions, but it does. I mean, it impacts women way more than it does men. And I think that you can see that even just through the stats of seeing how many women are in CEO positions for example.
Sonya: So this is me asking this not for a friend but for myself. How do you balance the idea of I’m running my business, I’m doing my recreational activities and my health activities and I also am spending enough quality time with my children. How do you approach that?
Carina: Yeah, I would love a good answer for this one too. It’s really not easy. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing. So like, I have put priority on my business and my kids at the moment, to be honest. I think that those are the two that I’ve picked and I’ve just decided that that’s going to be the way it is at the moment and I know it’s going to change in the near future. It’s a temporary period of my life where I’m not going to exercise the amount that I want to be exercising. And so I think that’s what’s worked for me is I just have to like set, these are my two top priorities. And the thing is, both of those are free myself too. I love running my business, I’m really proud of it. And I’m excited to continue working on it, and I want to grow it. And I obviously love my children, and I love spending time with them. So I’m still filling my own needs in many ways, but the main part of my…I’m a very active person, I love being active, but it is the thing that has fallen off for sure. And so I just have to know that that’s a temporary thing. And I’ll get that back in my life once my son starts sleeping.
Sonya: Oh my gosh. I love the honesty there because I think that a lot of times people will look at somebody like you or like me, and they say, well, that person is doing it all. And they’re doing it all really well, without realizing that that person is having to figure out what their priorities are. And maybe their priorities change over time, like you said, but it’s not like it’s easy all the time. It’s not like you’re perfectly balancing everything. It’s usually like a chaotic, I guess it’s a shitshow, at least for me it is. Yeah. And it’s not like oh, I’m so organized. Everything’s, it’s like no, you just do it. And my husband and I call it four-wheel drive. You’re just always in four-wheel drive. It’s not gonna be paved. You might not even see the road, but you just have to do it. And I like your big picture thinking of, I temporarily might have to put something on hold that is important to me, or to do less of it and I can come back to it later. So I also want to ask you personally, what it was like for you going from one to two children.
Carina: Also impossible. So our second baby, our son, he’s actually a much easier baby than our daughter was. But it’s like, at least two and a half times harder to have two kids, in my opinion. A lot of people tell me the opposite. They’re like, oh, the second is so much easier. But I really find I mean, it that that saying of one kid wakes up when the other falls asleep. Like I literally feel like that happens. And so I think that it goes from, you can take turns with your partner and they can go run and you can be at home with a sleeping baby. And then it turns into, okay, if you go for a run, I’m home with like, one screaming kid, and another one that’s about to wake up. And so yeah, it’s definitely hard. Really hard. I think it rocked our expectations more than our first did for sure.
Sonya: And how do you work on maintaining a state of calm in the chaos?
Carina: What I do is I just have to let things go. In particular, the house gets a mess…we could literally walk behind our children and pick things up. And so I think like, sometimes you just have to sit and be like, you know what, this is all good. Like, we’re gonna pick it up at the end of the day, and it will be okay. So I think just again, setting expectations and learning to let some things go has been very helpful for me.
Sonya: And I also want to ask what it’s like to run a business with your partner.
Carina: Yeah, a lot of people, I think it could go either way. You could yell at each other a lot more, or you could get closer. And for us, especially having two young kids, it’s really helpful. Because if there’s an emergency and when kid has to go get picked up, I kind of know how to do some of the emergency things that my husband has to get done by the end of the day, and same vice versa. So we also can share in each other’s stress in that I understand why he’s really stressed out. And he understands why I’m really stressed out. And so I think there’s a connection there that’s helpful, and that we can kind of live everything together and we understand it. Whereas sometimes I think you can look at the other person and you think, oh this can’t be as hard as they’re saying it is or this isn’t as stressful as they think. And then we kind of know, yep, it actually is. And so it’s also helpful because some days, you know, one of us has a hard day and can pick the other person up or can pick the company up. And so I think in many ways, that’s very helpful for us.
Sonya: And how do you feel about the risk of that because like you guys are both in the same business and for others are like well, I have one partner in one business, one partner in another. So if something happens then we have at least one person is over here. So how do you guys’ view that?
Carina: Yeah, I think if we had not had the footwear business prior to this, I think taking the risk on Bivo would have been a lot harder. I think we have a lot of good experience in our backgrounds and have seen a lot of different brands operate. It’s definitely risky and we both know that we are employable if something bad were to happen. But we fully believe in Bivo, and we are good at business. And so I think just moving forward with confidence is important. And that’s what we work towards.
Sonya: Yeah. So after I got my Bivo bottles, I had this drawer of just all these plastic water bottles that I’ve been saving over the years. And I did put them in a box and put them in the garage, because I still have a hard time imagining using my Bivo bottles in a race and then getting them lost. But you know, as a daily thing, I was so excited, because so many of us have had that experience where you open your bottle, and you see like the mold that has never actually coming out of there. And yeah, and for me, like I admit that sometimes it’s been there for a while. I can’t get rid of this. So yeah, like a lot of people that are into cycling and sports where you’d use a performance water bottle, really care about their health. Can you talk a little bit about the health benefits of using a Bivo stainless steel bottle?
Carina: Yeah, so one of the problems with plastic in general is that there actually is not really good data around the impact to your body. I think there’s a lot of studies out there showing that microplastics are showing up in different places that we never knew before, including baby blood, and human feces. And so it’s in our bodies, which is we don’t exactly know what that means, but it can’t be good, because it’s a chemical compound. And it’s just not great. So there’s that piece of it. There’s also the cleanability piece. So the mold buildup is something that’s really hard to get out of plastic bottles. And we chose stainless steel, because they are so easy to keep clean. They’re also dishwasher safe. And then we also did food grade silicone components where your teeth touch, so the nozzle, and then we also have a straw in there that events, air into that touches the water. And so food grade silicone is used for baking, and it’s an inert material. So that’s also good, because you won’t be getting exposed to anything bad through those.
Sonya: And you guys are also a carbon neutral company.
Carina: We are yep, yep, that’s right. Yeah. So we track everything from our manufacturing to shipping our product over to our office expenditures, and all operating things.
Sonya: And I take a lot of responsibility to make that decision. And are you losing profitability or income by being a carbon neutral company?
Carina: So we are carbon neutral. And we also try and make the best decisions in terms of where we manufacture, for instance, our boxes compared to our factory and how close to the port they are. So that because like the boats are the best then train, then truck, then air. And so basically, we try to make the decisions that allow us to have the least amount of impact no matter what piece of the business we’re doing. But yeah, we definitely we put money towards offsetting our carbon and those go to, right now we have it going towards a water filtration system in Cambodia. So it’s providing water filters for families where normally they’d have to heat up their water, usually using wood or other materials to burn within the home. And so it’s putting bad things into the home themselves. And it takes a lot of time. And still people are getting sick. So this saves a lot of money and time for people. And so we’re working with the gold standard. And that’s what our money goes towards.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that a lot of times people think about big problems, right? Like the environment is a big problem. And they feel like there’s nothing I can do. I’m just a drop in the ocean. But really, we can vote with our dollar and businesses like yours are making a difference. And being able to work as a business, work towards this solution, and as a consumer saying, I’m going to make responsible decisions with my dollar. There’s a lot of good feeling and power that comes with that in a world where you might feel like you can’t make a difference.
Carina: Yeah, absolutely. And I think another piece that we’ve really focused on is our chemical testing process. So all products that come in from overseas have to get tested as they come in. And in the US specifically, we have standards through the FDA. And then prop 65 is the California standard. And so you’re testing for things like lead and phthalates and cadmium, different chemicals that can be found in the manufacturing process. And the standards within the US are quite, in my opinion, insufficient. Going back to having young kids like they put their mouths on everything. And it kind of puts it in perspective, like you see them put stuff in their mouths, and you want to make sure that you’re giving them products that are healthy for them. And so we’ve actually opted to do European standards, as well as a few different voluntary tests. And so there’s definitely retailers, more in Europe than in the US, that are pushing for brands to make changes in their chemical testing process. And so I think that there’s ways as brands that can do this, too, it’s like you can make an impact with your dollar as a consumer. And then also those brands that you’re supporting can make the right decisions as well, because we spend a lot more money on our chemical, like we spend over nine times more than we have to on our chemical testing.
Sonya: And another thing that is really cool about the bottles is whenever we first met, we were telling me about the flow rate, and that that was a problem that had to be solved. And my understanding is that you have a former NASA engineer that’s been working on these bottles. And I mean, I want to hear about the technology. But I first just want to say that the flow rate of these bottles is way better than a plastic bottle. And the first time I took a drink on a ride, I was like, wow, I can get so much more drink, more water, more goo mix, into my mouth in a short period of time.
Carina: Yeah, yeah, our goal was we knew that, so being a performance athlete, myself, I knew that in order for the consumer to adopt it, it had to perform as good as or better than plastic. And so our big goal when we started, that was like probably the number one question when we started talking to people about our bottle idea. We started talking really early on with different contacts about making a metal cycling bottle. And so that was probably one of our top questions, well, how are you going to get the water out. And so we knew that we had to focus on it. And we did put…we spent about 18 months developing the nozzle. And we knew it had to be simple and fast. And so we wanted to be able to empty it in 10 seconds, a 21-ounce bottle in 10 seconds, which is about how fast you can squeeze a plastic bottle, and we ended up doing it, it can pour in about eight and a half seconds. And then we worked with the former NASA engineer we worked with, he’s a Vermonter. And he helped us figure out exactly how to make it fast and simple. And that was something that we like kept coming back to because we could come up with super complex ideas of how to make water pour quickly. But ultimately, we wanted people to be able to drink with one hand, and it had to be easy to clean because that was another major pain point we found during customer surveys.
Sonya: Yeah, overthinking and over engineering on products is probably something that you’ve seen a lot of.
Carina: Yes, for sure. Yep.
Sonya: So you got into cycling after your ski career. Can you tell us about your relationship with cycling?
Carina: Yeah. So I got a bike the year after I graduated college. I had ridden mountain bike summon in high school. So I actually went to Burke Mountain academy after I lived in Norway. And Burke now is in the Northeast Kingdom and is quite famous now for mountain biking. Back then, it wasn’t quite as famous and I had a pretty terrible mountain bike. And to be totally honest, I didn’t really love it. And then after college, I got my first road bike and I just wanted something besides… so I roller skied a lot in my whole life. Roller skis are short, little skis that have wheels on them that attach to your nordic ski boots. And so you go on the pavement with them and it’s as close as you can get to skiing on the in the off seasons. And so I didn’t really want to roller ski anymore. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite activity, and I wanted something that wasn’t hard on the body like running. So I got into riding and a lot of people tried to convince me to recycle cross. And I like vowed that I would never race the bike. And I wanted to do that just because I wanted it to be fun and I didn’t want to turn it into a competition for myself, because naturally, I think my competitive nature, I would do that. And so I just decided that it was going to be something that I use as pure entertainment. And yeah, I mostly gravel ride now.
Sonya: Yeah, from my understanding, there’s a lot of really awesome gravel riding in Vermont.
Carina: It’s so good. Yeah, there’s more dirt roads in the state of Vermont than paved.
Sonya: Wow. Well, you said that you didn’t want to do competition because you wanted to keep it fun. Is that something that you still are on that train?
Carina: Yeah, I did some running races after ski racing. And I did love that. But yeah, I just wanted to have fun on the bike, I didn’t want to, I wanted to make sure I didn’t turn it into a competitive thing for myself.
Sonya: I think this is an interesting topic. It’s kind of a side topic a little bit. But there’s a lot of people who do sport, but they do not want to compete for a number of different reasons. And cycling is a sport where there’s not a ton of female competitors relative to the number of male competitors. And that’s something that I think about a lot is why do women not want to race and respecting whatever decision that people make, and trying to understand all of the different reasons why and also making sure that the reasons why are truly because they don’t want to do it, versus they don’t believe that they can do it.
Carina: Yeah, for me, it really was, I think I had pressure to be good. A lot of people say that Nordic skiers make really good cyclocross racers. And I just didn’t want that pressure. Like I had just made the decision to stop ski racing. And so I didn’t want the pressure to become a really good cyclocross racer. I felt that pressure even without attempting to race and so I think if I had raced, I would have felt even more so. So that genuinely is why I have always said that I wouldn’t race a bike. I think probably if I had been introduced to the sport 10 years after I’d given up ski racing, maybe I would feel differently, but it was so closely connected to my ski career, that I just wanted to give myself some space.
Sonya: There’s also a level of commitment, whenever you do decide to do something competitively. There’s like the structure training piece and the consistency piece. And always analyzing how you’re doing like, it does become very heady. And that can take away from the fun of it, especially when you’re coming to a sport saying, hey, I’m just getting away from this, like, super structured competitive thing. I just want to go have fun and appreciate being outside. And there is a lot of pressure that can come with that. So how do you take all of these lessons that we’ve been talking about, curiosity, exploration, going after the thing that you want to go after – how do you apply that to your parenting so far?
Carina: Yeah, parenting is an interesting one, because I was worried I would want my kids to be competitive. And I’m finding almost the opposite, where I’m like, not wanting to push them into a sport or into even… like my daughter did a running race at her school last year, it was just like a school wide thing. And on the way to it, she was nervous. And I was so surprised, because I’ve never really talked about being competitive with her. And she was kind of shy at the start. And so I think it was a good reminder that just follow their lead. And that’s kind of what I do with them. My daughter is, my son is only one so I don’t really know who he is going to be yet, but my daughter is like this very flamboyant, loves singing and dancing, acting. And I just let her do what she wants. And I ask her, she loves being active, she loves being outside, and she’s super active, but I always just kind of take her lead on what she wants to do. And sometimes she needs a little pushing to get out door like all kids do. But I think that’s the most important is just respect what they want to do. And I think that that lets her curiosity take her where she wants to go.
Sonya: That kind of comes back to that autonomy piece that your parents gave you. And certainly you’re much older but it sounds like that you’re really applying that even now.
Carina: Yeah, yeah, it’s fun to see what she gravitates towards. And it’s like always a surprise because you think they’re going to be a little yous and they’re not.
Sonya: I guess I just have one last question. It’s about, what is your vision with Bivo?
Carina: I want to create a place…one of our taglines is fuel more fun. So I want to make sure that people who are using our bottles or people who work with us are encouraged to have fun while doing a sport. And I want it to be inclusive for all types of people, people who have never ridden a bike before, people who have written for 60 years. I want to make sure that it’s not an exclusive brand. I think that often performance brands are… they’re intimidating to people. And so I’m trying to make sure that it that it’s a welcoming environment. And then I want to be a big part of the community here. Vermont is a really special state. And cycling is a really special community. And so I want to make sure that we’re definitely part of the community here in a positive way. And then from a bigger business standpoint, I want to grow into a variety of sports. So I don’t want to just stay in cycling. I think there’s a lot of opportunity outside of it than running, hike and gym sports and all in all sorts. And so I want to make sure that I can expand it into all performance activities.
Sonya: That’s super exciting. And it’s going to be fun to watch this grow. And yeah, hopefully I can help be a part of it somehow.
Carina: Yeah, thank you. Well, where can people find you? And where can people find Bivo so that they can check it out?
Carina: Yeah, so you can go to drinkbivo.com And you can follow us at us @drinkbivo. And then if you want to reach me I’m just Carina@drinkbivo.com.
Sonya: All right. Well, thanks so much.
Carina: Thank you, Sonya.