Brian Hock of Simple Hydration
Meet Brian Hock, founder of Simple Hydration
, an innovative take on water bottles.
What is Simple Hydration?
It's a simple way to take hydration on the go. Our innovative hook-shaped Simple Hydration Water Bottle slides into a runner's waistband, race belt or pocket. The bottle holds 13 fluid ounces of liquid, and is pretty much ideal for any run or distance. It's perfect for runners just starting out or seasoned runners that use them for marathons or 100-mile ultra races and just refill them at aid stations along the course.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was training for the 2010 Louisville Ironman Triathlon by doing a mid-day 20-mile training run in the sweltering Cincinnati July heat and thought their had to be a better way to carry hydration. I wasn't liking that I had to use a hydration belt because it moved around, was bulky and caused chaffing. I also don't like to carry water bottles because it inhibits your natural running form and will cause your arms to fatigue. I first used a regular Aquafina bottle tucked in my shorts by pushing out some air to create an indentation. That worked okay, but I realized it needed a hook for the bottle to stay in place and not move around. About a month after I completed the Louisville Ironman, I then created my first prototype and tested it in early 2011.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The Simple Hydration business is unique in that I'm building it on top of my existing design business, Brian Hock Design
. I started Brian Hock Design in 2003 as a design and marketing services company primarily serving business-to-business clients. The Simple Hydration Water Bottle is my first consumer product, so I decided to try something new as far as bringing it to market. I used the crowd funding site Kickstarter.com to raise the capital I needed for the bottle mold, initial production, shipping and some marketing costs. This funding approach also allowed me to test my idea and see if people liked the product and were willing to back it by pre-ordering the bottle. I raised over $21,000, and brought it to market in September 2011. The fact that I was able to raise that initial funding in this manner not only surprised me, but I hope it demonstrates to others that anyone with a good idea can bring a product to market without having to go through traditional venture funding channels.
Where did you find your first employee?
The first and hopefully last employee is me. I've had employees with Brian Hock Design, but I am really trying to keep Simple Hydration as lean as possible and rely on quality vendors, distributors and partners to help me grow the business. I will certainly bring on employees when the time is right and will tap my extensive list of contacts and networks for the proper fit.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
Because I have distributors in France, Netherlands, Israel, Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Canada and Australia, I always try to make myself available at any time. So usually in the mornings I will send emails or reply to emails along with checking my news and social feeds to see if anyone has posted anything on Simple Hydration. It's critical with a growing brand to respond to all customer or news posts as fast as possible. I then head to my office in Mariemont, located about eight miles east of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Once in the office I usually split my time between Brian Hock Design and Simple Hydration, although Simple Hydration is starting to demand more of it lately. Most all of my time with Simple Hydration is spent on the marketing side. I put together press releases, post content to Facebook and Twitter, or work on print and support collateral. This week it has been a poster for my distributors, editing a new promotional video and working on a new product. I always go for a run at the end of the day to think about Simple Hydration and how I can improve the product or expand it. I'm also one of those individuals that doesn't need much sleep, so I'm always online again after my kids go to sleep to respond and reply to customers, distributors and check the social media again.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Working in a city like Cincinnati, I have access to great talent and vendors in this region. I'm also a Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce
member and they have wonderful programs for my business from networking to CEO roundtables. Cincinnati is a great place to raise a family and has a wonderful running community, which benefits my Simple Hydration business. I should also note that Ohio has some excellent specialty running retailers like Bob Roncker's Running Spot, Buckeye Running Company, Fleet Feet Sports, Cleveland Running Company and the Vertical Runner to name a few.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I'm a graduate of Bowling Green State University
and one of my classmates started a web development company in Toledo called Spoke
that I tapped for the SimpleHydration.com web site development and e-commerce component in late 2011. Metzgers
, also a Toldeo company, handles all order fulfillment from our web site. I use Synergy Displays
in Cincinnati for some of the trade show display work and Hamilton Graphics
for some of the print work.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I exhibited the Simple Hydration Water Bottle at the 2011 Chicago Marathon Expo, the first expo since launching the product and my first chance to interact in person with potential customers. I would show or explain the product to them and many of the runners would say, "That's my idea. I thought of doing something like that." Or they would say, "That's genius." It was a very satisfying and amazing event.
What inspires you?
Being a creative person, I love to watch my kids and see how they draw and interpret things or how they tell stories. It's that ability to just flow with something and not worry about the outcome. So both of my kids inspire me.
What founders do you admire and why?
It's easy to pick someone like a Richard Branson or Mark Cuban because of their fame and obvious success. I admire my uncle Gerry Hock for starting Package & Product Testing. He quit a very good job at then Dayton-based NCR in the 1980s and took out a sizable loan to start his business. The business is now headquartered in Fairfield, Ohio and they have a top-tier client list of Fortune 500 companies. Gerry is an honorable and good man, and if I can conduct and run my business the way he has over the years I know, I'll be successful.
What's next for you?
Right now I am very focused on building the Simple Hydration business. It's very easy as an idea person or entrepreneur to start or pursue another idea but I see the value in this business and won't be satisfied until Simple Hydration is considered one of the top brands in running hydration.
Interview by Joe Baur