By Leia Mendoza
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
PUBLISHED TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2011 AT 1:00 AM / UPDATED AT 10:10 PM
Jillian Craig was living in the Czech Republic and working as an English teacher when she realized her dream career would be to return to the States and design her own line of fashionable and reusable glass water bottles.
The concept came to the 29-year-old Hastings, Neb., native in 2008 after seeing how Europeans preferred to drink out of glass. Craig also recognized the concern over chemicals leaching from some plastic bottles and the drawbacks of taste-changing aluminum bottles. She wanted to offer an alternative that was eco-friendly and "much more fashionable."
Making it happen wasn't so easy.
"It took me 2½ years to bring it to life," said Craig, president of Rivé LLC. "It was very difficult. It probably took me twice as long as it would for someone with business experience."
Craig, who has bachelor's degrees in English and communications from Nebraska Wesleyan University, had to learn quickly and ask a lot of questions. She sketched designs on napkins, researched the market and wrote a business plan.
She searched for resources who could make her product and researched how much it would cost. She made phone calls and thought about where she would sell it. She received a design patent (one custom hourglass shape can't be copied) and trademark and had to decipher and understand 20-page legal contracts. And that was all new to her.
"You have to find someone in the industry or in the area that you can talk to," she said. "You have to reach out to as many professional contacts as possible to get advice and network."
The company is based in Hastings, where Craig comes up with the design and color schemes and overall look for every bottle before they are designed, engineered, decorated and assembled in Chicago. The glass comes from several countries, including Mexico and China.
Craig said she's thankful for Tom Kosiba, the company's national sales manager in Chicago and a veteran in the glass and housewares industries.
Craig's company began selling three styles of the glass water bottles in a variety of sizes, colors and designs in April. She expects to sell 60,000 bottles by the end of the year. They retail for $20 to $25 each.
In December, she plans to begin selling silicone wraps for the bottles to make them more durable.
The bottles can be purchased in Omaha at the Afternoon at Westroads Mall and Midtown Crossing and at A Perfect Gift in Hastings. Online they're at the company's website, riveusa.com, Wayfair.com and Amazon.com. Craig's products even received national exposure Monday when they were featured on the TV and online retailer ShopNBC. They've also been featured at Hayneedle's the Foundary site, and Craig is in talks with a few national retail chains.
It's been an exciting and rewarding journey for Craig, especially when she sees people enjoying her product.
"I was recently sitting at a cafe in Omaha, and a lady walked in with my bottle," she said. "It was so fulfilling to see someone that wasn't my family or friends and has my bottle. I'm very excited for our future. We are just starting off, but I'm very confident we have a place in the market."
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Rivé sells three styles of glass water bottles in a variety of sizes, colors and designs. They retail for $20 to $25 each.
Jillian Craig, a native of Hastings, Neb., took a cue from Europeans for her reusable glass bottles.