PROFILES in businesshealth® – Cupanion
Matt Wittek, Director Cupanion®
bh in Brief
Cupanion®, located in Guelph, Ontario, manufactures a variety of reusable beverage containers, from basic water bottles to insulated steel coffee mugs. The company started with one product in 2009 and is now a multi-million-dollar business with clients across Canada and in the US, including the tech giant Intel. Cupanion is a Certified B Corporation.
“I believe that our team’s passion and commitment are rooted in doing meaningful work with people that you respect.”
Bridgeman, Troy. 2017, December 17. Learning lessons from leaders. Guelph Today.
Saxon, Tony. 2017, December 14. Guelph company takes reuseable drink containers to a whole other level. Guelph Today.
What are the ingredients for success in 2018 and beyond? Can employers maintain corporate values in an age of technology? How can the manufacture of an object like a water bottle be transformed into a multi-million-dollar business that is remarkable as much for its values and high-tech innovation as its products?
Cupanion manufactures a variety of reusable beverage containers, from basic water bottles to insulated steel coffee mugs. What sets Cupanion apart from other companies are its environmental focus that extends to international philanthropy, its innovative use of technology, and its ability to engage purchasers on a personal level.
Cupanion was founded by Matt Wittek who became an entrepreneur at age 32 and has directed the business ever since. What is interesting about Wittek’s description of his company and his goals is that it is less about the characteristics of the containers they make – although they are of excellent, high quality – and more about the philosophy behind the business and the people who will use its products. Even with its focus on ideas and people, however, Cupanion’s success may largely be due to its use of technology, not as a dehumanizing factor but as a way to connect with people.
To find out more, bh asked Wittek to reply to some questions:
What values stand behind Cupanion? Why are they important?
We make reusable products because of our belief in the importance of the environment and the need to support long-term sustainability for our planet. We want people to be motivated to reuse on a regular basis and be mindful of those who do not have the resources we enjoy. To help our customers become more aware of the importance of conservation and recycling we have used technology to associate the purchase and use of our products with Water Aid, an international non-profit organization that provides clean water in underdeveloped parts of the world. Through Water Aid and our Fill it Forward initiative, we have donated the equivalent of over 3 million cups of clean water to initiatives around the world.
How has technology supported your values?
Technology supports values at Cupanion in a unique, practical way that is unrelated to how the company operates even as it distinguishes it from others. What sets us apart is the technology that integrates our products and allows them to come to life and tell a story around reuse.” Instead of saying the company exists to make a record number of containers or a specific amount of money, we want to inspire people to reuse. That’s why we exist. It’s why we do what we do.
Here’s how it works: A tag is attached to each Cupanion product. Each time they refill a container, users scan the tag using a special Cupanion app that lets them know how much their use has contributed to a Water Aid project and tracks the effects of their choice on the environment. People not using the product can participate by obtaining a special sticker from the company to use with the app. Through the app, technology makes the effect of using a Cupanion product measurable and, therefore, more impactful. By creating an experience around reuse, more people are motivated to reuse on a regular basis.
What is the impact on your employees?
We have created a culture at our company that continues to excite and inspire me each day. We encourage our employees to think of themselves as members of our team. It’s incredibly rewarding to lead a team that is committed to advancing our mission, making a difference in the world, and working tirelessly to improve themselves and the company. I believe that our team’s passion and commitment are rooted in doing meaningful work with people that you respect.
The culture that has emerged has been very organic and intuitive as we have grown. Along the way we have simply tried to do what feels right and just. For us, it’s that simple. We are open, transparent, giving, respectful, and very supportive of one another every step of the way.
All of these things are rooted in our mission as a company. We exist to help people and the planet. And the mission starts with each other when we walk into the office each day.
The takeaway for employers
Trends for 2018 suggest that technology will play an even greater role in business in the future. At the same time, research suggests that employees, especially millennials, value human experience, often over profit, and are concerned about the environment and the welfare of others. Cupanion’s success shows that the two, apparently contradictory trends, can be brought together to strengthen each other. Innovative employers, therefore, can promote their values and inspire their employees and customers while taking full advantage of the latest technology. A win-win situation that bodes well for the future. bh