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How I built one of the fastest growing startups in the country — without outside investors

Source | LinkedIn : By Sarah Kauss

While I know S’well has been growing at an accelerated pace, I was delightfully surprised  my company made the top of the Women Presidents’ Organization’s (WPO) annual ranking of the fastest-growing, women-owned businesses in the United States.

Growth – personal, financial, career or otherwise – has always been an integral driver in my life. I consistently search for new ways to expand my experience and knowledge to stay in a perpetual place of forward motion (sometimes to a fault since this leaves very little time for sleep!!). This state of being has become second nature so, even though I’m journaling daily about the business, I’m not always diving deep into the reasons some activities drive more growth than others.

With this latest accolade, I couldn’t help but take a moment to reflect on what helped S’well get to where it is so quickly in five years. We’ve gone from a company of one to a global organization with more than 40 team members, brought on major partners like Starbucks and diversified the line of S’well bottles – not to mention experienced 500% year-over-year growth for the last two years.

What is it that we’ve done right to receive such recognition?

For me, the foundation of any company is its team. You have to know (or at least figure out by trial and error) what experience you need and when to bring it in. For the first couple of years, the team was me, working out of my apartment, getting the business off the ground with a mix of passion, financial expertise and sheer gumption. In 2012, I brought in my first teammate to help with communications, marketing and sales –  to help expand our presence in-store, online and with influencers. Together, we further defined our business needs to forge a larger path forward. I eventually brought others on board to ensure we were staying ahead of the creative curve, adjusting to manufacturing and production needs and remaining financially responsible.

I approached building my team conservatively, hiring people who were passionate about our mission, understood our vision and were capable of wearing multiple hats. Not only were we building a team of S’well believers, but also a diverse team of complementary skills that could do more, with fewer bodies. This allowed us to shape the team smartly, not necessarily rapidly, with a long-term vision of sustainable growth in mind.

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