BERT BALAS & THE STRAW
Bert Balas is a Barrie, Ontario resident who has created the globe’s top-selling reusable straw. Bert‘s passion has always been to help save the planet and keep people healthy/safe, and with The Straw, he does just that. The product allows restaurants and people to stop using wasteful plastics and instead have their own straw with them wherever they go, that only they have touched/cleaned! Plus, it’s the first reusable straw that has its carrying case that also doubles as a cleaning device with water or mouthwash. The company also recently partnered with PETA across North America to help save the planet one straw at a time!
Q 1) What was the inspiration behind the founding of The Straw? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?
Respect and appreciation for nature are probably one of the biggest sources of inspiration. When you see so much litter in city streets, on beaches and nature trails, you just have to start somewhere. With 500 million single-use plastic straws used every day in America alone, we hope to provide a high-quality alternative to people around the world. The ultimate goal is to inspire a sustainable future. Upgrading from single-use straws to our premium, portable, reusable straw will hopefully lead to other environmentally friendly choices and inspire others to follow suit. This is a personal everyday item that provides value and a sense of accomplishment when contributing to the solution rather than pollution. There is no need to go back in time to the 60-year-old technology of single-use paper straws. They taste terrible and become soggy when wet. This is one of the problems the single-use plastic straw solved in the first place. Paper straws also contribute to environmental pollution, with the need for continuous mass production to fulfill large demand on a daily basis. This requires resources such as paper from trees, manufacturing, packaging, and transportation around the clock! Again, that’s 500 million single-use straws in a single day in just one part of the world. That is why we invite people to a more sophisticated, sustainable solution.
Q 2) What strategies did you use that contributed towards the success of getting your product produced and now sold across Canada?
Persistence and adaptability are at the heart of our strategies for success. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Persevere through the challenging moment and be prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice when the strategy isn’t working, plans change and challenges present themselves. Our strategy is much like our product and service, with continuous improvement by design as somewhat of a mantra, we are constantly changing and adapting to stay relevant, improve, and provide value.
Q 3) You have done some incredible partnerships so far, including one with PETA worldwide. Why is giving back so important to you?
If you’re in business strictly to make money, 9 times out of 10 you will not succeed. To me, business is all about giving back and providing value to people in one way or another. Rick Rigsby, a best selling author had an inspiring speech on Youtube – The Wisdom of A 3rd Grade Dropout, where he says, “Make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.” This is a fantastic perspective to have when building a business. Give back, pay it forward, and together we can make the world a better place.
Q 4) Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur and what methods you used to overcome these challenges?
One of the biggest challenges anyone will face as an entrepreneur is a failure. When faced with failure, we must remember that we are one step closer to success. As mentioned before, this is when we persevere and adapt, leading into the next chapter for success. There will always be challenges and obstacles to overcome in life, these challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures are not what define us. How we respond, move forward, and overcome the challenges at these moments is what really defines who we are. With this understanding, any challenge can be overcome. Use every challenge as an opportunity to grow and become the best version of yourself.
Q 5) What can you tell us about The Straw’s marketing strategy? How are you promoting the brand?
Our marketing strategy is of course another aspect of continuous improvement by design. An important task for us being in the reusable straw market today is educating people as to why they should use our product and how it can improve their lives and the world as a whole. To spread the word, we currently focus the majority of our marketing efforts in two places.
- With an amazing public relations firm (ZTPR) who does a tremendous job of getting our story out to the media.
- Advertising on social media platforms.
If you own a business and you have not adapted to the new age of technology, I strongly urge you to reconsider this opportunity and start now. This form of advertising will definitely continue to change over time, but right now is an opportunity to advertise to the masses on these platforms at a reasonable price. This will not likely be true forever. It won’t be long before big corporations jump on the bandwagon and start throwing multi-million dollar advertising budgets into the mix. This will surely increase customer acquisition costs.
Q 6) What does the future of The Straw look like? Where do you see it heading 10 years from now?
The Straw will be around for many years to come. As single-use plastic straws are banned across the globe and paper straws are offered at some restaurants, most who enjoy using a straw will adopt the evolution of a portable reusable straw. This is a personal, everyday item that many people will not leave home without. The Straw will be the household name of portable reusable straws like Kleenex is to tissues. Over the years we will continuously improve our product, based on reviews and needs of people. The straw has been a part of human history for thousands of years and is not going anywhere any time soon. With a population of nearly 8 billion people, we simply need to change the way in which we do it.