Meet the young entrepreneur tackling “smelly” bottles with a new break-in-the-middle design

Jonathan Cottom has set his business up in Hackney

Jonathan Cottom has set his business up in Hackney - Credit: Perspective Pictures

Walk into a school or university nowadays and you will see water bottles standing proud on most desks in classrooms and libraries. 

As we grow more and more conscious of the impact of plastic pollution on our environment, most of us opt for reusable bottles, from the elite stainless steel models to the run-of-the-mill harder plastic ones. 

Yet there comes a point when your reusable bottle starts to smell from repeated use and a lack of sufficient cleaning. Cautioned against putting it in the dishwasher, the bottles may then be cast aside and replaced as their owners struggle to clean them by hand, leading to more waste.

The bottle is designed to be easy to clean

The bottle is designed to be easy to clean - Credit: Perspective Pictures

Hackney-based entrepreneur Jonathan Cottom, 28, felt the time had come to stop this cycle and design a new bottle which would be easy to clean when he found himself on endless online forums on the best way to clean his "smelly" bottle at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I was reading into the best ways of getting rid of the smell - people suggested adding vinegar or bicarbonate of soda and boiling water. It seemed bizarre - you wouldn’t clean a glass or mug like this. Why do we need a complex potion to clean our bottle?”

Cottom’s new bottle design - released on Kickstart in late October - is similar to previous stainless steel models that keep water cold, but its unique key difference is that it unscrews in the middle for easier cleaning and can be put in the dishwasher. Hence the name “Breakbottle”.

Born in St Helen’s in Merseyside, Cottom studied mathematics in Manchester before becoming an accountant. But the entrepreneurial spirit existed within him since childhood.

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“My dad had a pie and sausage-making business he inherited from his dad up north. So I always felt there was an entrepreneurial bone in me.”

Cottom started working on Breakbottle in April 2020 and went to get free intellectual property advice from the government, wherein he was put in touch with a few designers and won a grant through the Innovate UK Young Innovator’s Award. 

The project got off the ground via a Kickstart scheme

The project got off the ground via a Kickstart scheme - Credit: Perspective Pictures

He then advertised the idea by making his own website, Facebook ads and Instagram, as well as promoting it on Islington and Hackney streets and around King’s Cross. 

“I loved chatting to people - a lot of them walked by me, but it was so nice seeing some of them stop and get excited about my concept.”

After launching his Kickstart on October 25, he reached his target of £15,000 within four days and has now raised more than £25,000.

Once the campaign ends on November 24 his manufacturers will start creating thousands of the bottles - they will then be released in the summer and Cottom will start promoting them to various local retail businesses.

“I was absolutely buzzing when I reached the target - I felt so proud of my extended network of family and friends who had boosted the idea with me.”

Cottom has also united with London-based water charity Pump-aid, which trains local water entrepreneurs in Malawi on how to build and maintain water pumps.

Asked what advice he would give to young entrepreneurs, Cottom said: “Just go ahead and do it - so many people have ideas on their phone notes that they never execute. 

“But make sure to do market research, which Kickstart is so useful for, because there’s no point in making a product nobody wants. 

“Always trust your gut too - if you ever have a doubt or feeling when running your business, listen to it and address it.”

Cottom also advised young entrepreneurs to take advantage of the free Intellectual Property advice service through the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and to look at Innovate UK’s Young Innovator’s Awards for funding when starting on a new business concept. 

Break bottle’s kickstarter campaign can be found online at www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonnycottom/breakbottle
and on its website https://break-bottle.com 


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