Creating a an easy-to-clean, easy-to-sip, and no parts to lose, sippy cup is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life!
Why is it so hard to create a product? Well…having to figure out everything on my own is very painful….as you go through tons of trials and experiences flying solo. Rarely anyone in the industry can give you a reassuring (let alone confirm) answer on anything because everything is theory until it’s tested. Also, manufacturing guidance is not as readily available in the US as in China or other third world countries. Many plastic manufacturers were closing their doors after the financial collapsed in 2009 which made it even harder. Finding a good manufacturer in Southern California was very difficult for me because the sippy cup parts need to fit perfectly together to seal the liquid inside and achieve an easy flow for babies to drink form easily. Most traditional sippy cups have very little flow and the baby must use their jaw to really suck hard to get any liquid. After sucking a while their jaws get sore (you can try it yourself to see) and maybe that’s why many toddlers (mine too) end up throwing their sippy cups on the floor or across the room out of frustration.
Additionally, most of the plastic molders we tried were hard to work with and couldn’t find the balance between easy flow and leak resistance. Finally we found an excellent molder in Riverside, California and I must say they are the best. They have been around since the 70’s and have tons of experience with molding plastic parts and quality control. They say the fourth time is a charm – or was that the third….
Although we manufacture our sippy cups and parts here in California, the tools for manufacturing were built in China because it’s cost prohibitive in the US. Building the tools in America would’ve cost us at least 100K or more but in China it’s half the cost. The nightmare started with building the tools in China as they needed a lot of finish work when they arrived in the US. We went through about a dozen rounds of tweaking the tools to get it right and at least 50 prototypes….and four plastic molding manufacturers before we found our current molder.
The first dozen prototypes from Mold Maker in China (the factory that built our tools) were pretty ugly and non functional – the cups leaked everywhere. One engineer told me it would be impossible to have a water tighten spout with an easy flow design. After going back and forth a dozen times we brought our tools back to the U.S.A. for additional testing and final adjustments/rework. We went through many daunting rounds of testing the tools and prototypes with the engineers for many years (chasing our tails). I either cried everyday or almost gave up. They measured the parts against the blue print, checked tolerances, how they function, etc. and made changes on the tools. After the tools were tweaked which took up to a month or longer they ran new parts. I’m thinking that it took so long because I really wasn’t a viable business as yet and they didn’t really take me seriously. We went through this process over and over again until we achieved acceptable results before production. This went on for years and years, prompting our move to several different plastic manufacturers because we weren’t getting to where we wanted to be as quickly as we wanted.
Our current manufacturer is really top notch at trouble shooting things like leaks in a cup and getting the parts close to the blue print tolerance levels. Molding the small elastomer parts for the spout/air valve was a challenge before we met Mike in Riverside. The parts either stuck to the tools like gum or had too much flash. Mike resolved all those issues with the first mold trial and with success we got beautiful parts that work. Another amazing thing is their competitive price they offer compared to other molders in Southern California. It would’ve been impossible to make these sippy cups in America without charging over $20 but Mike made it possible. Yes, they cost more than the sippy cups from China but worth every dollar because it all recycles back in our economy and the quality can’t be beaten. Babies can sip easily and moms can have more ease + fun without fussing over lost parts and cleaning. We think that’s a fabulous win/win deal for everyone.
I learned everything is possible when you have faith. I was told so many times it was impossible to do this project but I saw it to production. My next goal is to get invited on Shark Tank and a feature about Poli sippy cups made here in the US on a major news station. This is important because it will create more jobs for people here in Riverside.. Currently, they only operate 4 days a week to save money as they don’t nearly get enough work as they did in the 80’s. America can’t afford to lose more factories. When we lose a factory we have lost a lot of valuable resources such as seasoned molders with years of experience going back over 30 years. We just don’t have enough experience molders to train young people today. Let’s support our economy and American jobs by buying more goods made here at home instead of overseas. Yes, they cost more but worth it for so many good reasons.