Name: Jake Elliott-Hook and Amee Ritchie

Age: 23 and 21 respectively.

What is your business called?


Where is it based?

East Lothian.

What does it produce?

S’wheat produces eco-friendly water bottles made from waste plant material that would have otherwise been burnt or gone to waste. The S’wheat bottle is made from bamboo and wheat straw allowing it to be naturally anti-bacterial. It has been carefully engineered to open at both ends of the bottle allowing for easy cleaning.

We came up with S’wheat when we began to notice the growing concern for plastic pollution. We weren’t happy with the current choices for water bottles being plastic, steel and glass, as all of those take thousands of years to biodegrade. The main reason many individuals throw their bottles away is because they can’t clean them properly, so we knew when making the S’wheat bottle that it had to be both easy to clean and be able to break down once in landfill.

To whom does it sell?

Consumers of all ages in the UK online through our website and selected retailers.

What is its turnover?

We are projecting turnover of £250,000 by the end of 2020.

How many employees?

There are just three of us so far including our intern An Fan.

When was it formed?

We had the idea for S’wheat two years ago when we in our last year of study at Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh College. The company begun trading over the last three months.

Why did you take the plunge?

We noticed the damage that plastics had on our environment and thought we could find a way we could help reduce this problem. At the time we didn’t have any reason not to give it a try. We were in our last year of education with lots of spare time (that probably should have been spent studying) so decided to give it our best shot.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I studied Psychology at Queen Margaret University, while Amee studied to be a lecturer at Edinburgh College. After we graduated we started working full time on S’wheat.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We used a platform called Crowdfunder to sell our bottle through pre-sales. In the first 10 days we hit our target of £10,000 and by the end of the month we sold £16,500 worth of S’wheat Bottles, it was incredible to have the support of everyone buying our product. This provided us with the funds to create the first batch of product and helped start our journey.

We also won £15,000 Scottish Edge funding and have had £1,000 support from The Hunter Foundation.

Unltd, which supports social entrepreneurs, awarded us £5,000.

Barclays Bank provided support when we were developing the product.

What was your biggest break?

We had the opportunity to go on a prime time show on Channel 4 and got to pitch the product. This created great publicity and the support we had from everyone was incredible. It was also the most terrifying experience of my life. All the judges represent different retailers but we secured 2,500 orders from the show from Lakeland, Amazon Launch Pad and JML distributors. In the first two hours of the show going live we had £20,000 in orders.

Through our membership of its Business Innovation Zone, Queen Margaret University has provided us with access to space (which we use for hot desking and meetings with clients) business support and mentoring. The university’s business development manager encouraged us to apply for Scottish Edge Funding.

What was your worst moment?

Trying to get grant funding to start up. We were living off our student loans and found everything so expensive – trademarks, patents, branding, packaging. We had to do a lot of it ourselves. We had no track record and were pretty young.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Running a business has allowed us to be creative and to try new ideas and concepts. We never outsource any work. A lot of people we know tend to pay a company to do their branding/packaging etc but we prefer to learn the skills our self.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want S’wheat to become the household brand for eco-friendly products and aim to have a whole range.

S’wheat’s main goal as a company is to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering our oceans.

We want to expand beyond the UK into European and US markets.

To help us grow we want to build up our bank of social media influencers, who will be key to driving sales in our target markets. We recently did a giveway with a snack bar brand which worked really well and are looking to collaborate with more brands.

We are looking to recruit a social media intern. The brand is playful and fun and we want the work environment to reflect our ethos.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Not to be worried about failing, which provides an opportunity to learn more, and to just stay consistent and persistent. We’ve had so many knock backs it would have been easy to give up.

How do you relax?

Going to the gym but lately there hasn’t been much chance. We are always making plans and having ideas about things we want to do.