Offices, schools, building sites – you name it. They have all heard it; the Final Straw is something that seems to be spoken about all over the country.
However, it’s not without its controversy. Through today’s post, we will now take a look at the hype around the Final Straw in more detail and show just what all the fuss is about.
What is the Final Straw?
Let’s kick proceedings off by first describing what the Final Straw is. Fortunately, the name gives plenty away in this case; it is of course a straw. The unique selling point comes through the fact that this is a metal straw, thus being completely reusable, whilst also being completely collapsible. Its manufacturers designed it in a way that it will fit in a small, neat box after use – which should also make people more inclined to reuse it.
The product is nine inches long and put together with triple-joined stainless steel. In terms of the case, this looks exactly like some sort of key fob for cars, meaning that it can be hidden away in your coat or pocket at ease. The case also contains its own squeegee, which means that cleaning is simple as well.
You can consume both hot and cold drinks through the Final Straw, whilst it is even suitable for thicker substances like smoothies. Don’t worry about dishwashing either – that’s all covered – while there is a lifetime guarantee added to top things off.
The backstory behind the product is quite inspiring as well. Founders Emma Cohen and Miles Pepper realized the scale of the straw issue that the whole world faces. While most of us pass off straws as something far too insignificant to discuss, let’s not forget that on some days America as a whole might use almost 400 million straws. Over the course of a year the plastic implications are significant; let’s not forget that these straws are not recyclable and just won’t decompose. It means that wildlife can mistake them for food and unfortunately, the rest can be history.
The above was something that one of the founders, Emma, became shocked by during her travels. Whilst in Thailand, she woke up one morning to see a barrage of straws littered across the beach. Each day, more and more would appear, and from that day on she vowed to make the world a plastic straw-free place.
This is where the other founder, Miles, comes into the picture. An environmental activist by heart, but also an inventor, he joined with Emma to design the prototype that we all now know as the Final Straw.
If we return briefly to Emma, she has become something of an expert when it comes to the straw industry as a whole. If we turn the clock back to 2015, it was here where she gave a TedX Talk telling people why traditional plastic straws suck. Suffice to say, the duo have made a big reputation for themselves, which is quite incredible when you see that one was a sustainability specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, while the other was an environmental activist.
The finances behind the Final Straw
It’s all well and good coming up with a sterling idea for a product, but getting it to market is another matter. Even though sustainable products sound good on the face of things, getting people to change habits and part with their money can be tricky.
This didn’t appear to be the case with the Final Straw. Like a lot of start-ups, they relied on crowdfunding to kick things off.
They created a monthlong Kickstarter campaign in April with a fundraising goal of $12,500. Well, this was beaten in just one day. In fact, by the time the month had concluded, no fewer than 86,000 straws had been ordered. Costing buyers $20 each, it meant that the two founders had just netted around $2 million. It would be fair to say that there were some raised eyebrows at some of the figures pulled from that campaign; for example, in one line it suggested that almost 500 million plastic straws were used every single day in America as a whole. In truth, there is no way of verifying such a number, but what we can say is that the figure is in its hundreds of millions and there is a definite worldwide problem surrounding these plastic straws.
Then came the stumbling blocks
So far, it’s been something of a fairy-tale story for the Final Straw. After all, it seemed to be one of those products that smashed all forecasts out of the park – and was set to make its founders a lot of money. That’s not to mention making the world a better place, in the process.
Unfortunately, it’s not been an easy ride. Let’s not forget that this was a Kickstarter campaign, where those pledging money were effectively pre-ordering the straw. It meant that they didn’t actually receive the straw – they were still being manufactured.
This is where a lot of other metal, foldable straws have entered the market. In fact, metal straws have experienced some of the fastest sales growth on the whole of Amazon. Many of the straws advertised on sites such as Amazon, and eBay and Alibaba for that matter, were selling for half of the price as the original. They hit the market just days after the end of the crowdfunding campaign, and since then it’s been a case of whack-a-mole for the founders. They have been continuously finding listings that are using not only their product name, but also photos. They claim that over 200 listings across the three named marketplaces have been reported. In the midst of this, up until November, there has been no official Final Straw listing on any of these websites.
It has proven to be something of a reputational nightmare for the company as well. Unsurprisingly, many of the fake straws are nowhere near as sturdy as the original, and this has led to a barrage of complaints from unsatisfied customers. The Final Straw tends to be the company who receive such complaints as well; customers firmly believe that they are dealing with the “real” seller.
However, according to former employees at Amazon, this practice is completely normal. Chris McCabe, who was previously employed in the seller performance evaluation and policy enforcement team at the company, has told the media that this is regarded as quite common business practice in the online world. Unscrupulous sellers will spot a product on a platform like Kickstarter which hasn’t yet gone on sale officially. From this point on, it’s a prime opportunity to list a “replica” and cash in until any patents are obtained.
Whilst all this is going on, let’s not forget that such sellers are just being fuelled by all of the marketing generated from the original product. This was a real case of a viral crowdfunding campaign, and as soon as people were spotted with one of those “metal things from the internet” it wasn’t long until the domino-effect kicked in. Unfortunately for the Final Straw, this domino effect wasn’t boosting their bank balance – but the balance of fake sellers.
On the subject of patents…
Fortunately, all might not be lost for the original creators of the Final Straw.
They have recently been granted a patent for the product, while it is also fully on sale. It means that going after those sellers who were attempting to mimic their product has suddenly become a whole lot easier. Up until this point, it really was a case of relying on the likes of Amazon to act on their intellectual property promises and remove the listings when prompted. Now, this process should become a lot more seamless.
What is next for the Final Straw?
It is only recently that the product has been fully patented, and this means that it has now become a crucial time for the founders of the Final Straw. They now have all of the legal backing they were initially looking for, and they can now look to own the foldable, metal straw market that has become so big since their appearance on Kickstarter.
Let’s not forget that according to the founders, this was a project that was simply looking to cut down the amount of waste that the world generates. In some ways, it has already helped to do this – but not in the way they would have liked. After all, a lot of metal straws have now entered the market, and opened it up to people who might not have ever considered such an approach at one time.
Of course, there is a downside. With the “fake” products nowhere near the same quality as the Final Straw, there are concerns that it might have put off potential buyers. Whether or not this is the case will depend on how the real product fares now it is fully available on the market.
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