In 2009, Rinke van Remortel won a design competition with his Dopper sustainable water bottle. Seven years later, his efforts have enabled to him to leave his full-time job and focus all his energy on his design company.
“When I entered my design, I thought my chances of winning were quite high,” reminisces Rinke van Remortel. The challenge was to design a reusable bottle for tap water. When the competition was announced he was still working as a product designer for VDL Hapro, a company that makes car roof boxes and tanning beds. Van Remortel designed the now-familiar bottle with the cap that doubles as a cup.
But he never expected the bottle to be such a huge success. “To start with we just hoped we'd be able to recoup our costs,” he laughs. “That meant selling 200,000 bottles; we’ve now reached 7 million.” When sales continued to rise, Dopper decided to buy out all the rights to the product. “I didn’t get any royalties, but I was well rewarded.”
Photo © Sam Rentmeester
Even as a student he dreamed of starting his own business. “The thought kept niggling at me even after I got a full-time job. Thanks to the Dopper rights, I now had enough seed capital to make the dream come true; ‘If I don’t do it now, I never will,’ I thought to myself.” And so he did. In 2016, he handed in his resignation and started working full time for his own business, with Dopper as his calling card.
Being his own boss has made Van Remortel’s work a lot more interesting. “I can now manage every step of the production process myself, if the customer so wishes, from market research, design sketches and prototype development to optimising production. The broad schooling I received at TU Delft means I can take care of all these aspects.” His favourite part of the process is concept development. “What I enjoy most is conceiving new ideas – like the Dopper.”
What I enjoy most is conceiving new ideas
One of his most recent projects was for Zsilt, a Dutch start-up that produces beach toys from sustainable materials. Van Remortel designed the first range of seven products that will hit the market next year. “This start-up wants to produce sustainable toys. Thanks to Dopper they found their way to me.”
He has always been interested in sustainability. “I think it happens automatically if you’re a designer. You see so many superfluous or environmentally unfriendly products being dumped on the market for low prices.” That has to stop, thinks Remortel. “It can only lead to pollution in the long term. That’s why I want my company to focus on sustainable and high-quality products.”
Degree programme: Industrial Design Engineering
Number of employees: Himself and one trainee
Mission: To design products that make it easy for people to contribute to a more sustainable society
Turnover: “It's a one-person business, so turnover fluctuates”
Target group: Mainly SMEs that produce consumer products.
In five years time: A team of people working for the company and an own label