Ben Kander’s desire to make the world a better place and to honor his mother’s legacy led to his creation of Welly. Today, his company is a scrappy and growing competitor in the reusable drinkware landscape, but he has big plans in the making. He is currently fundraising to build our nation’s first and only manufacturing facility in his industry. The supply disruptions caused by the pandemic, among other considerations, caused Ben to reevaluate his company’s status and to create a bold vision for the future. In our discussion, he talks about his plans to bring manufacturing back to Pittsburgh and why he thinks now is the right time.
Welly was born from the lasting impression that Ben Kander’s late mother had on him and from his passion for addressing the water insecurity that is prevalent in much of the developing world. In fact, the name Welly stems from the combination of the word “wells,” which is central to the company’s mission of funding clean water projects, and the word “Elly,” which was the name his mom was affectionately known by. Ben decided that he wanted to do work that would have a positive impact on our global community and environment and that honored his mother’s legacy.
Ben and his team have built a recognizable and successful brand in the highly competitive reusable drinkware industry, which is dominated by overseas supply chains. The impact of the pandemic made him realize just how vulnerable we are to making products half a world away. He began to wonder why no competitor was making these products in the United States, so he started to research the feasibility of doing just that. It turns out that Pittsburgh has all of the right ingredients for creating twenty-first century, high-tech, lean manufacturing. We have a skilled labor force, experience with steel and durable materials, a growing robotics and automation sector, and advanced engineering professionals. In our conversation, Ben talks about his plans for building the country’s first manufacturing facility for reusable drinkware and the many lessons he has learned in running a rapidly growing business.
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