The Success of CEO Sarah Kauss of S'Well Reusable Water Bottles Sets a New Standard for Women in Business

By: Kyla Young & Alicia Moreira

Fortune - Photo by Patrick Miller
Sarah Kauss broke social norms when she decided to quit her day job after graduating from college and start her own business making environmentally-conscious water bottles.

After a desire to do something about the clean water crisis, Sarah Kauss started her own company, S'Well.  A handful of celebrities are now supporting her as sales increase exponentially.

According to Ana Swanson in an article by the Washington Post, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is at its peak.  However, it is only a peak of 5% of the companies that are led by women.  This may seem like an extremely low percentage, which it is, but in 1998 there was only one woman who led a Fortune 500 company.  So, progress is being made—just slowly.

Kauss did not have an easy ride to getting to where she is today, as many other women who lead their companies have struggled with.  "I remember a time I only had $2,000 in my bank account," she said. "That's not enough to pay rent in New York."

In Fortune's article on how S'Well, Kauss's company, became so well renowned, Daniel Roberts explains that Kauss's bottles started sales in 2010 after "the Oprah Magazine wanted to put S'Well on its coveted 'O List' of recommended products."  Once the S'Well bottles were recognized by Oprah, Kauss's business took off.  The bottles sold out in a limited run at Starbucks and just 22 of her employees had sold 4 million S'Well bottles as of October, 2014.

Ellen Degeneres also supports S'Well, as well as Tom Hanks and Facebook who ordered the water bottles for their respective companies.

Iowa State University follows Kauss's example and holds annual conferences to encourage young girls to pursue a career in business.

Iowa State University has implemented a program where their female students majoring in Business talk to female high school students about pursuing business as a career.  This may encourage a growth in the number of women in higher positions of companies in the future.

The conference coordinator Elizabeth "Salton said that women enrollment numbers in some business majors, such as supply chain management and management information systems, is typically at or below 20 percent."

Kauss's lecture at the University of Maryland had a personal impact on the Business students who attended.
Gina Hyun, a freshman Finance major, said that Kauss's story was inspiring to her.  "I want to be an entrepreneur," Hyun said.  "This was a good chance for me to see how a CEO thinks and how they actually started their company."

Another business student, Sarina Haryanto was even inclined to buy Kauss's water bottle after the lecture.  "She had so much passion," Haryanto said.

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