Local business owners Haley and Cameron Cooper just celebrated the fourth anniversary of their company, BottleMark. BottleMark offers a product that they more or less invented: custom bottle caps. Before that, you couldn’t get anything other than blank bottle caps if you wanted fewer than 400,000 of them. The minimum order from BottleMark? One. That's right: You can get them to put any design you can think of on however many bottle caps you want. Plus, they’re cheap, at only 14 to 16 cents per cap.
Home brewers and local breweries (including Buffalo Bayou, 8th Wonder and Live Oak) have all jumped at the chance to personalize bottle caps—and not just to put on bottles. Customers have ordered them as save-the-dates for weddings, fridge magnets, drink tokens, souvenirs from brewery tours—even geocaching tokens. They’re great for anything where you really want that personal touch, says co-owner Haley Cooper, who founded the company with her husband Cameron. "That’s the thing about custom products—it has almost infinite value to you."
And it’s not just the locals, either. "We should totally open a branch in Norway! I’m not even kidding," Haley laughs. BottleMark ships to all 50 states and have received orders from as far away as the UK, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil and France, and are hugely popular in the Scandinavian countries, where home brewing is what Cameron describes as a way of life, not just a hobby.
The same creativity and ambition that drove the Coopers (who are also actors in a local Shakespeare company) to start their own business is also pushing them to keep expanding it, creating their own milestones for success. They now have two employees working on production and an office warehouse space in Spring Branch. They admit it’s not a big company—but they’re not operating out of their garage, either.
About a year ago, BottleMark also started selling beer bottle labels specifically designed for home brewers. These aren’t like any other labels you’ve seen, because they actually peel on and off easily, without leaving that gluey stuff that takes hours of soaking to clean, plus they can fit on the bottle either vertically or horizontally. As the Coopers have increased production, they’ve also improved their printing process and added multiple colors of bottle caps to choose from.
Next up? Improving their online design tool so it’s even easier to create your own design via their website, which offers tips and templates (though the Cooper are also happy to help you with designs if you’re new at it). Their newest challenge to overcome, says Haley, is marketing—just getting the word out there that they exist.
"Whenever we mention what we do people find that really interesting," she says—though that's once people realize that custom-made bottle caps is thing that’s possible. They’ve gotten creative in their advertising, from starting a newsletter to coming up with an April Fools’ joke in which they claimed BottleMark would start selling custom-printed turtles instead of bottle caps.
Like any small business owners, the Coopers are figuring it out for themselves, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. "It’s terrifying to be in charge of your own future," says Haley, "but it’s also wonderful."