Jairus Morris, a former sales rep, was trying his hand at e-commerce when he stumbled across the burgeoning water bottle industry (recall the recent frenzy over limited-edition Stanley cups at Target). Water bottles were, according to a sales app he was using, some of the top selling items on Amazon. They were also noticeably absent in his social circles. The people he knew didn’t use them, nor had they heard of popular brands like Hydro Flask, Yeti and Klean Kanteen.
Morris, a 33-year-old South Philly native, wasn’t overly surprised.
“Growing up in the inner city, nobody ever told me or my peers the importance of drinking water and staying hydrated,” he says. “I grew up drinking a ton of juices, Kool Aid and sodas.”
It wasn’t only that.
“I realized [these brands] just weren’t marketing to my demographic — Black and Brown — people at all,” Morris says. “It was more so the California beach, hippie, surfer vibe.”
The seed was planted, it just needed… water?
Morris ordered Hydro Flask-style water bottles on Alibaba, spent $70 on advertising, and ended up making more than 100 sales.
“The feedback was insane. People were literally thinking that I created the double-wall insulation,” he says. “They were like, ‘my stuff stayed cold for hours, how did you come up with this?’ This showed me that an entire group of people had never even heard of insulated water bottles because they weren’t being marketed to for all these years.”
Morris threw himself into his new business with the goal of creating the first Black-owned insulated water bottle brand. He settled on the name SUPLMNT, because “water is the body’s most important supplement.” It was important to him that the brand also had a mission.
“So many people who grow up in urban environments — their parents are so busy working, hustling— nobody really tells you, and sometimes they don’t even know themselves, the importance of hydration and drinking water,” he says. “Of course we want to get as many water bottles out as soon as possible. But that means we’re spreading our mission to educate these communities on the importance of hydration.”
To do this, Morris and his team visit schools in urban areas like Newark and Camden in New Jersey, where they educate students on the importance of staying hydrated. Their goal is to give out 1,000 gallons worth of water bottles. They also partner with organizations like the Newark Water Coalition to install reverse osmosis water systems and participate in water givebacks. While water is plentiful in these cities, it’s not always healthy; Newark, for example, has long struggled with high levels of lead in its water supply.
Morris designed SUPLMNT’s water bottles so they would resonate with the community he was marketing to. The bottom of the bottle is a replica of the bottom of a Nike’s Air Jordan 1, while the carrying loop is a shoestring and the lid has a concrete-like texture.
“It symbolizes the streets and the environments people grew up in,” Morris says. “Our goal was to make a bottle people can connect to with that gives that gritty urban feel”
SUPLMNT currently offers a 20-ounce tumbler and a 24-ounce water bottle that come in more than a dozen colors, including limited editions designs by muralist Pretty Done. A 48-ounce bottle is in the works. Morris also does custom orders, and counts companies like Warby Parker as clients. SUPLMNT products are available online here; the company is also in talks with two major retailers.
And for those wondering, at 230 pounds and 6 feet 2 inches tall, Morris tries to drink around a gallon of water each day.
To stay up-to-date on new product launches and upcoming retail locations, follow SUPLMNT on Instagram.