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It was supposed to be a festive night out for the college student and her friends. At dinner, she had a glass of champagne (just one). Then the group headed to a bar.
She ordered a drink. Shortly after that, her memories of the evening stop — until she regained consciousness in the hospital the next day. In between, she “went missing.” Her friends didn’t know where she was, and she couldn’t remember either.
“It truly was one of the worst experiences of my life,” recalls SWIGSAFE™ founder Olivia Pivirotto.
Olivia had already been concerned about the prevalence of binge drinking among her fellow college students and often found herself wondering what could make the culture safer.
“I noticed that a lot of binge drinking was a result of people not being cognizant of how much they were consuming,” she said. “I heard things like ‘I didn’t think I drank that much last night’ and ‘I don’t know why I blacked out.’”
Then there was drink tampering — what happened to Olivia. Knowing this could be a problem, she was vigilant about protecting her drinks, but even so she ended up with her safety compromised. A friend had a similar experience when traveling abroad. The friend ordered a drink, but then decided she didn’t want it and passed it on to her boyfriend. Within minutes of consuming it, he could barely stand and had no recollection of anything following.
Drink tampering can take place at bars, clubs, concerts, festivals and pretty much anywhere large numbers of people are gathered having a good time with cups in hand.
During and after the creation of the SWIGSAFE™ tumbler, Olivia was astounded by the number of stories she heard from men and women of all ages who’d had their drinks spiked. “The one commonality is that no one ever thought it would happen to them,” Olivia said, “which shows just how unpredictable drink spiking can be.”
True to her generation, Olivia likes to take action on issues that feel important to her rather than just talk about them. After the drink tampering incident, she knew she had a choice. She could focus on her own behavior and safety or look for a way to have a larger impact.
“I started thinking of ways to give people the power to easily understand how much they were drinking,” Olivia recalled. “I made it my mission to create something that could help any of us go out and feel safe, while still having fun.”
Her vision: a better cup for alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages alike, something intuitive and secure that removed the hyper-protective “hand always clenched around drink” factor. It needed to be something people could easily take with them from day to night for any occasion.
With those starting points, she began sketching out ideas.
Olivia quickly realized she’d need help bringing her vision to life. She didn’t have to look far for the perfect partner — her mother, Brenda, with whom she’d always been close. “Creating a business together has been amazing,” Olivia said. “We are very honest and direct with one another, and that enables us to work very well together.”
Brenda got on board without hesitation. Like a lot of parents, one of her biggest worries when sending Olivia off to college had been the party scene and Olivia had always talked openly with her about it.
Combining their two perspectives — young adult and concerned parent — allowed them to approach the SWIGSAFE™ product and business in a unique way. These dual vantage points guided each step they took.
“I trust her and she trusts me and the idea I had,” Olivia recalled with gratitude. “At the end of the day, your parents have your best interests at heart and want you to succeed.”
“Everyone learns what standard drinks are during college orientation and in alcohol education classes, yet there wasn’t a tangible product to guide us,” Olivia recalled. She and her mom wanted a tumbler that allowed the user to see how much they were pouring and consuming in order to promote awareness and greater control. For this reason, SWIGSAFE™ has ounce markings as well as icons that depict standard drink measurements.
They went through several iterations, using 3D-printing for both the tumbler and the top, and tested each model with small focus groups, using the feedback to create the final product. The latched lid especially took a lot of work to design in order to find the perfect balance between security and functionality.
The 16-ounce, pilsner-shaped tumbler with wrist strap that Olivia and Brenda ultimately landed on is spill proof, secure, sleek, and easy to handle and carry.
All the great features that make the SWIGSAFE™ tumbler ideal for campus life (16-ounce capacity that works for water, a protein shake or a party drink; latched lid to aid in safeguarding against drink tampering; measurement icons symbolizing standard drink amounts; transportable, easy-to-grip design with wrist strap for comfortable product mobility) make it perfect for travel, too.
“It’s super easy to mix your own drink in the tumbler and have an accurate understanding of how much you’re pouring,” Olivia said. With the lanyard, students can keep their drink with them at all times, while being hands free. SWIGSAFE™ is convenient for the beach, boat, hiking and touring and transitions well from day to night.
It’s free of BPA, BPS, Estrogenic-Activity and Androgenic-Activity and offers a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic water bottles, Solo cups and more, making it an eco-conscious choice.
Now a college graduate, Olivia has fond memories of spring break trips with her friends. She also remembers helpful and supportive talks with her mom about how to stay safe, both on campus and when traveling.
In her opinion, these conversations between students and parents are perhaps the most important key to safety and wellness. Her mom always approached the topic of alcohol as a conversation, not a lecture, and shared her own experiences, which Olivia appreciated because it encouraged her to share, too, and nurtured a healthy, ongoing dialogue.
Olivia recommends that parents try to be as understanding and sympathetic as possible; “it creates a more open door for other conversations down the line.” She finds SWIGSAFE™ to be a perfect medium when parents and students want to talk about drinking because it removes any pretense that it’s not going on while affirming trust in the student — that they are mature and mindful enough to take action to consume alcohol responsibly.
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