Pair behind Willy and Bear start-up, left devastated as Frank Green, Bunnings sell similar product
Two best friends who came up with a genius idea to sell car cup holder adapters for drink bottles now fear they may be driven out of business – after popular bottle and homewares manufacturer Frank Green started advertising a similar product.
Kelsey Gorman, 25, and Rylie Greenhalgh, 23, are the Brisbane duo behind Willy and Bear. The business sells special accessories that fit into standard built-in car cup holders and expand to let larger bottles – which wouldn’t otherwise fit – sit snugly inside.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh, who both work full time in medical administration, came up with the idea after noticing how inconvenient it was trying to hold onto their drink bottles while driving or sitting in the passenger seat of a car.
With the recent popularity of drink bottles sold by the likes of Frank Green, Yeti and Hydro Flask, Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh saw sales skyrocket.
But customers have since noticed a striking similarity with Frank Green’s latest accessory, with Bunnings Warehouse also jumping on the cup holder trend.
Kelsey Gorman, 25, and Rylie Greenhalgh, 23, are the Brisbane duo behind Willy and Bear which sells cup holder expanders for large drink bottles
‘We just don’t know where our brand is heading now and how long it’s going to last,’ Ms Greenhalgh told Daily Mail Australia.
Ms Gorman said when she saw a similar product to theirs being advertised by another company, she immediately called Ms Greenhalgh in tears.
‘I just thought this is us done,’ she said.
Willy and Bear officially launched in September last year, with the business priding itself on using 100 per cent Australian-made and recyclable materials.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh live together and said their idea was sparked out of a conversation they had one night in their living room around Christmas time in 2021.
‘We both got water bottles for Christmas and in the following months, as everyone does, we took them everywhere,’ Ms Gorman said.
The expanders fit into a standard car cup holder and allow larger bottles that wouldn’t otherwise fit to sit tightly inside
‘We quickly realised how annoying it was as a passenger to hang onto them, and if you’re driving, the bottles just smash around on the floor.’
After doing some research on the Australian market and not finding anything similar, the pair decided to put their life savings into launching the business.
At the beginning, they put $30,000 into setting up the company – which they had been saving to buy a home together.
‘It was very risky, we had so many people in our ears telling us not to do it,’ Ms Greenhalgh said.
With the help of viral TikTok videos – with some of their clips racking up half a million views – the first order of 700 Willy and Bear cup holders sold out within a matter of weeks.
Ms Greenhalgh (pictured) and Ms Gorman put down all of their life savings to get the business off the ground
Willy and Bear’s first order of 700 cup holder expanders sold out within a matter of weeks
‘We did better than we thought we would, which was stressful because we both still work full-time,’ Ms Gorman said.
‘Since September we’ve basically been up until 2am every day and then have to start our normal jobs again at 7am.’
Willy and Bear cup holders sell for $30 and come in an array of different colours.
However, Frank Green, popular for their re-useable bottles, coffee cups and homewares, announced they were unveiling a range of cup holder expanders in mid-February this year.
In a TikTok on February 23, they showcased the new accessory which sells for $19.95, with Frank Green saying it had been ‘years in the making’.
But the video was quickly flooded with comments from many pointing out the similarity of their product to Willy and Bear.
‘Gotta love how they say it’s been years in the making and yet Willy and Bear made theirs even quicker. Use a small business,’ one wrote.
‘Sorry Frankie you were a bit late, Willy and Bear, already got me covered,’ said another.
The adaptors can hold bottles up to 1.25L from a variety of different brands
Customers around Australia are purchasing $11 PVC pipes from Bunnings Warehouse (left) to store drink bottles in car cup holders. The trend surfaced in late December when a TikTokker posted the ‘genius’ life hack in a video (right)
Frank Green’s cup holder expanders specifically fit their 1L bottles. Willy and Bear’s product fits a variety of bottles that are up to 1.25l in size.
Bunnings Warehouse has even joined in and now advertises a pipe that can be used as a bottle holder after one shopper’s clever idea.
In late December a shopper bought a tapered piece of pipe to use inside her car to store her own 1L Frank Green drink bottle and shared the tip on TikTok.
Bunnings customers have since noticed the hardware store advertising the pipe with the new descriptor ‘cup holder’ for $11.
The hardware giant even shared a video of someone using the pipe to hold their bottle onto their TikTok account.
Willy and Bear are hoping their customers will stick by them
A Bunnings spokesperson said PVC taper level inverts have been on offer in the store for decades.
‘Its intended purpose is for sewer and vent use, however we know customers often come up creative projects and hacks using products from our stores, with the drink bottle holder being one example,’ they said.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh said they’ve been overwhelmed with the support they’ve received from their customers.
‘The thing we have to keep remembering is that people love supporting small businesses,’ Ms Gorman said.
Willy and Bear supply to ten different stores around Australia and New Zealand.
‘Although there are companies with similar products, ours are universal,’ Ms Gorman added.
‘But it is strange that a company says it has taken them years to come up with something, when we’re just two girls who know nothing about the industry and did it within months.’
Frank Green was contacted for comment.
Frank Green, popular for their reusable bottles, coffee cups and homewares, announced they were unveiling a range of cup holder expanders in mid-February