Pair behind Willy and Bear start-up, left devastated as Frank Green, Bunnings sell similar product
Two best friends who came up with the genius idea of selling drink bottle cup holder adapters in the car now fear bankruptcy after popular bottle and houseware manufacturer Frank Green began advertising a similar product.
Kelsey Gorman, 25, and Rylie Greenhalgh, 23, are the Brisbane duo behind Willy and Bear. The company sells special accessories that fit into standard built-in car cupholders and can be expanded to accommodate larger bottles that would otherwise not fit.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh, who both work full-time in medical administration, came up with the idea after noticing how awkward it was to hold their drinking bottles while driving or sitting in the passenger seat of a car.
With the recent popularity of drinking 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 resemblance to 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 cupholder extensions for large drinking bottles
“We just don’t know where our brand is going now and how long it’s going to take,” Ms Greenhalgh told Daily Mail Australia.
Ms Gorman said that when she saw a product similar to theirs being advertised by another company, she immediately called Ms Greenhalgh in tears.
“I just thought we were done,” she said.
Willy and Bear officially launched last September, with the company proud to use 100 percent Australian-made and recyclable materials.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh live together and said their idea came from a conversation they had in their living room one night around Christmas in 2021.
“We both got water bottles for Christmas and over the following months, like everyone else, we took them everywhere,” said Ms Gorman.
The expanders fit into a standard car cup holder and allow larger bottles that would otherwise not fit securely in the car
“We quickly realized how annoying it was to hold on to it as a passenger, and when you’re driving, the bottles just splash on the floor.”
After doing some research on the Australian market and finding nothing comparable, the pair decided to put their savings into launching the company.
In the beginning, they put $30,000 into setting up the business – which they had saved up to buy a house together.
“It was very risky, we had so many people in our ears telling us not to do it,” Ms Greenhalgh said.
Using viral TikTok videos – some clips of which have reached half a million views – the initial order of 700 Willy and Bear cupholders sold out in a matter of weeks.
Mrs Greenhalgh (pictured) and Mrs Gorman poured all their savings into getting the business off the ground
Willy and Bear’s initial order of 700 cupholder extensions sold out within weeks
“We did better than we thought we would, which was stressful because we’re both still working full-time,” Ms. Gorman said.
‘Since September, we’ve actually been awake until 2 a.m. every day and then have to go back to our normal work at 7 a.m.’
Willy and Bear cup holders sell for $30 and come in a variety of colors.
However, Frank Green, popular for their reusable bottles, coffee cups and housewares, announced that they would be unveiling a range of cup holder extensions in mid-February this year.
In a TikTok on Feb. 23, they showed off the new accessory retailing for $19.95, with Frank Green saying it had been “years in the making.”
But the video was soon inundated with comments from many pointing out their product’s similarity to Willy and Bear.
“Gotta love how they say it’s been years in the making and yet Willy and Bear made theirs even faster. Use a small business,” one wrote.
“Sorry Frankie, you were a little late, Willy and Bear, I already have cover,” said another.
The adapters can hold bottles up to 1.25 liters of different brands
Customers across Australia buy $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’ lifehack in a video (right)
Frank Green’s cup holder extensions specifically fit their 1L bottles. The Willy and Bear product fits various bottles with a capacity of up to 1.25 litres.
Bunnings Warehouse is even getting involved and is now advertising a pipe that can be used as a bottle holder after a clever idea from a customer.
In late December, a customer bought a tapered piece of pipe to use in her car to store her own 1-liter Frank Green drinking bottle and shared the tip on TikTok.
Bunnings customers have since noted that the hardware store advertised the pipe with the new description “cup holder” for $11.
The hardware giant even shared a video of someone using the pipe to hold their bottle on their TikTok account.
Willy and Bear hope their customers stay with them
A spokesperson for Bunnings said PVC conical inversions have been offered in stores for decades.
“The intended purpose is for sewer and ventilation use, but we know that customers often come up with creative projects and hacks using products from our stores, using the bottle cage as an example,” they said.
Ms Gorman and Ms Greenhalgh said they were overwhelmed with the support they have received from their clients.
“The thing we have to remember is that people like to support small businesses,” Ms. Gorman said.
Willy and Bear supplies ten different stores in Australia and New Zealand.
“While there are companies with similar products, ours are universal,” Ms Gorman added.
“But it’s strange for a company to say it took them years to come up with something when we’re just two girls who know nothing about the industry and did it in a matter of months.”
Frank Green was contacted for comment.
Frank Green, popular for their reusable bottles, coffee cups and housewares, announced they were unveiling a range of cup holder extensions in mid-February