Alyssa and Daniel Ryley have built drynkware, a home-based Brighton business that produces sturdy, metal drink stirrers, including customizable designs. Jonathan Castner / For BizWest

Drynkware builds market for custom, sturdy drink accessories

BRIGHTON — Daniel and Alyssa Ryley looked at combining the best of both worlds when they decided to trade their travel adventures in for baby adventures.

“We wanted to replace Alyssa’s income so she could have flex time and be able to spend less time at work and more time at home with our son, who will be 3 in November,” Daniel Ryley said.

Pre-baby, the couple traveled to places where they fell in love with the variety of cocktail stirrers they came across and started collecting as souvenirs. Problem was, the sticks lacked sustainability and durability.  Plastic stirrers take up landfill space, and glass stirrers break — sometimes while still in drinks.

It was over drinks with friends, in fact, that the Ryley’s idea began to take form — to design and sell stir sticks that could stand up to the competition. That resulted in Dryland Design Co., dba drynkware, which produces sturdy metal drink stirrers, both in predetermined and custom designs.

“Our friends had launched an e-commerce business, we told them our idea, and the stars just aligned,” Daniel said.

“When I started researching, I found out that about 150 million plastic stirrers are thrown away every year from coffee shops and bars,” he said.  “And glass ones are just too fragile.”

Their idea was to make the stirrers better for both the environment and the end user by making them out of metal. 

Today, drynkware stirrers are crafted out of zinc alloy.  The tops are welded to stainless-steel rods, and the entire stirrer is plated in food-grade silver or food-grade gold.  The company’s flagship product — the Original Hip-Stirrer — features a variety of themes.  Designs include an arrow, a golf club, a deer, a robot, a mustache, a bow tie, a camera, a cassette tape, an anchor, and a pineapple. Another line — Stir Wars Deluxe — features a lightsaber.

All designs come in both tall, highball-length and short, old-fashioned length.

“We recently started making strides in the custom market — both fully custom and semi-custom,” Daniel said.  Fully customized designs represent company logos and brands.  For example, drynkware created a design for Extended Hands of Hope, an organization that focuses on providing safe housing and supportive services to domestic sex-trafficking survivors. The stirrer features a girl holding a heart and is used as a fundraising item with all sales supporting the organization.

Semi-custom designs include an engraved logo or message or social-media handle.  Companies can give out the stir sticks as swag.  Designs can also be created for special events like weddings and handed out as party favors with something about the event, such as names of the bride and groom, engraved into the metal.  Orders start at 250 pieces.

In general, drynkware’s primary market audience is people who want to enhance their home bar or coffee stations, as well as people who are looking for unique gifts.  Holidays such as Father’s Day have been prime times for a spike in orders.

Currently, the stir sticks are available through the drynkware website, as well as on Amazon, eBay and Etsy.  Different packages and sets are available on different sites, according to Daniel Ryley..

“We know that if we invest more into marketing, we’ll sell more, but right now we’re trying to just keep up with sales and managing growth organically,” he said.  “Making custom orders takes time, as well as answering inquiries, which vary in terms of conversion rates.  In July, we had about a 75 percent conversion rate, and in June it was only about 10 percent.”

The company continues to see a steady 25 percent boost in revenue.  Predicting Christmas-time sales is an impossible task at this time, he said, but last year’s sales showed a leap in numbers.

He described challenges in running the business as time and sourcing.  Both he and Alyssa continue to work, although Alyssa has cut her out-of-the-house work hours to part time so she’s able to spend more time with their son. Time together as a family rates high on the Ryleys’ list, which is why they’re pacing the company’s growth. 

Although some of the parts of drynkware production — such as packaging — are done locally, the process is mainly done overseas.  The challenge is in finding a manufacturer that does injection molding and casting on a small scale, with small items that involved intricate details.

“If we could find someone locally to make them, it’d be great,” Daniel said.  “The money does still come back to the U.S. and Colorado, but if we could make them here, that would help from a branding standpoint as well as a support for the area.

“Plus, it’d be easier to make more prototypes and designs and be able to drive somewhere and get them fixed rather than sending them overseas.”