In May, 31-year-old Rogan Donelly took over as president of Venice’s Tervis company, a national juggernaut in the drinkware industry known for its lifetime-guaranteed plastic tumblers. Tervis products (which also include sippy cups, wine cups and accessories) are sold in more than 9,000 retailers throughout the country—including Bed Bath & Beyond and Dick’s Sporting Goods—plus 47 company stores (with two more opening in Kansas City and Atlanta this month). Donelly has worked in various Tervis departments since 2009, but the company, now employing 900, has always been a part of his life: His grandfather, John Winslow, purchased Tervis and moved its headquarters to Southwest Florida in the 1950s, and his father, Norbert Donelly, took over in 1989 and remains chairman.
Q. Was it always the plan that you’d take over the company?
A. I think that was the hope. My parents did a good job of not forcing me into making any kind of decision, but it was going to be a topic of everyday conversation whether you like it or not. I never met my grandfather, but Tervis was always a large part of my life.
Q. What industry trends are you taking advantage of?
A. Consumers nowadays are appreciative of personalization. You can go online and personalize your Tervis tumbler any way you like. We have about 75 licensing partners, like the NFL, collegiate teams, Tommy Bahama, Harley Davidson, big movies, Marvel, HBO. Consumers don’t just want a water bottle; they want their own water bottle. You can even upload your own personal photos to be on your Tervis product. And we’re continuing to evolve that personalization. We’re working on expanding our licenses and adding premade templates.
Q. How do you court brand loyalty?
A. This summer, we reinstated the made-for-life return policy at our heritage stores as a direct result of listening to the consumer—folks weren’t happy mailing in their returns. [This month] we’re going to unroll that return policy in all of our stores nationwide. We stand by our brand. If something isn’t working, we need to make it easier to return. We’re always asking, what can we do better?
Q. Are you concerned about competition, especially from high-end aluminum tumbler manufacturers?
A. We focus on our messaging. We have a strong price, we’re made in America, and our functionality is good: We keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot.
Q. What’s your retail expansion philosophy?
A. We’re opening eight [Tervis] stores this year, so we’ll have 49 total all over the country. They’re healthy revenue generators that also help us expand brand awareness. We have a good sense of where our consumer knows us. So we try to open stores not just in tourist destinations, but also where we have room to grow our brand recognition, especially in the Midwest. We’re also actively looking towards a way that we can grow the international business. We have a partnership, for instance, through Hard Rock Cafe, and they have stores in Europe. Step one is going to be to taking advantage of those partnerships.