In a nutshell, what does One Water do?
One Water is a bottled water company that gives away 100% of its profits to funding clean water programmes in developing countries.
Where did the idea for One Water come from?
The inspiration behind One Water came from a photograph that was published in the Guardian in 2003. It was of a young girl sat by a padlocked tap in one of the largest slums in Africa, in a place called Kibera in Nairobi. It just hit me in a way that I can’t really explain but it led me to discover something: a billion people in the world didn’t have access to clean water.
When did you start up?
The spring of 2004.
How has it gone so far?
It’s been an amazing journey. We’ve just hit a milestone of £10m raised and 2.5 million people’s lives changed – achieving that in that period of time is just incredible. Partners like Morrisons, Waitrose, Co-op, Ocado and Starbucks have all said ‘this is something that’s really important to us’. I was having a meeting with Tesco just yesterday and they were so inspired by it that they said ‘we’re going to roll this out through every UK store in time for summer so we can make a real difference’. So it’s been fantastic.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
We don’t have big marketing and advertising budgets because we try to give away all our money at the other end so building brand awareness is a slow process. But we’ve built an amazing following on social media – for example we have over 200,000 people on Facebook. And we’ve also run a few campaigns such as Walk for Water and I am Stela that reached over 6 million people through social media channels.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Really, if you’re going to do something like this – create an ethical bottled water brand – then you’ve got to have the right intent behind it. We’ve given away £10m and the closest rivalling ethical water brand has given away £300,000 or £400,000. We are the real deal, we do what we say we’re going to do and we change people’s lives.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
The best decision I ever made was to quit my job and do this. It’s been a fight. There have been plenty of times when I’ve just sat at my desk late at night, crying in frustration, or I’ve questioned my sanity. But then I go back to the fact that a billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water. You pick yourself up and you say ‘let’s go again, let’s find a way to win through and overcome any hurdle’.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We’re going to have some amazing growth. We’re seeing amazing pick up now from hotels and restaurants: we’ve got an incredible partnership with Hawksmoor. We’ve also just signed an agreement with C&C – the owner of Magners, Gaymers and Tenants – which will sell One Water to any pub, hotel, restaurant or bar that they supply to. These are all businesses that have said ‘we can help and we should help; let’s just find a way to do it’.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
The best piece of advice that I can give budding entrepreneurs is just to start. It’s so hard to take that first step and you’ve got to be a brave person to do it but you’ve got to do it. You’ve just got to have faith in yourself.