Starting a Water Bottle Company
Interview with Brian Denton, Founder of Project Earth H2o, LLC
When the back seat of Brian's car was full of empty water bottles he became worried. Where do those bottles go? What resources are used to produce them in the first place? Project Earth H2o was born!
Brian Denton founded Project Earth H2o, a environmentally safe water bottle, in 2007 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Tell me about your company. What are you doing exactly?
Project Earth H2o is an award-winning company, recently recognized by Startup Nation as one of the Country's "Top 10 Greenest Companies of 2009."
Founded in 2007, Project Earth H2o is a manufacture of high-quality, eco-friendly reusable water bottles. Our mission is to protect our health, our environment, and our money by providing safe, earth-friendly alternative to single-use bottled water. We focus on driving awareness to the profound negative environmental, economic and health related issues created by the production, transportation, and selling of single-use bottled water and hazardous reusable plastic bottles. Project Earth H2o helps other make a difference by donating $2.00 of every bottle sold to non-profit environmental charities focused on creating a healthier planet and to breast cancer research to help find a cure.
How did you come up with your business idea?
About 4 years ago I realized I was spending close to $20 every week on bottled water. I would buy a new bottle of water every day on my way to the gym. I knew that these bottles were not safe to be reused. I was also having trouble finding a place to recycle them, so they began to pile up in the back of my car.
I decided to spend some time researching safety and recycling concerns that I had with these single-use water bottles. What I found was a stock-pile of very disturbing facts detailing the profound negative impacts that these bottles were creating on our environment, our health and our economy. I found that we were not only making our planet sick - we were making ourselves sick.
I began to recall a great book I had read by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke called Blue Gold. It's a wonderful book that discusses the bottled water industries aggressive efforts to privatize our public water supplies. One of the most compelling things that struck me was the fact that close to half of all bottled water is nothing more than regular tap water gathered from the same source from which we receive our home water. It's filtered using the same technology many of us already have in our own homes. That water is then packaged into bottles that are meant to be used only once and sold back to us for 1000% more than the actual cost.
A light bulb just went off in my head. We need to manufacture safe, eco-friendly, reusable water bottles so people can fill them with filtered tap water from their homes. To produce a product to help quench this countries thirst for portable water and help offset the massive plastic, oil and subsequent waste associated with these single-use water bottles that fill our landfills and oceans to the tune of over 38 billion each year.
I found something that I could get passionate about. I began to do a little each day to get started, and then a little more, after a couple of weeks I was consumed - soon we had Project Earth H2o.
That is a great story, Brian. What were you doing before Project Earth H2o?
Ironically enough I was a Vice President for a domestic oil company/driller. Yes, this is my first business.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Absolutely! After 2 years of handling warehousing and shipping in-house - We have now been able to outsource all warehouse and distribution services to outside specialist. This has allowed us to focus our efforts on generating revenue through sales, marketing and PR. We drive the sales and leave the fulfillment to the specialist.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Our entire business is founded on "green and sustainable living." Consumers today are the most eco-friendly and eco-savvy consumers in history. There are many companies out there making similar products and offering similar services. A vast number of consumers are beginning to base their buying decision on "green factors" such as product sustainability, ethical manufacturing and corporate responsibility.
It is almost impractical for companies not to embrace this movement. Going green provides cost saving in just about every direction from energy cost savings to eliminating unnecessary paper waste. Little changes in behavior are having a major impact on our environment and companies and people are truly interested in making a difference.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
It is important to consider the "what ifs" when starting and operating a business. This should be the case whether you are operating in a growing economy or a down economy. Failing to account for unfortunate contingencies can be costly and doom a growing business.
Learn to write HTML. It is extremely simple and it will save you tons of money on minor web revisions.
When you hire or contract and outside company or person to complete a job for your company make sure you are heavily involved and learn everything you can about what they are doing and how they are doing it so next time you can do it yourself.
Learn to negotiate! Don't be afraid to play hardball. By simply negotiating prices you will save your company tons of money. Other companies are experiencing down times too and most really want the business. You will find they will operate on your negotiating table if you are confident.
Don't make quick decisions when money is involved; do your homework. A lot of times you will find that you may not need whatever you are considering after a few days or weeks have past.
Learn as much as you can about everything prior to making financial decisions. A good scenario to learn from: Have you ever taken your car to a mechanic and admitted to them that you know nothing about cars? If so, depending on the mechanic, you might have found yourself with an expensive problem. Dealing with other businesses is no different. They are trained to up sell you as much as they can. Learn what you can and be prepared so you don't get taken advantage of.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
It is actually good that I run this company from my home because if I didn't, I would probably never see my family. The benefits are consolidating overhead and office cost. You are always available to move and execute on ideas when they come to you. The challenges for me personally have been turning the work off and separating work and home. It really is 24/7.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Well, of course you will need all of the obvious ingredients, a good idea, proper funding, and great execution. However, more than anything you need to have passion for what you are doing - absolute passion! If I did not have such passion for what I am doing I probably would have quit several times.
Setbacks are inevitable; you need to work through them and stay positive. You will need to keep others positive. True passion will make you shine. It will make you magnetic and others will be drawn to what you are doing. It will motivate and connect others to your cause emotionally and you will need this. There is no substitute for passion and without it your chances of success are minimal.
Thank you for sharing your passion with us! I'm sure the readers at Gaebler.com will use it to move their business ideas forward!
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