It’s a funny old world, the grocery business. As a former director of a marketing agency, I thought I knew a reasonable amount about it, but I’m learning new things every day. One day I’m asked for a £1.5m listing fee and the next I’ve got retailers putting our product straight into national distribution, offering to pay for promotions, gondola-end space and PoS.
Recently the UN phoned me and the IFC, part of the World Bank, is flying in next month to see me. Why is that? I think to appreciate this complete u-turn, you have to understand a bit about One water and how its success has become my passion.
Between 1998 and 2000 I fulfilled a life-long ambition to ride a motorbike around the world. On that odyssey, two momentous things happened to me
The first was being caught in the middle of Hurricane Mitch, which killed tens of thousands of people, in central America. As the only Brit in the village, I set about digging houses out of mudslides with roof tiles. Despite having lost everything, the locals would always insist on feeding me at the end of the day. After a few e-mails home and a bit of campaigning by my family and the media, we raised more than $100,000 to rebuild not only the village I was in, but another ten on the Mosquito Coast.
I also spent some time high up in the Andes, throwing myself off mountains with a parachute and landing in a local village where the kids would run out and carry my chute back up to the main road. The more time I spent there, the more I wanted to help this community that had no basic facilities. Returning home after my travels, I started to tap up friends for a bit of money and slowly but surely the village has been transformed to having water, toilets, a shower block in the school and a computer, scanner and printer.
I discovered that the world is a generous place. Not only did people with nothing look after me on my
travels but people back home were itching to help. They just needed someone to show them how and why.
Fast forward to a pub in Soho. A friend mentioned that he’d read in an article that one billion people in the world didn’t have access to clean water and that two million people died each year from water-related diseases. His idea was to launch a bottled water brand that donated all its profits to changing that situation. Everyone present thought it was a fantastic idea and offered to support the project, which they still do. Having never really settled back in to the politics of work, I volunteered to see if I could bring the idea to life. As time went on, the idea became more of a reality and, with the support of manufacturer Radnor Hills, One water was born. Despite a painful birth, with relatively low expectations for growth, One, in just six months, has gone from being delivered by me to our first customers (Café Progresso in London and Fruitfix in Brighton) to being trucked around the country in fully loaded articulated lorries.
So what makes One different and why the meteoric rise? Perhaps it’s because all our stockists know we’re a not-for-profit company. Perhaps it’s because we were the official water for Live8 and Make Poverty History. Or maybe it’s because we build unique roundabout-powered wells in Africa. Since Total petrol stations took that first brave step to list us, The Co-operative Group, Morrisons and Waitrose have followed suit.
Perhaps it’s because the bottles are endorsed by celebrities. Or could it be because retailer volumes have grown without any impact on margins?
Whatever the reason, Norfolk County Council and ESPO have decreed that all schools in Norfolk should be selling One, wholesalers such as Peros and divisions of Compass Group want to back it, Williams Formula 1 team have adopted it and James Blunt has it on tour with him.
One will become a multimillion-pound business this year. All of which will go to bringing water to communities in Africa. Go on, buy One and change somebody’s life.
>>p49 Focus on Bottled Water