Tap Water Ltd: Mike Green
The social enterprise founder on following his passion and convincing customers to make a change
Tell us what your business does:
We promote the drinking of tap water, instead of bottled, and the reduction of plastics being sent to landfill.
We sell a range of stainless steel, reusable Lifebottle®s – which keep water as cold as it came out of the tap for up to 20 hours – as well as effervescent taptab tablets, which can be stored in the cap and used to add flavour to the water.
You can take these bottles into any shop or café in the country and ask for it to be refilled. This is already national legislation, but few people know this. We ask outlets to put our sticker in their window and promote that they will happily refill your Lifebottle®, to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bottles.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Volunteering in foreign lands and a secret passion of mine since boyhood – when tap water was called ‘council pop’ by my mother!
How did you know there was a market for it?
We don’t exactly. We are trying to create a movement and change people’s habits.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have been working in property development for many years and have an HNC in building management.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes – I have almost always run my own business. Even when I did work at large national businesses, I still kept hold of my flourishing property business.
What planning did you do before you started up – did you put together a business plan?
No. We’re running on our passion to make a difference and leave a legacy for future generations.
How did you raise the money?
I am funding the whole scheme from my own pocket. All profits made from the products are reinvested in to the initiative.
How did you find suppliers?
We were very fortunate to develop a product for which we now have a worldwide patent; although I was disappointed to have to manufacture the bottles in the Far East, instead of the UK, due to cost.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our only problem is convincing the general public to make a lifestyle change, in order to protect the environment.
Where is your business based?
At home but we hope to move this year.
How have you promoted your business?
We are busy visiting educational establishments, where most of our business is conducted.
We now have one school on board, which has made our reusable bottles part of the school uniform.
How did you decide how much to charge?
The bottle is the best bottle on the market, and – based on current market analysis – should retail for £30. However, to ensure maximum sales and that the message is widespread, it was decided to keep the product price at less than £15.
Long term, ‘Tapwater Project’ (a commercial company I own) will help to finance Tapwater ltd. Tapwater Project is an initiative to get better drinking facilities into UK schools, colleges and universities by renting high-speed water dispensing facilities, which can be used to exert a small charge every time a student refills their bottle with chilled or carbonated water (delivering a better return for the institution than they get from selling bottled water in vending machines). We are in the process of launching it now and hope to see a return within 24 months, by renting the facilities at a charge of £15 per month.
My goal is to set up Tapwater Project as an enterprise made up of like-minded individuals who all have a share-holding in the company to the value of 51% (think John Lewis). Eventually, Tapwater Ltd will own the other 49%, so 49% of all profit made by Tapwater Project will be given straight to tapwater.org, to continue it long term.
What about staff – how many do you have?
We hope to recruit more staff this year. Getting pro-active and enthusiastic staff, who spend more time working and less time playing with their phones and social media sites can be a problem.
What’s your growth been like?
For now the movement is more important to us than the revenue, although we know that if we increased our product value our margins would appeal to department stores who would then sell the bottle. This may change in the future once we are more established.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
What home life?
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Convincing people to make a change!
What was your first big breakthrough?
Understanding how the market works and to make our scheme a win-win for all.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up because you will eventually start pushing the boulder uphill, albeit very slowly.
Do you have an exit plan?
Tapwater.org is a growing baby learning to support itself, so I dedicate 100% of my time to it at present and live off my savings. At the end of the year I am hoping to step back and focus on lectures at schools.
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