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Free the Tap: How My Quest for Tap Water Has Helped Bring Clean Water to Africa

Edwin Broni-Mensah, founder of GiveMeTap

Many people never start a business because they are too concerned with finding the perfect idea; but all you need is an efficient solution that fixes a significant problem.

It all started with a fitness challenge. A few months before my 25th birthday, I embarked on a strict fitness regimen and had to drink over a gallon of water every day. To my surprise, drinking all that water was the hardest part of the challenge. I was a Ph.D student and was always running around campus. It was nearly impossible to find free water once I left the house.

I tried to solve the problem by always carrying a bottle and asking for tap water at coffee shops and restaurants, but it did not work very well. Most people refused, and those who agreed tried to convince me to buy bottled water. My parents are from Ghana, so I grew up knowing full well that millions of people across the world don't have access to clean water. In the meantime, although England has some of the best water in the world, I was being coerced to buy expensive bottled water instead. That's when the idea for GiveMeTap was born.

The concept was simple: we'd sell reusable water bottles that people could refill with free tap water at restaurants and cafes in our water network; and we'd use part of our revenue to fund clean water projects in African countries.

Our model makes access to free water extremely convenient and helps people save money that would otherwise be spent on bottled water. We also make it easy and fun for everyone to become a changemaker. You buy a bottle, we give someone five years of clean water. By encouraging our customers to drink from our reusable bottles, we prevent tons of plastic waste from going to landfills, oceans and rivers. It's a holistic approach where everyone wins.

Credit: GiveMeTap

Challenging the bottled water industry

In order to succeed, GiveMeTap needed the support from coffee shops and restaurants. We had to convince the same people who refused to give me tap water to do so for hundreds of people. We had to change the way people consume water and challenge an industry that's worth billions of dollars.

We started by targeting businesses with an ethical and sustainable core. They understood the issue of plastic wastage and were more inclined to sign up. Their values and mission were aligned with ours. They wanted to use their platform to make a difference and saw the partnership with GiveMeTap as an opportunity to do so.

We also gave our customers the option to tell us which places they'd love to see in our water network. Soon enough, we had a long list of traditional establishments that were being requested by people. It became much easier to recruit partners once they knew that their own customers were asking them to join the GiveMeTap network. After a few years, we had partnerships with over 800 locations throughout the U.K. and expanded to the US.

Expanding to B2B

I started GiveMeTap to help people stay hydrated on the go while making a difference in the lives of people who need it. The initial plan was to make access to tap water as convenient as possible to individual consumers. But as we grew, companies heard about our mission and saw an opportunity for their CSR and sustainability programs.

Our first corporate client was a large management consulting firm that purchased 12,000 bottles for their staff in the U.K. They encouraged employees to drink from our reusable bottles instead of plastic cups. This initiative not only improved corporate wellness but also their CSR efforts. In only five months, they were able to reduce their plastic cup waste by 20 percent.

Once we secured this partnership, we gained credibility among other companies. Large corporations wanted to incorporate GiveMeTap into their social responsibility programs. Smaller companies wanted to gift our bottles to their employees and clients and at events. Non-profit organizations saw great results using GiveMeTap bottles as a fundraising tool. The feedback we received was incredible, and we saw ourselves become a B2B company.

This expansion to B2B was pivotal to broadening our impact. Our corporate deals enable large-scale distribution and allow us to fund more projects in a shorter period of time. So far, we have given clean water to 23,000 people in African countries and prevented 45.1 million plastic cups and bottles from going into circulation in the U.K. and U.S.

What's next

GiveMeTap's journey has been amazing. It started as a six-month challenge and became a real company with a presence in the U.K. and U.S. markets. But our work is far from done. There are still 668 million people without clean water in the world. Thousands of organizations around the world still need help becoming more sustainable and socially responsible. Tons of plastic waste are still dumped into our oceans every year. We believe we can change that, one GiveMeTap bottle at a time.

About the author: Edwin Broni-Mensah, fondly known as "The Water Guy," is the founder of GiveMeTap. Each GiveMeTap bottle sold gives 5 years of clean water to a person in Africa. Plus, people can find free tap water on-the-go through our network of restaurants and coffee shops using the GiveMeTap app.

Image Credit: GiveMeTap