Thursday, November 30, 2023

How a Former Firefighter Created ‘1for1 Water’ to Help People without Access to Safe Drinking Water

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“If you were walking down the street and you saw a child in danger, you would rush and help that child,” says John Winslow during a guesting at Talks of Life Podcast back last July. He did the virtual interview in his library. There’s an effortless sense of confidence and genuine sincerity that can be seen through his eyes as he talks about his company and the reason for its existence.

He continues, “If you alone were walking and saw 500 children in danger, you would still start to help but it would be overwhelming. If you were walking down the street and you saw a billion children, you would feel totally powerless to have any kind of impact, because it’s so huge and so terrible. There’s something in human nature that when you see something that’s overwhelming and you feel powerless to do anything about it, you kind of look away. You can’t look at it because it’s so terrible and you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.”

What Winslow is trying to put into words, is the reason why many of us turn a blind eye when it comes to the global water crisis that affects around 844 million individuals worldwide–a problem that he hopes to solve or, or at the very least, help alleviate with his brand, 1for1 Water.

“That’s what 1for1 Water is. We’ve created a way for compassionate people to have an impact on the global water crisis every day. It’s about empowering those individuals who want to make the world a better place, giving them just one more tool in their toolbox to do that,” he adds.

1for1 Water is a fairly new player in the bottled water industry, but one who is quickly gaining popularity. Its concept is simple and straightforward: every liter of water purchased allows the company to give one liter of clean, sustainable water to a person in need. One for one. Its effects, however, are more profound than most realize.

Without easy access to clean drinking water, families and communities remain locked in poverty for generations. Time and energy that should be spent building a better future for themselves are instead devoted to finding water for survival.

It All Started with Water

If there’s anything that Winslow knows, it’s the power that water holds. Before founding 1for1 Water, Winslow worked as a firefighter in Naples, Florida. Unusual as it may sound, it was here that his path to entrepreneurship started.

“At the fire department, you work 24 hours on and you have 48 hours off. So you work every third day. And I always did something on my days off. My trade is air conditioning. And that’s where the bulk of my business experience comes from. In that industry, I’ve been an apprentice when I was young, I’ve been an operations manager for a couple of fairly large companies in the area.”

In addition to giving him time to acquire experience in other fields, his work as a fireman also equipped Winslow with essential skills needed to run a company.

He shares, “When I started to get into leadership roles in the air conditioning industry, that was when I started to realize that the things I learned in the fire department were actually really really powerful tools in the business world. The fire department’s all about organizational structure and process and procedure, and the first company that I went into when I left the fire department had none of those things.”

“I walked in and rebuilt a department in three weeks. I was the manager of that department when I walked into the door, then they promoted me into operations manager for the whole company and I started doing that with all the individual departments–just putting processes in place, putting procedures in place, and empowering the people who work there; showing them what the expectations were, training them how to reach those expectations. It really changed the dynamics a lot for everybody.”

Finding the Perfect Wave

Since its founding in 2018, 1for1 Water has already distributed close to 2 million liters of water to people in Uganda and Zimbabwe through its various nonprofit partners like VillageWorx, Living Water International, and Waterboys. They do this by funding the creation of wells and sustainable water solutions. To continue growing his water distribution projects, Winslow aims to sell 1 million bottles of water this year.

And the work has only just begun. 

1for1 Water continues to grow and is now available in various outlets nationwide, including select 7-Eleven branches in Southwest Florida Ada’s Natural Market, Seed & Bean Coffee, Ride Nature, Kava Culture, Oakes Farms, Wynn’s Market, Badass Coffee, Hyatt House in Naples, Bayfront Inn in Naples and Amazon. But how did this entire movement come to be?

As someone who is very passionate about serving others, Winslow naturally gravitated towards the idea of social responsibility entrepreneurship. He knew that if he was ever going to start his own venture, it needs to have a cause in its center. 

“I’ve been looking for something I could do and I’ve had a couple of ideas, like I wanted to build a factory in Haiti to make clothing and create jobs, but when I did the numbers on it, it just didn’t work.”

After several more attempts at finding the right social enterprise model, the idea for 1for1 Water finally came to him. 

“I was literally driving down the road one day, drinking a bottle of water and I thought ‘If TOMS can give away a pair of shoes for every pair it sells, if Warby Parker can give away a pair of glasses, if Bombas can give away a pair of socks, why can’t we do it with water?”

After making several calls to potential suppliers and doing the computation for the business, Winslow knew this is something that he wanted to work on. He saw the big potential of the bottled water industry in helping solve the global water crisis.

“Part of seeing if the numbers worked was seeing what it would cost to fund a well in South America or America and how many people would that well take care of, how many liters of water a day would those well produce, so we can keep our promise of providing a liter of water for a liter that we sell.”

“In 2021, bottled water in the U.S. alone is gonna be 25 billion dollars. So when I sat with the branding and marketing team, they asked me ‘What’s your big, hairy, audacious goal?’ I said, ‘55 million in annual revenue which is one quarter of one percent of that 25 billion dollar market. Because at 55 million in annual revenue, we’ll be funding a new well everyday. Each one of these wells provides water for somewhere from 500 to a thousand people.”

From that point on, the rest was history. After just two years, Winslow’s 1for1 Water has established itself as one of the most innovative purpose-driven enterprises today. In fact, it’s so promising that it even helped Winslow get accepted to Newchip Accelerator, one of the most well-respected programs for entrepreneurs who are looking at growing their businesses. The Newchip Accelerator also provides startups with access to potential investors and has so far raised $150 million since their launch in 2016.

Everyone Wins

One of the greatest testaments to the great amount of work and thinking that Winslow has put in his company can be found inside every bottle he sells. 1for1 Water offers nothing but 100% natural spring water that is responsibly sourced from Spring of Life alkaline spring in Mount Verde, Florida. The water has a pH level of 8+, which can help improve the immune system and lessen the body’s acid levels.

In addition to this, 1for1 Water goes through several filtration processes to remove impurities, including bacteria and microorganisms. The output is safe, pure, and delicious drinking water that comes in BPA free, biodegradable and recyclable bottles, making 1for1 Water one of the most eco-friendly bottled waters on the planet.

It’s clear to see that what Winslow has done with 1for1 Water is something that undeniably sparks hope in the hearts of everyone who learns about them. With more people like him paving the way for the rest of us, the world may just find itself becoming a better place one day.

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