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Archive for the ‘elevator pitch’ Category

We’ve been completely blessed with the summer so far this year, as weekend shows promoting water are no fun at all when it rains. By and large (why do people say that?) we’ve had tremendous weekend weather wherever we’ve been and the last couple of weekends have been no exception. We camped over (literally) at Hatfield House on the weekend of the 17th August and had the luxury of travelling back to homes this weekend when we did the Hampton Court Show. Pity really as we missed the chance to sample some wonderful Stowford Press cider.

We’ve taken to going indoors in the food halls or cookery demonstration halls at the shows, as folk tend to make those destination points when they visit a country show; even if they do often wander in with an overpriced bottle of warm and plastic tasting water in their hands that they’ve begrudgingly procured from some grubby ice cream van.

We’ve been giving out free tasting samples – often abused by the few at the expense of the many, as the reality is people aren’t yet completely familiar with Aquapax, which is why we’re there in the first place. (Also to promote our Best Bottled Water of 2008 win and to try and make contact with a few retail chairmen or board members having a day out with their families.) A food hall environment is not only dry when it rains outside, but it’s an area where people stay open minded and receptive to finding out more about something new and innovative. Buying a genuine high quality product at a bargain show price is also great for marketing, as people don’t like being exploited when they’re in a captive market scenario.

Hagar continues to be a real brick and the mainstay of our outdoor event management committee. I generally turn up with a car full of stock (and as much ice as my little freezer can produce) and we work the stands together, but his enthusiasm for engaging with even quite challenging potential customers has made him quite the expert on Tetra Pak recycling and indeed on the subject of water quality as well.

This weekend was a double hitter, as we also sponsored the water for the children’s’ parade at the London Notting Hill Carnival on Sunday and I was really disappointed not to have been able to get down there for a few souvenir photos of the event; our first large scale outdoor venture.

As companies grow, people take for granted a promotional give away for a few thousand people, but when you’re a small business these things cost real money and not being there to share in the atmosphere makes them somehow more expensive.

There’s something quite poetic about our 2 London events being so high profile yet so distinctly different as the Institute of Directors Annual Convention at the Royal Albert Hall and then on to the largest street party in Europe. We know our product quality spans all market segments, so it’s only appropriate that we spread our marketing budgets accordingly too.

The prize for the silly objection of this weekend goes to an unknown and rather sad faced lady who had a go at Hagar – despite his genuinely cheerful disposition – and levelled the criticism that our bottled water price is outrageous, (we weren’t selling the bottled water madam, they were the props) based on the fact that her son apparently pays just 1p for a plastic bottle of water in Dubai.  There’s no real answer to some people not getting a marketing proposition so badly, and we must try and find some more formal way to recognise their extreme reactions without causing a food fight… 🙂

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Why? we keep on being asked… Because I grew up on a beach and every time we are out walking on a beach or in the countryside, we are distracted by plastic bottles which will never ever go away… all it took was one plastic bottle too many to turn an otherwise rational businessman into the ethical and environmental entrepreneur within.

The funky and compact Aquapax is the result – a majority sustainable and wholly recyclable paper carton containing a premium quality pure mineral water that’s even suitable for infants (no nitrates). We had to look beneath a protected nature park in Germany to get our Aquapax packaged with suitable quality water. The Tetra Pak carton we’re using is already accepted over there as the only one-way package that’s exempt from package deposit tax (because it’s environmentally advantageous) which made the alliance pitch with the packer a little easier. – Yes we have carbon balanced the business so there is less net carbon impact from food miles than with a comparable UK bottled water (if you could find one that tastes the same) and besides, I’m not aware of any plastic bottles starting their life in oil wells located across the home counties…

It’s all about customer service now, as more and more retail and wholesale customers give us space for a trial, we simply blow them away with a responsive and focused customer care that big business pays marketing consultants to talk about. It’s really not that difficult – just close your eyes every now and then and visualise who your customer is and what they want – that’s what customer service is fundamentally all about.

Aquapax are currently on sale throughout the UK and Ireland through independent minded wholesalers and retailers, with a loyal distribution base that keeps on growing encouragingly. In fact there’s a great correlation between how our sales are going and the degree of take up for carton recycling across the UK. Carton recycling is currently up to 85% of all councils in the UK – not bad really despite the urban myth still suggesting they’re impossible to recycle (wrong!).

If you believe strongly enough in something, sometimes, you just have to create the change yourself. I know there are others who understand – they’re the ones buying Aquapax and we’ve just encountered our first competition in the North American market…

Join the revolution why don’t you? Plastic is passé and glass is oh so pretentious…  🙂

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Life continues at pace with weekends whizzing into weeks and back into weekends again – a good way to tell the difference is that people smile more at the weekends…

Last weekend Hagar manned the stand (ok it’s a gazebo) at the St Mary Bourne village fete and a sunny old affair it was too. If only more villages were as community minded as the folk in St Mary Bourne, the world would be a nicer place.

They turned out in force to support their local community event in the gloriously sunny weather. It made a change to not have to explain what an Aquapax is to people as well, considering The Village Shop (run by the community for the community) is supporting our quest and selling Aquapax to thirsty residents and visitors alike. It is quite amazing how people with taste will always find a way to get hold of our wonderful water and thanks must go to Diana for the particularly amazing support she has shown for Aquapax…

Hagar had ‘the long straw’ on this occasion as I got to do store merchandising in Brighton on Saturday, followed by a long over due family BBQ on the Sunday. Both of these have potential to be a real pain, but fortunately, the BBQ went down really well and despite a lot more smoke than usual – the weather held out and the food was very tasty. My family seemed to enjoy themselves and the Brighton shopkeepers showing support were happy with their POS material promoting our recent QATRAH award win.

This weekend we’ll be making an appearance down at Newquay for the ‘Unleashed Music Festival’ in Watergate Bay – our friends at Good Mood Food will be manning the Chickpea Chariot and helping revellers quench their hunger and thirst with Aquapax and the best falafals outside of London (where they’re normally based). Falafals and water (perhaps a little wine too) it’s the only way to dance – or is that trance?

We’re also planning our mission for this year’s Cowes sailing week where we have a fabulous speedboat for the Monday and Tuesday and are hoping to tie in with a yacht to further promote Aquapax to the crowds thereafter. Aquapax is proving a hit with the sailing fraternity, as they have to take water for hydration on board their boats, but are fed up with the fact that empty plastic bottles take up as much space as full ones.

We were on board 3 of the first 4 yachts in the around Ireland race in June and should be on a few more boats for the Cowes to Madeira race taking place later in August. There’s at least one boating and marine safety retailer satisfying the demand so far and the intention is to find some more during the week ahead.

As if that all weren’t enough, the new Aquapax design (remember the guy named Tom) is coming together very nicely, thanks to him and his friends Nina and Susie, and the trip to the USA to take Aquapax over there with Robert and his boss Terry – haven’t met him, but Robert says he’s cool, is coming together with the passport office having returned my new passport today.

So it’s all looking very rosy indeed one way or another – stay tuned for further up-dates…

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Whenever a business sets out its stall as even trying to ‘bring about change for the good’, human nature is such that it looks for any weakness rather than embracing the positive commitment that business is seeking to make. The inevitable weakness is often then used as justification for knocking it and ‘continuing business as usual’ with whichever company has kept its head down.

This is essentially an extract paragraph from an earlier blog I wrote about becoming a successful ethical business and it’s something that came back to me at the weekend when we were promoting Aquapax at the Horsham eco-fair in Horsham Park AND at the Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park. [Not bad going for a company with limited resources and not possible without the heroic efforts of a certain ‘friend called Hagar’ who a number of new Aquapax customers are meeting at events across the country this summer.]

By and large, the majority of people who we meet at these events are open minded and wanting to learn, after all, that’s why they presumably left their homes on any particular day to venture out to a fair.

Irrespective of whether these people ever buy an Aquapax from us or from one of our retail partners, the fact they enquire about our less carbon intensive production process, the recycling options, the reasons why we chose the very particular Fläming Felsenquelle source water, how we actually carbon balance our business and ensure the thinking is all joined up, is done with genuine interest and sometimes with humorous challenge and fun along the way.

Then there are the frustrated comedians who talk about water coming out of the sky and laugh heartily as they reference only drinking tap water while simultaneously carrying an overpriced (and well known) brand of flavoured tap water in their rucksacks (I don’t mind them – at least they’re cheerful) or the third type – the energy sappers…

These people wander around at shows without any apparent joy; they attack with energy and robust (loud) rebukes as if we were peddling something outrageously illegal and then walk off rapidly without giving any opportunity to engage at an intellectual or any other level.

I actually got accused of being an irresponsible cause of the well publicised credit crunch by one ‘gentleman’ and it’s sad that following a weekend of great positivity, the venomous comments of ‘a nutter (in my humble opinion) who wouldn’t engage’ hurt the most. I don’t feel in the slightest bit responsible for any crunch in the credit market, but it’s always sad to see someone growing old without learning anything…

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I read a great review of the Tetra Pak carbon balancing programme on another blog this week (here’s the link) which got me thinking of where our carbon balancing contributions are spent.

There seems to be a number of dubious operators out there running carbon offsetting schemes (scams?) and because we didn’t understand too much about the mechanics, we chose an ethical junction member as our partners. Can’t go wrong with an ethical junction member – that’s our experience anyway…

The description of the Tetra Pak carbon offset programme link above is particularly well written, so rather than abbreviate or exaggerate, here’s a pasted extract of where and how our carbon balanced business dues are being spent on 2 particular compensation projects, by our friends at CLEVEL – the ethical carbon balancing entity…

RAINFOREST RESTORATION – CLEVEL’s carbon compensation project in Uganda is replanting deforested zones within key national parks to deliver certified CO2 uptake and full restoration of vital ecosystems.

Ugandan planting sites are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in partnership with the FACE Foundation and are located in the Kibale and Mount Elgon national parks. UWA was established in 1996 to conserve and manage the wildlife and protected areas of Uganda, in partnership with neighbouring communities and stakeholders, for the benefit of the people of Uganda and the global community. You can read more about this project here.

The other is the UPESI PROJECT to provide ‘energy technology’ compensation through the making and use of efficient cooking stoves. The project concentrates on cooking stoves made by pottery cooperatives, that reduce fuelwood use and indoor smoke pollution.

It is underway in Kenya, with International Charity Practical Action – founded in 1966, as ITDG (the Intermediate Technology Development Group), by Dr EF Schumacher to prove that his philosophy of ‘Small is Beautiful’ could bring real and sustainable improvements to people’s lives.

Practical Action aims to demonstrate and advocate the sustainable use of technology to reduce poverty. I’m sure that anyone whose read this far will want to know the whole story, so here’s the link showing how they are also running programmes specifically to assist those most affected by climate change impact in the majority world.

Remember what I said about Aquapax being guilt free and good for you and your baby too. “small is beautiful” – makes you think doesn’t it?
Happy Easter
🙂

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My tooth abcess appears to have calmed down – whether that was the single malt or the antiobiotics is still debatable – the ‘malt’ was for medicinal purposes – I promise…  Anyway, we had the workshop I was preparing my ‘elevator pitch’ for and it was really constructive to get honest and objective feedback from an independent group, on what I previously perceived as a reasonably well defined paragraph to describe our business.

People who listen but don’t have the same personal commitment are the only ones who can be objective and that’s why getting advice from others is so very helpful.

In any case, their core advice was to lose all the technical stuff about Aquapax water quality and to concentrate on the ecologically aware paper packaging innovation – kind of makes sense really, as that way we have something else to shout about whenever a competitor turns up with their ‘me too’ version of our Aquapax.

So, following the feedback, this is our new elevator pitch: –

At Just Drinking Water, we produce and market Aquapax pure natural mineral water packaged inside protective paper cartons. Aquapax water cartons come from sustainable and renewable forests; plastic water bottles come from declining and unsustainable oil reserves.  Aquapax are carbon balanced – guilt free and good for you and your baby too.

The fact that we hate plastic bottles so much we did something about it still seems of more interest to people at a human level, but this way, if I do meet my fantasy elevator buddy – the person who can most help us to make a difference – I’ll be prepared…

ps. Distribution continues to grow positively following our recent exhibitions and we’re getting more direct enquiries to refer on to retail partners too – keep a look out for Aquapax in a store near you very soon; it won’t be long now (in the words of the song)!
🙂

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I’ve got an abscess reappeared in the same tooth where I’ve had 3 butchered attempts at root canal treatment over the past 4 years. The last time, I was told there shouldn’t be any repeat prospect of further infection as there isn’t any root left for the infection to get into. It made me feel reassured to a degree that I was charged so much for the privilege of having a ‘professional’ to fix the previous unsuccessful and oh so painful attempts! And now it’s back, I’m in that much pain that I don’t have the energy to feel angry. Thank goodness my local dentist was able to see me as an emergency and give me a prescription for some antibiotics – I don’t normally like taking drugs, but toothache is where I draw my ‘natural remedy’ line firmly in the science of pain relief!

Moving on, I received my electronic copy of the new ‘Business First’ magazine today courtesy of the publisher, Nick Peters. Nick is a driven man and his passion for his new magazine has driven him to produce something with quite stunning quality. He takes genuine delight in sharing positive news within his magazine, where his magazine itself is a positive news story for anyone who knows him.

The fact that it’s available as an digital copy is even better, as that’s one less thing to have lying around the office. – Sorry Nick, no reflection on the magazine but my office isn’t that big… In any case, if you find yourself browsing the electronic version I’ve linked you to (hover over the cover and press Ctrl & click your mouse at the same time) take a look at the article he’s written on us – it’s on page 10.

Yes I know it doesn’t say anything about us being carbon balanced, that the purity of our water makes it suitable for babies, that our innovative package is made from 72% paper from sustainable tree sources, that the package keeps the wonderfully pure water cooler and tasting fresh until it’s opened (because it’s sealed in airtight and light free and bacteria free conditions) but it does give Aquapax some coverage and publicity is positive in any language…

Besides, it’s the only thing that’s really made me remotely happy all day – certainly beats toothache!

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