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a beautiful life…

Well it rhymes with trouble and strife, but no-one really wants to read of another’s woes, so I opted for the more palatable headline… We too have the day to day pressures of running a growing business, late paying customers and un-cooperative banks, but in the wider scheme of things, we’re winning down here at AQUAPAX head office, with both our customer base and distribution network moving in the right direction. More importantly, as an entrepreneur with a reasonably healthy ‘macro’ perspective, we remain healthy and happy as a family during those precious (few) hours we spend together.

Someone bought my attention to a hydration article recently which is worth sharing… Recent research has uncovered habitual dehydration among 96% of the UK’s office workers, which has prompted a campaign by one of the more worthy natural juice companies (Juice Doctor). It’s designed to educate the nation and encourage healthy hydration habits, urging people to check the colour of their urine as a matter of course and setting the nation a goal to ‘keep it light’.

Apparently two in every three Brits are dehydrated and while our bodies offer an accurate visual detector to understand our individual hydration level, there’s a distinct lack of understanding of what the campaign refers to as ‘simple biology’. Their findings show that 93 percent of office workers either don’t check and/or don’t know what the colour of their urine indicates. For those who didn’t study biology, the lighter your urine, the better you’re hydrated!

The ‘Keep It Light!’ survey polled over 1,000 UK office workers and apparently a shocking 75 percent of UK office workers cited their first response to a headache as taking headache pills rather than drinking more water. This coincides with my observations at the fabulous designer label Theatre de la Mode’s Olympian Exhibition in Brompton Rd last week; we allowed a significant quantity of water for consumption on a hot evening, only to find a majority seeking hydration in vodka punch. It was a nice punch, but moderation went out of the window! Still, the wise ones would have been grateful for their AQUAPAX experience next morning…

Back to the report, which claims the majority of folk surveyed, 60% believed they drank enough water, less than 4% were actually getting the recommended 7+ glasses of water per day. Shockingly (from my perspective) almost three-quarters of the respondents admitted to drinking either no water at all or only one to two glasses.  I find it’s a good discipline to keep my AQUAPAX on my desk at work. I can then re-fill it from the water dispenser (aka tap) and put the lid back on to keep my water cool inside the pack rather than sitting in an open glass warming while awaiting colleagues to cough in it… (bad image but that’s the reality!)

It’s proven that a mere 2% drop in hydration can lead to a massively disproportionate 20% drop in concentration. This leads to the ‘Keep It Light!’ campaign crux which warns a habitually dehydrated worker can be wasting up to one day per week in loss of concentration. Staggering statistics!

Enough of the public service broadcast for one blog, what’s happenening at AQUAPAX head office I hear you ask… Yes that was a typo if you looked closely, but if it’s good word for a 4 year old, it’s cool by me!

AQUAPAX has commenced the long awaited launch into the first 60 Tesco stores, primarily across the south east of England, but some as far afield as the midlands where we’re in Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon. It’s an ambient listing in the first instance, which means the AQUAPAX will probably be on the shelf rather than in the fridge, however, that’s the way it has to be before we can roll out to a more accessible store base within a more prominent front of store location.

We’re awaiting the wider scale roll out before making noise and generating attention to our presence, which we’re planning to coincide with our new website – running a little late but live before the Summer’s out.  On that note, it’s time to start the week – well it is almost 07:00 so the week has officially begun. Keep smilling 🙂

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this is my why…

It’s a challenge to read my optimistic embrace of 22nd April (below) and reconcile it with how the news of the gulf oil slick – which unfolded later that same day – made and continues to make me feel. The wonderful ecological initiatives being undertaken by so many good people are dwarfed by the continuing devastation in the gulf. 

All the recycling in the world is undone by whatever went wrong deep under the sea. We watch as it spews its foul smelling hydrocarbons wreaking havoc on the ecology of the southern United States. I’ve twittered about this and other aspects of life, but resurrecting a full blown blog seemed unattractive to me up to now.

I spoke at the Brighton & Hove Chamber breakfast last Friday and a friend of mine, Gordon Borer, quoted Simon Sinek to me and reinforced something deep within; Gordon stressed to keep telling ‘my why’. To communicate my vision of how AQUAPAX will bring the wider culture change in our consumer society which I so earnestly desire… So as it’s world environment day on Saturday (June 5th) here goes with another creative release… (http://www.youtube.com/brightonchamber ; http://uk.linkedin.com/in/gordonborer ; http://startwithwhy.com/)

My why is driven by the deep feelings I had while watching the tsunami footage back on December 26th 2004 and how helpless I subsequently felt when my plans to ‘lend a hand’ were vetoed within the structure of the corporation that was my then employer.

This led me to work on a disposable portable water container suitable for long term storage, with comprehensive integrity in terms of its function and carbon footprint. This near obsession and my ultimate mission of launching a premium consumer brand called AQUAPAX, evolved into my strategy to swim up-stream when the ‘institutions’ of the world wouldn’t work with our ‘new business’…

I’ve always loved trees and dropping geography for woodwork was one of the first independent decisions I made, which impacted my education in ways I was then too young to grasp. Working with sustainable forest sources as a renewable material was the only true way I could think of to ensure the future of the worlds great forests. Look closely at the front of an AQUAPAX – you will see this clearly.

I deliberately chose to carbon balance our business energy emmissions because I knew the well meaning green brigade would otherwise leap upon AQUAPAX source being a few hundred kilometres further away than was optimal. Choosing the particular source we did – one of the purest natural mineral waters on the planet – is because I know too much about inferior quality water and was not prepared to develop a product without integrity. (a pure thirst for the environment ®)

We’ve continued to thrive through a deep recession we didn’t budget for because people are getting our message and I feel so grateful that our growing distribution now embraces a tribe of human connections in 4 countries with some major well respected retail alliances already on board our revolution…

Since my last blog on earth day: –

  • We sponsored the Estethica Press Day – held at Clarence House.
  • We sponsored the first ever exhibition of Palestinian Art – held at Kenny Shatners Rove Gallery in Hoxton Square. (We embrace art & not politics!)
  • We sponsored the regeneration project at the Rag Factory off Brick Lane, masterminded by a brilliant young photography student Charlotte Streeter.
  • We’ve agreed an exciting sponsorship with Creative Director Chris Kelly and his iconic fashion label ‘Theatre De La Mode’ for their upcoming film premier fashion show in Knightsbridge.
  • We sponsored the (non-alcoholic) refreshment in the VIP arena at the Antibes Boat Show.
  • We’ve also agreed an ongoing high profile sponsorship with the world famous FIAC in Paris through to 2012.

‘There’s revolution in the air’ – as Bob Dylan sang all those years ago… watch this space as AQUAPAX (the eco-chic conscience of the bottled water industry) gathers increasing pace over this summer and the seasons which follow, or ping me directly with your postcode if you’d like to know where your nearest current stockist is…
I’ll write again soon – I promise.  😉

Earth Day is celebrated across the world today (April 22nd) ever since the first ever designated Earth Week gathering which was organised by some particularly forward thinking student folk in Philadelphia back in 1970. Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? 😉

That particular week started on April 16 and ended on what they called Earth Day, namely April 22. This day has been and continues to be observed with growing global support, up to the point where it’s now recognised in virtually every country on Earth.

As one who didn’t previously make any effort to understand the history of the occasion, it’s always been a day to make an extra effort to reduce my consumption. I cycle or walk to work if at all possible and in my own little way, I try to use whatever influence I have on those around me as an example of ‘living the other way – at least for a day’.

I had a day-dream today – or might it have been a premonition – that one day AQUAPAX will become the global sponsor for Earth Day. In the day-dream there was an inevitable incongruity for a premium eco-chic portable water brand to sponsor something that’s bigger than any brand (there’s a challenge for the guys at Coke) but that led me to ponder a solution…

Instead of going for the corporate style global sponsorship, I decided we can still achieve the token ideal by asking all our regular consumers to use their empty AQUAPAX containers for one more day during Earth Week (proving that by and large, we can almost always make do with what we typically choose to throw away) and then to cut the containers in half and plant a couple of tree seeds in the 2 half containers that leaves them. It’s a fitting way for a container mostly made of wood to end its life and it’s still recycling in a more direct action Earth Day kind of way… Mrs. Green will be proud of me…

It’s that time of year again tomorrow where I take a day off to celebrate the anniversary of being born… I confess my birthday isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, but the day still merits a bit of chill out time.

This year it’s a picnic in a child friendly farm setting with some good friends and their 2 young lads. I’ll end up exhausted but happy and ready for the Brighton Business Show (complete with real life ‘dragons’ apparently) on Wednesday morning.

I’ve turned down the launch party for Recognise Magazine tomorrow evening – dropped off the AQUAPAX for them on Friday – and considering I’m already out on Thursday evening for the Jaffa Cakes TLV first group showing of contemporary Tel Aviv art here in the UK (with AQUAPAX in support of course) I think I deserve an evening off.

In case you’re thinking this is a little out of character, I confess to having a phone call scheduled with a major retail buyer just before lunch tomorrow, but that’s still a significant proportion of me time for one whole day! 😉

Reading Seth’s blog earlier on the endless search for wow, his closing paragraph (quoted including his punctuation) makes a lot of sense to me… “In the race between ‘who’ and ‘how many’, who usually wins – if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.”

As a challenger brand, we are completely focussed on who, and for the time being at least, we largely ignore the how many; as independents, there’s little prospect and indeed little point in us going flat-out to spend money we don’t have to convince people to try AQUAPAX if they prefer flavoured / carbonated beverages, or if they really don’t have any feeling for the purity and integrity of our product and what it stands for. If you’re cool with plastic then why would we want to give you a free AQUAPAX?

The essence of what Seth wrote is to do with branding and brand identification / acceptance by the market, yet at another level, Seth is wrong. Marketing is just one facet of business and while it’s the one we consider most important, a recent investment of $22M by Siva Group for 50% of a Norwegian water brand shows that smoke and mirrors (wow by any other name) still applies if you’re trying to seduce an investment manager within a $3Bn portfolio and seemingly little grasp of reality.

The brand in question bought retail market share at the expense of margin (and at real cost) with a ‘me too’ product under increasing ecological scrutiny, yet the investment community sees the mass distribution achieved and believes this will translate into long-term sustainable (presumably profitable?) market share.

With a low value product like water, I question how a production base in Norway can translate into a globally competitive and profitable business for a mid range brand, but that’s really not our problem… the investment managers who made the call probably have their own plans to sell on to some other gullible fund manager when the time is right for them.

We can’t consider the specifics of ‘precisely how’ as we follow our path – the one Seth and others in touch with the zeitgeist advocate as correct. We’re turning over every stone and moving in the right direction, in the UK, France and in Holland. AQUAPAX (our award-winning natural mineral water, that’s packaged in paper cartons and which is so pure it’s even suitable for babies) is the change we want everyone to experience. While we are proud of AQUAPAX appearing as the mineral water of choice in 5 star resorts on the Maldives and the Caribbean, we’re also intrigued that we haven’t yet had the umpteen million dollar offer for our shares!

It is pleasing though, that we keep on touching folk who care enough about what we’re doing, to pass on our message through their own free will and belief that it’s right and that our time has come. We also have some larger scale distribution up our sleeves to soon make it a little easier for you to refresh on the move without feeling guilty. I wonder how investment managers define all that within their ‘wow based’ business plans?

I went to the eThursday event at the Corn Exchange in Brighton yesterday evening where Dr. Alex Krotoski (aka the high priestess of social media) revealed herself as a genuine guru in her field.

She is one seriously nice person with a charming and disarming honesty that you can’t help smile at. She spoke generously about her background influences as well as all the tech stuff people were expecting and answered all the questions thrown at her with a considered and full explanation.

I’m pleased to know that I’m not the only one who believes facebook is on its way out and that a real friend is someone you talk to instead of ‘throwing sheep’ at – it’s apparently a facebook thing which I wouldn’t bother with if you haven’t heard of it…

She didn’t necessarily explain why social media has taken off the way it has; no-one asked that question specifically, yet still I wonder…

Social media is a term I didn’t grow up with. There again, we hadn’t ever heard of bottled water or mobile phones in those days (even the new fangled cordless phone versions were pretty chunky) and computers were something banks used instead of calculators… note to self – stop rambling Neil.

But I do remember that when we walked anywhere or went on holiday as a family, my parents would acknowledge neighbours or strangers with a polite greeting and encourage us kids to do the same – not quite as clichéd as in ‘The Truman Show’ but there were definite human acknowledgements and interactions with passing strangers.

I genuinely believe the passing of one of the age old customs of ‘tipping one’s hat’ to a stranger is in some way part of the reason why social media has become so popular today. I believe we all need interaction with our fellow man and that by and large we’re not ‘getting it’ in our daily lives. Talking to strangers on a train or bus puts me into a very small minority category of the populace – hence many of us sign-up to blog or twitter and worse to ‘follow’ strangers; somehow connecting with them and commenting on their musings, without ever meeting.

I do know that ‘harnessing’ (a word that used to have an association with a horse) social media is important for any challenger brand like mine. I do so want to embrace (even hug) the wonderful people who demonstrate their individuality every day by buying AQUAPAX, but it’s sometimes very challenging to find the time to ‘blog’ at the end of a full shift. Keeping up with ‘doing social media’ has become something of a chore for me, rather than the creative release that it started out as. I’m more of a people person than a pc person.

I confess I’m a user and fan of twitter – as the hopefully not too outrageous 140 character musings on the right will testify, and I wonder whether the longer term trend and an increasing workload will move me away from blogging to more cryptic tweets as a way of saying hi… The fact is that I want to tweet a lot more than I do, but I don’t. This is strangely out of a respect for those people who are following me, a lot of whom I’ve never met, who probably don’t want to know every time I have a cup of coffee or what my personal political jaundice is.

My favourite moment of last night was when Dr Aleks (she likes being called ‘Dr’) made the following random (and clearly heartfelt) statement as the microphone was moving around the room: – “man I’m loving this AQUAPAX water – isn’t this great branding?”

I told you she was nice with her self proclaimed ‘funny accent’ she pronounced it in an odd way, but she certainly made my evening with her human connection to ‘my baby’.

Have a wonderful weekend whatever your doing; whoever you are… 😉

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of a behind the scenes pre-opening tour of Brighton’s fabulous new venue for anyone wanting to really get their lives back in shape via their bodies…

The title should have given the venue away, as it’s the new Bikram Yoga studio, also known as Hot Yoga Brighton or Bikram in the Lanes. Not to be confused with naked yoga, Bikram yoga classes are carried out in a heated studio, so you wear as little as you’re comfortable with. Bikram has been around since the 70’s and the classes are popular all over world among those who’ve tried it and realised it works. That’s clearly how the format is spreading and we’re delighted that the latest Brighton Bikram practitioners have good taste in their choice of mineral water.

As a lay person (currently non yogi) the benefits of deep stretching in a really warm environment is essentially that our bodies are more comfortable and our muscles more flexible when we’re warm. According to the founder of the discipline, it’s about expanding your lungs from the typical 50% capacity we apparently work at.

The Brighton studio is the dream of Chicago belle Bridgett Ann (BA to her friends) and native Brightonian Simon Goddard and their wonderful positive energy is physically flowing out of them in this the final week before launch. It’s completely infectious and has made me absolutely determined to try one of their beginner courses (somehow) despite my crazy diary commitments.

They have taken a building more used to office workspace and without any hint of compromise, have transformed the open space into a fabulous studio. The investment they’ve clearly made is admirable to any entrepreneur as we all know how to take short cuts, but they’re equally easy to spot when companies do. Bikram in the Lanes hasn’t taken short cuts and the quality feel of their studio, shower areas, heater installation and consummately professional programme will clearly drive their assured success in Brighton.

In case you’re wondering, you should arrive for a Bikram Yoga class fully hydrated, but they don’t encourage guzzling water from an oversized bottle during the class. That’s the time for gentle working and sipping discretely the wonderfully pure AQUAPAX water they have available for you at the studios. Paris, Amsterdam and now Brighton – it’s amazing how true quality award winning products are in harmony together.