Guest Blogger: The Water People – Aquadrop
Water is life, and it only made sense for Picha Booth to talk to a dynamic female duo changing how we stay hydrated. They have come up on top in their business field, and because we’re all about promoting boss ladies, we sat down with Yvonne to learn more about the company’s entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a bit about yourselves (background)
Back in the day, bottled water was a luxury that was only afforded by the elite, so as for the rest of us (mortals), we used to boil municipal council water from the tap to ensure that it was safe to drink. This was our chore. Wangui and I are childhood friends and our parents’ next-door neighbors. After getting into trouble severally for forgetting to carry out this chore, we decided that there had to be a more efficient way to purify drinking water. We did our research and set up a small plant on factory space that belonged to my father.
With the little savings that we had, we started supplies in the neighborhood. In uni, Wangui had studied Finance and Business studies, and my background is in Law, so, we used these basic skills to register and run our company and as they say, the rest is history.
How has business been in the past 10 years?
The business has been growing steadily. The industry has also grown immensely over the past 10 years as the demand for safe and clean drinking water has risen as well. The municipal council hasn’t been doing a very good job and therefore many have risen to the occasion. However, since this business is relatively simple to get into, it has come with a lot of counterfeit /illicit brands that do not adhere to the standards. This is terrible for the consumer because it may not be safe, and it also promotes unfair competition and lack of credibility in the industry as a whole.
Why water? Adult humans are 60% water and our blood is 90% water. Water is a basic human need that is not enough. With a population of about 50million Kenyans, 41% rely on unimproved water sources. This is deplorable. As for the rest who have access to improved water sources, only 9 out of 55 public water service providers provide continuous water supply. We feel that it is our purpose and our vision to be a part of the solution by providing safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
How has the business impacted your lives on a business and personal level?
To be honest, it is very hard to separate the two, our business and personal lives are very much intertwined as it is with most if not all entrepreneurs’. On a business level, we understand that we aren’t just doing this for us, we have people who count on us and who look up to us. We have a very able and dedicated team who share our passion and we work tirelessly to ensure that they can provide for their families and grow with us. In turn, this has us doubling as mentors.
As for our personal lives, running a business takes a lot of your time and energy and therefore you have to be very deliberate in creating a balance. (if that even exists!) It has taught me not to be afraid to say NO to commitments or plans that aren’t necessary. I make time for what is important, for me, that is family, true friends, personal growth and growing my interests.
How have your skills helped you in running the business?
I would say that what we studied has generally helped us in the running of our business and because we are two different minds, with totally different personalities, we have complimented each other well. Wangui is great with strategy and numbers, where my strength is with people and implementation. We are very blessed to have each other. That said, you must keep on learning and sharpening the skills that you already have. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and videos and seek guidance.
What are the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
We have faced many challenges over the years, access to financing is definitely in the top 3. The rates aren’t friendly for SMEs and without security, it’s near impossible to get funding from banks.
Lack of mentorship, we have had to shoot in the dark and hope for the best many times, this shouldn’t be the case, seasoned entrepreneurs should take up more mentorship roles and guide the upcoming talent, especially in manufacturing. We have had to learn the hard way which is sometimes not necessary.
How has your business evolved?
Our industry did not have a platform in which we could exchange ideas, fight for our rights or even ensure that legitimate practices of water purification and bottling are observed. This left us open to exploitation from government bodies, unscrupulous bottlers, and even suppliers. This was the case up to one year ago when the Water Bottlers Association of Kenya (WBAK) was formed and Wangui is the current Vice-chair.
We started out as naïve girls, whose dream was to find an easier way to carry out their chore. Years down the line, we are now a fully-fledged business with the vision to provide safe and clean drinking water solutions not only in this country but in all of Africa. We have embraced innovation and are the first to introduce the first mobile water dispensing unit. We keep re-inventing ourselves and how we do our business. We stand for the wellness of the body, the mind, and the environment and this is what we advocate for.
How has the partnership dynamic between you been like?
I feel blessed to have found another human who shares the same vision as I do. It is rare to have a childhood friend who is not only your confidant but one who you can work with as well. We have learnt to work together and use our different personalities to lift each other up by playing our different roles in the business and letting each other thrive in our strengths. It is tough sometimes, but we have learnt that communicating is everything.
What learnings can you share with us with regard to starting a business with a partner?
Find a partner who is as passionate as you are in whatever you are venturing in. I have defined roles for accountability and preferably in different fields. Have honest conversations with one another even when things are elephant. Have clear and well-defined agreements and contracts from the onset. Always do your part in the commitment that you have made to your partner and your business.
There are misconceptions about women working together. How have you been able to tackle this stereotype?
In my experience, as long as there is mutual respect and a shared vision, you are destined for greatness. Women should support and build each other. They say when women come together with a collective purpose, magic happens, I’m not sure who ‘they’ is, but they are absolutely right. I would say that we have managed to kill this stereotype, mostly because we genuinely always want what is best for each other and we support each other fully. Ultimately, it ends up being what is best for our business as well.
What do you wish you knew before starting the business?
I wish I knew about the “small business lie”. I now realize that the effort one puts in to grow a small family business (like is the norm in our society) is the same effort that you put into growing a scalable global brand or business. If you’re going for it, go in big and go in hard. Processes, systems, and documentation are Key and should never be overlooked.
What’s for the future ahead?
The dream is to provide safe clean drinking water for all, especially in our continent. There are many unexplored avenues on how this can be done and we have many ideas on how we can make that a possibility, as we get closer to that goal, we shall continue to educate, innovate and hydrate.
Follow links below to contact Aquadrop for your water needs:
As always, thank you for stopping by!