By Hannah McCarthy
Aquaid is one of the growing number of Irish businesses to ride the fresh wave of social entrepreneurship. The water bottle brand, which allows consumers to choose the cause their purchase supports, was founded by 19-year-old UCD student Eoin Dunlevy with the aim of turning customers into philanthropists without making drastic changes to their daily lives.
A proportion of all the sales revenue goes to good causes. In the case of Aquaid it’s 10c out of every €1.15 bottle. The innovation that Aquaid has taken is that it allows the consumer to specify what type of cause is supported by their purchase. This is done by differentiating the bottles by colour: pink, blue, green and orange. Each of these colours denotes different causes: breast cancer, children, environmental protection and muscular disorder respectively. Every six months, the designated charity for the cause receives a cheque from Aquaid towards its cause.
Initially Aquaid had used national charities in its business endeavors but Dunlevy’s aim is to bring locally based charities on board so that consumers can pick charities from their local area to support. The Aquaid website (Aquaid.ie) allows the public to nominate the charity that they would most like to see supported by Aquaid.
Dunlevy has initially aimed Aquaid at students and the business model has emphasised students’ unions as the primary distributors of the water bottles. The fact that Aquaid is bottled by a top Irish firm and in compliance with global manufacturing standards has meant that it has recently been able to attract high-calibre distributors like SuperValu and Spar, although this expansion has been limited to stores in the South Donegal region.
At €1.15 it’s competitively priced and it’s well-designed with a special sports cap for drinking on the move. Dunlevy believes that both consumers and retailers benefit from the product: consumers are offered a hassle-free means of supporting a charitable cause while retailers benefit from a boosted public perception.
He believes that in terms of starting businesses “the easiest time is in College”. Students don’t have the pressures of a full-time job and are invariably familiar with tight budgets. He used family members and friends to test bottle designs and prototypes and it was their input that helped him to come up with the “splat” Aquaid logo for the bottle.
As of yet, Dunlevy has not sought external investment. His personal savings provided the start-up capital that he needed and he says the company operates on an extremely tight budget. He has approached Donegal Enterprise Board and Dublin Enterprise Board for talks on funding in the future.
In terms of future plans for the business, Dunlevy has had interest from a number of other high street retailers and chain stores. He is now in talks with well-known coffee chain Insomnia to introduce Aquaid into Insomnia’s branches in UCD, as a trial run for national distribution.
Dunlevy has said that one of the big problems he faced was his age. As a young-looking 19-year-old he was aware that many suppliers might be dismissive of him. In general he tried to build up business relationships first through email, fax and telephone before face-to-face meetings.