Ariane Paris and Lisa Joyner turned their mutual passion for clean water and healthy living into a new business: Ethical H20. “We love water. Seriously, we do. That wasn’t our biggest motivation for starting the company, however. What we really wanted to do was something that would make a difference in people’s lives, as well as the world we live in,” Joyner said. “By focusing on the bigger picture (health, education, quality, sustainability and ethics—all the positive things we believe in) we feel like we are able to have a larger overall impact than by just selling water.”
“Our decision to go into business together was easy. We share the same passion, have the same vision and our skill sets complement each other, making work feel less like work and a lot more like doing what we love,” Paris added. Their business plan is in three phases: first, create and perfect a replicable business model, then franchise it around the nation and finally, develop new products specifically aimed at reducing or eliminating the need for plastic bottles that pollute the environment. Their plan is ambitious indeed but each of the partners has extensive experience in the water industry and related businesses.
“I stumbled into the industry by accident 15 years ago,” Paris said. “I had moved back to San Diego after living in Hawaii for a year and needed a job quickly. I basically took the first job that was offered to me, as an admin at a local water filtration company. Little did I know that job would end up changing the trajectory of my career. Over seven years, I worked my way from administration to marketing to sales and eventually into management. Ultimately, I moved on from that company but stayed in the industry, working on both the residential and commercial sides. The most rewarding part of what I do is the connections I make along the way. I am really committed to helping people live better and, through education and quality products, I get happy clients, which is very rewarding.”
Joyner started in sales and management more than 20 years ago. “I have always been attracted to companies that make a sustainable impact on the environment. When I first started working with Ariane in the water business four years ago, I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that I can reach so many people with one decision-maker in a business by offering water filtration units. I provide healthy, clean water when it’s needed. I could be saving lives. In my opinion, this is the best industry you can work in and owning my own company, doing what I love, is truly a dream come true.”
Friends first, then business partners
Paris and Joyner met eight years ago and became fast friends before deciding to go into business together. “We worked together for a company that would sell franchises and train people to own and operate healthy and organic vending businesses. We were part of a team to help get that person set up in schools and other places where healthier options were a benefit. That’s where we learned we share the same passion of doing something good,” Paris said. “It’s not necessarily a passion about vending or even water filtration but what that provides: the bigger message of wellness, supporting the environment and giving back. We do want to make a difference and help make the world a better place.”
The two women opened Ethical H2O in April 2017. The company serves San Diego and the immediate surrounding counties. “We cater to residential clients (both renters and homeowners) as well as a broad range of commercial facilities, including coffee houses, assisted-living facilities, hotels, apartment complexes and holistic centers.” Their focus is on both commercial and residential applications. “We’re both senior sales people and have lots of contacts, so that helps when starting out. We have already hired one sales person and are actively looking for more.”
“By far, the two biggest challenges we face are the abundance of choices when it comes to water filtration and the misinformation that too often gets passed on to the client. So many consumers have come to us confused and frustrated with the research process. After having been told so many different things, they don’t know which company is telling them the truth. This feedback always bums us out because that experience is just so unnecessary,” Joyner said.
“It is because of this feedback that we structured our company and approach the way we have. Our entire mission is to educate people in an ethical way to procure only the best products with the highest value and to make our consumer buying experience simple and relaxed,” she said. “We do that through our own training and education so we can truly be an authority on the subject of water filtration and a source of guidance for the consumer, even if they don’t end up buying from us. Training and keeping current with new technology, as well as connecting with other industry professionals, are integral parts of our process and success. For us to gain the trust of the clients we serve, it is imperative to constantly be educating ourselves and keeping our finger on the pulse.”
One of the industry professionals they rely on is Mike Mecca of Performance Water. “Performance Water was the original equipment manufacturer at the first company I worked for,” Paris said. “So when we decided to go into business we called him. Mike is so fantastic, just awesome at making sure we are getting information and accurately conveying it to the customer. Our goal is to provide accurate information so people can make the right choices.”
Franchising ecofriendly distributorships
Paris said, “We have a lot of exciting phases that will be rolling out over the next several years. Within the next year, we will be launching our thirstyforwater.com brand of products and ecofriendly distributorship program. Over the next five years, we’d like to see a distributor in every state modeled after the Ethical H2O standards of honesty, quality, value, knowledge and sustainability. We want to provide other people the opportunity to start their own healthy water business and educate them so they can turn around and do the same thing we’re doing here. We are starting to create a brand and eventually hope to create our own products specifically to impact the volume of single-use plastic bottles people use every day. We are also excited to partner with organizations that are making differences in this world, both locally and around the globe. It is without question that giving back is a huge part of measuring our success and we are actively looking for opportunities to do so.”
Though there are few female-owned dealerships in the male-dominated water industry, Paris and Joyner see that as an opportunity to do things differently, especially since at least half the consumers are women. The home page of their website opens with “Live Positive—Find Your Healthy” and the text includes this message: “Turn your tap water from blah to ahhh.” Their profile photos are serene and yoga-casual. “Yes, we have a more feminine approach, a woman’s touch, a softer color palette and style that reflect our tastes and approach to life,” Paris said. Clients find it refreshing.
Joyner and Pars already had a vision for their business when an opportunity presented itself to buy another local company in San Diego. But as they explored the options “we realized the amount of work it would take for us to change another company’s entire image and business structure wasn’t worth the investment. Starting our business from the ground up has been the best decision. It has all happened very organically,” Joyner said.
These high-energy entrepreneurs also are busy moms with young children. Fortunately, “we both have type-A personalities. We like to have a list of things to do in a day, get them done and feel accomplished at the end of the day,” Paris said. “We have a very good support system and that helps. We love what we do. It’s very exciting and extremely fulfilling.”