Answers From Big Issue, Friday 14th February 2014
A man’s attempts to build a six-pack before turning 25 has led to the creation of an award-winning global social enterprise with the potential to redefine the way people consume water.
Give Me Tap was borne out of the need to find tap water on the move. Their model is simplistic: someone with a funky Give Me Tap stainless steel bottle gets access to a network of cafes and restaurants who are happy to fill the bottles with tap water. A chunky margin of 70 per cent made through the selling of each bottle is invested into building water wells in Africa to create more access to drinkable water for the less-privileged there.
As many as 500 UK cafes and restaurants are in this environmentally friendly initiative now. The Virgin Money Be The Start competition has awarded this great idea £10,000 to further expand it.
The social entrepreneur Edwin Broni-Mensah was studying towards his Phd in Mathematics in Manchester University at the tender age of 24 when he set up this company with a social cause. “Becoming a 25-year-old man was a pivotal moment for me: a significant age in a man’s life. When I was a child, I was telling my friends when I turn 25, it will be the most amazing year,” says the social entrepreneur.
“I started learning more about spirituality and questioned what it means to be a man. I think a lot about how to be the best person. I realised one of my biggest aims was to have a six-pack before I turned 25. I joined the P90X exercise programme which for runs 90 days. They guarantee you will get ripped if you follow their guidelines, which included four to five litres of water intake each day.
“I was walking around our campus trying to find water to build my six-pack. But I met with so many looks of disgust and was left feeling that I was a cheapskate for even asking for tap water. That really annoyed me and motivated me to do something about it,” he explains.
He originally launched Give Me Tap in a café in Manchester, which was the first place that supported him. He then ‘cold called’ cafes and and eateries around the campus to sign them up.
Inspired by his parents in Ghana who did not have ready access to clean water, he strived to expand the network. Ahead of London Olympics, he worked towards expanding it throughout London. “It did not work quickly,” he says. “Shop owners were not in shops to make a decision.”
But he didn’t give up. Give Me Tap has launched its own London hydration campaign called Mind The Tap. Building on Transport For London’s ‘Beat the Heat’ programme, GiveMeTap created a network of cafes and restaurants around major tube stations, where commuters and travellers with the GiveMeTap bottle can get free refills of tap water, on the go.
They started with zone two and now every station in the zone has an eatery offering free water near a station. Soon an Android app will give a detailed outline of available cafes in the scheme. More Zone Two cafes are in the process of signing up.
Give Me Tap works with corporate companies to raise awareness about reducing the usage of takeaway coffee cups in the offices. Last year, they partnered with Deloitte UK after selling 5,000 Give Me Tap and Deloitte co-branded bottles to the company’s executives.
For the countries where tap water is not drinkable, they will be producing filtered bottles. So far water wells have been built in Malawi and Ghana. They will create a fourth one in Ghana soon by working with NGOs on the ground.
This year the aim is to help another 10,000 people to get free water in Africa. Edwin explains his mission by saying: “By 2020, we want to have helped a million people.”
He started the initiative by giving private maths lessons to save up in order to produce the first batch of bottles, he did not even have a business plan but merely tested the water. Now he is based in London’s ‘Silicon roundabout’ at a Google Campus.
For some who are wondering whether or not he built the six-pack: yes, in a mere 56 days, along with a successful social enterprise to touch others’ lives.
Buy a GiveMeTap metal water bottle, download the app, and a person in Africa gains access to clean drinking water. Google for Entrepreneurs has played a key role in GiveMeTap’s success from the beginning. It offered Founder Edwin Broni-Mensah a space to build a tight-knit team as well as an opportunity to be mentored by Google.
The Lovie Awards would like to honour Edwin Broni-Mensah with The Lovie Emerging Entrepreneur Award for starting the incredible social enterprise GiveMeTap right from his dorm room at university, and for using the Web to help people get access to clean water.