Waiakea Makes Waves in the Bottled Water Industry While Making a Positive Impact on the Planet

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

By Kendall Fisher, executive producer at Grow Wire


Water is arguably the most important natural resource on the planet. And yet, until recently, very few companies in the consumer-packaged goods industry—the industry responsible for bottling and packaging our drinking water—were taking action to reduce the impact their processes and products have on the very source of that gift.

And that’s precisely why Ryan Emmons co-founded Waiakea Water.

As just a college student at the University of Southern California, Emmons was studying business when he became fixated on the state of the water industry and the effects it has on the earth. Premium water was starting to see massive growth, and Emmons couldn’t help but notice that companies—old and new—lacked a plan to tackle the plastic packaging issue.

So, he set out to build a premium water company dedicated to eradicating that problem, while also helping preserve the planet.

At the core of Emmons’ business plan was the mission: To provide naturally healthy, naturally alkaline water, while contributing and promoting clean water access, conservation and education. He set out to remain carbon neutral from the start. 

Emmons knew this could only be done by first focusing on two major components: 1) Establishing a sustainable source, and 2) Building a sustainable prototype to test in the market—both of which needed funding, something that’s not as easy to raise when you’re a 20-something entrepreneur with big dreams. 

Emmons essentially began funding Waiakea from his own pocket, maxing out 15 credit cards (which he’s saved to this day) and nearly going bankrupt all the while hand-delivering boxes of his Waiakea water bottles to cafes, fitness studios and natural retailers in order to make his dream a reality.

It wasn’t until Waiakea landed in Whole Foods that Emmons was able to see just how successful the company could be.

“All of a sudden we were able to really measure in a concrete way how we were performing against other brands,” Emmons explains. “When we started to see that we were doubling and tripling Voss and Evian, that was when we got more comfortable approaching people and asking for loans and for investment.” 

Waiakea scored a few key investors, allowing the company to buy used equipment to help produce more product. But as the team soon found out, cheap equipment couldn’t keep up with the demand the company started seeing from retailers.

Watch this three-part series to find out how Emmons overcame each of these challenges without forgoing Waiakea’s true mission of remaining healthy, sustainable and ethical.