It’s been almost a year since Jack Hartpence wowed the crowd at Pitch Day with a presentation on Powwater, a startup that sells water bottles and tumblers and then uses its profits to fund clean water projects for communities in need.
At the end of the entrepreneurs’ contest held by Silicon Couloir, Powwater won two of the three prizes: the Panelist Choice Award, decided on by a group of judges with business and investment chops, and the Bob Arndt Community Caretaker Award, which honors businesses that align with Silicon Couloir’s mission to foster a sustainable and diverse economy.
With the awards came cash, a mentoring opportunity and a deeper connection with Jackson Hole’s entrepreneurial network.
“It was awesome for us,” said Hartpence, the CEO. “We had just started our business. It gave us the momentum we needed at the right time.”
Powwater isn’t your typical startup. Hartpence and his co-founders created it as a social business, inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, a pioneer in the field of using business solutions to attack global social problems.
As defined by Yunus, “A social business is a company with a social mission at its core. Set up to solve a specific problem to the benefit of poor or disadvantaged members of society, social businesses operate exactly like normal companies except for a few small differences. … A social business is either created by the disadvantaged population it serves or serves them as its primary customers. 100% of the company profits are reinvested in continuing the company’s social mission.”
To get technical about it, Powwater is public benefit corporation, a type of corporation that allows for public benefit to be a charter purpose in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders.
Powwater’s mission is stated on its website: “Access to clean water is the foundation for positive change, improving health, education, women’s rights, and economic opportunity. Yet today, billions of people lack sustainable safe water. It’s an exponentially growing global problem, from the Foothills of the Himalaya, to right here in the American West. By 2025 two-thirds of humanity will live in water-scarce regions.”
As for Powwater’s products, customers can buy them online at Powwater.com. The company also sells custom versions to businesses and nonprofits. Hartpence and one of the other co-founders, Chief Financial Officer Ellie O’Neill, say Powwater has seen success with varied organizations in Jackson and around the country, from a fly shop to a dentist office to a hedge fund.
Powwater’s efforts at bringing clean water to underserved communities have targeted several foreign countries, including Bangladesh and Kenya.
In partnership with Shishir Water in Bangladesh, for example, it microfinanced a water…