Two Entrepreneurs Started A Business That Is Saving Lives

  • Published on:
    October 11, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    8 minutes
Two Entrepreneurs Started A Business That Is Saving Lives Everybody Water

Water is a fundamental human need. Each person on Earth requires at least 20 to 50 liters of clean, safe water a day for drinking, cooking, and simply keeping themselves clean. Polluted water isn’t just dirty—it’s deadly. Some 1.8 million people die every year of diarrheal diseases like cholera.

For Kimberly Reilly and Megan Hayes, a neighborly conversation started a business that is saving lives. The business, Everybody Water is a beverage startup on a sustainable mission to spark a social impact movement that’s elevating awareness + building a community determined to end the global water crisis. Everybody Water donates 3% of gross sales to their exclusive nonprofit partner Water1st International, who invests in high-quality clean water systems in developing countries, and empowers local communities to independently own and operate them. Giving women and girls the resource of time back to obtain education and earn an income, and a tangible solution to eliminate the burden of carrying water.  

Meet the founders of Everybody Water

Megan Hayes is Co-Founder of Everybody Water, with experience serving growing, industry leading companies specializing in talent management, budgets, and operations. Megan lived in Switzerland, France, Thailand, Egypt and Seattle, before pursuing her bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science. Megan also studied at the American University of Paris, and spent 20 years as a recruiting manager for companies like Microsoft and Digitas in Seattle, Germany, and New York City. After relocating to Cohasset, MA, Megan shifted her attention to Everybody Water where she applies her consulting skills to secure business partnerships, and also manages strategy and operations. Between traveling for clean water projects and spending time with her husband, daughters, and their Bernese Mountain dog, Lexi, Megan serves as a mentor for EmpowerHER—a nonprofit organization that provides support for girls who lost their mother at an early age. 

“Believe in what you are doing to your core, it will shine through.” – Megan Hayes 

Kimberly Reilly is Co-Founder of Everybody Water, with a background in expert appraising and designing high-end design and architecture. Kimberly obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University, including studies at la Sorbonne, Paris. Subsequently, Kimberly obtained a master’s degree in the History of European Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum’s program with Parsons School of Design in New York City. Kimberly spent 10 years as the Founder and Creative Director for Louis Di Calla LLC, a custom lighting design company that created pieces for leading architects and designers in Brooklyn, NY, Portugal, Paris, and the Philippines. Kimberly was inspired to continue her entrepreneurial journey via Everybody Water, where she could utilize her knowledge of design and particular eye for detail to communicate powerful social impact. Kimberly manages Everybody Water’s branding, overseeing the digital content, from product conception to strategic launch and beyond. When Kimberly isn’t traveling to developing countries or educating herself on clean water system implementation, you can find her with her husband and two daughters skiing in Vermont or on their way to lacrosse, hip-hop, and guitar lessons. 

“Don’t underestimate how big of an impact you can have – think big.” – Kimberly Reilly

In your own words, what do you do?

We own and operate a Boston-based, women-led social impact company that offers premium water in a 16.9-ounce eco-friendly carton, supporting clean water projects for people across the world who do not have access via our exclusive nonprofit partner, Water1st International. We are inspiring people to make a statement to stand up for women and girls in an everyday way by choosing “water with a heart”. 

The clean water infrastructure projects we support are permanent solutions that have an enormous impact on people’s lives, especially for women and girls whose lives are held back by the daily task of collecting and carrying water, unable to attend school or earn incomes.  We are determined to get the world behind ensuring that people have their most basic need so that they may thrive, and are working to build a community of like-minded people and businesses who are inspired to do the same. 

How did you two find each other and how did you come up with the idea to start Everybody Water?

We started out as mothers, neighbors and entrepreneurs with a shared vision to change directions and make a difference in the world. We believed that everybody could understand the importance for convenient access to clean water, and that we could inspire others to be part of the solution by sharing just how much impact infrastructure projects have, especially on the lives of women and girls.  We saw an opportunity to engage people in an easy way through the purchase of water itself.  

Although it was more costly and challenging, we did not want to add to the problem of plastic water bottles, and chose to package Everybody Water in an eco-friendly carton that is especially advantageous because of the renewable resources used in our manufacturing, along with the incredible fuel efficiencies of shipping paper in rolls before it is filled.  

We met with many nonprofits in the water space to decide which one we wanted to support.  We were most impressed by Water1st International, an organization based in Seattle, because of the sustainable nature of their work and their commitment to full in-home piped water solutions versus just village pumps alone that relieve women and girls from the task of carrying water so that they may attend school and earn incomes.  We’ve traveled to Honduras and Bangladesh, and have met with the children and their families first-hand whose lives have been changed with access to clean water systems.

After putting together a business plan, we gave up our corporate careers, and invested our savings to get Everybody Water off the ground. 

What was needed in order to start Everybody Water? 

Passion, perseverance, time and money.   In retrospect, we could never have imagined the amount of regulation and permitting required in the sale of water and in partnering with a nonprofit.  There were many technical and legal hurdles that took time and money to navigate.  However, our passion, determination and excitement for the impact we could make on so many lives gave us the motivation we needed.  

Have there been positive changes in the past few years for women in the countries that you are focusing on?

Women’s Empowerment has been a focus for most countries around the world for the past twenty years, with slow progress as culture is difficult to transform. We recognize that the scale of our work with Water1st International, our exclusive non-profit partner, is not large enough to make an impact on an entire country, but we are helping to move the needle forward for women’s rights through clean water system implementations. 

For example in Honduras, one segment of the training program is on gender issues. An exercise they go through with everyone present is a description of each person’s activities during the day. Men learn that women are working 25-33% more hours a day than men. It leads to a greater appreciation for the challenges facing women, and more investment in their needs and priorities. 

Of course, a water project is at the top of women’s list of priorities, so the men have an obvious action they can commit to in an effort to balance that daily division of labor. When a water committee is selected, at least half of the committee members are women. 

Similarly, in Bangladesh, women are entrusted with the leadership roles in the process of mobilizing the community to take action. In every neighborhood where our partner is implementing a project, a local committee leads those activities. There are roughly 60 neighborhood committees and 95% of the committee members are women. While women continue to face challenges around the world, they are gradually gaining influence and breaking down barriers to equality.

We are focusing our support in countries where Water1st International works because of the high-quality and sustainability of their projects.  Water1st provides full solutions (not just pumps in villages) so that women and girls are freed from the task of carrying water and can gain back the most valuable resource—time.  

What is your next big goal? How do you think you can achieve this one?

Our next big goal is building out our “We’re with Everybody” partnership program for companies that are making a statement by exclusively carrying Everybody Water.  This program highlights partners on social media with shared content and press opportunities showcasing their commitment to being a socially-conscious brand and an active contributor to this movement.  

We want to connect especially with as many women-owned companies as possible to build a community determined to make a statement in the water they choose.  We believe that women will support women in making sure their most basic need is met, with the ultimate goal to unleash their potential as equitable contributors to society.  

What is the one piece of advice that has impacted you the most?

Tuning in to our instincts has been the most impactful piece of advice for both of us.  Our intuition has been a guiding and powerful force.  It is something that we’ve all been told since a young age, but have learned to harness over time.  

How do you think modern women can be more fulfilled in their lives?

Choosing a career that has a social impact component, or getting involved in public service efforts can offer a sense of fulfillment that we have found to be unmatched.  Having a higher purpose, a strong “Why”, will also give you the motivation and enthusiasm you need to perform well.  

What has been your key (or keys) to success?

Being outliers in the beverage world and looking at this market through a unique and creative lens has been key in differentiating ourselves and creating something fresh and new in the very crowded space of selling water.    

Tell us about your proudest achievement? 

Our proudest achievement was funding our first clean water project that brought 350 people running water, toilets and showers into their homes for the first time in their lives in La Virtud, Honduras.  We had the opportunity to travel there and see the community working diligently to make this project happen.  Meeting the people of that community first hand made the significance of the impact both tangible and measurable.  

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

We’ve learned not to spend valuable time pitching potential vendors or partners that don’t get it right away.  There are far too many forward-thinking individuals and businesses that immediately connect with our goals and want to be part of making a real difference in the products they choose. Our new “We’re with Everybody” program enables organizations like cafes, markets, corporate offices, hotels and more who offer water to recognize that being part of social impact doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. We are opening the door to corporate giving—a simple way to demonstrate a brand’s dedication to global issues which helps them to connect more deeply with conscious employees and consumers alike.  Together we can solve one of the world’s biggest problems, and be proud of it.  

Find more about Everybody Water

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