Powwater

Water bottles offered by Powwater go on sale soon.

Imagine a world in which every purchase you make is a political, social or ethical statement. In some ways we already live in that world. Organic produce, cage-free eggs, free-range meat — all reflect ethical choices buyers are making.

The founders of Powwater want to extend that ethos to consumer products.

“We believe we’ve reached a time in which consumers hold the power to make an impact with each purchase they make,” Jack Hartpence said.

Hartpence, Ellie O’Neill and Andrew Mullen — all of Jackson — and Harrison Fitz, of San Diego, started Powwater. The company makes vacuum-sealed, double-walled water bottles and tumblers, which range in price from $18 to $39.

Rather than simply being yet another traditional offering in an industry dominated by big players like Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen, the founders of Powwater are capitalizing on growing consumer social consciousness to create what’s called a social business.

As outlined by Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize-winning professor Mohammed Yunus, social business are for-profit, but their profits, rather than being pocketed by investors or owners, are funneled toward social causes. The cause is specific to the business, and Powwater’s is supporting water systems across the world.

The premise is simple: Buy a water bottle, and after the company recoups its costs, the remaining cash goes to microentrepreneurs who head water systems in either Bangladesh or one of several African countries. That way, Hartpence said, the dollars they invest, instead of being charity, jump-start local economies and aid businesspeople.

“We see our product as a bridge between consumers who want to make an impact and impact projects that are best fit to sustainably run,” Hartpence said.

Though you can’t buy one of Powwater’s bottles yet, the company is preselling bottles on its website, Powwater.com, and it will officially start selling products Saturday. To celebrate Powwater’s start, the founders are throwing a party at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Elks Lodge.

“Our launch party is kind of our inaugural launch as a business,” O’Neill said. “It’s called a Pow Party.”

The early part of the party is a barbecue with food from Moe’s Original Bar B Que, and Powwater bottles will be available for purchase for partygoers to sip their libations from. Then the music starts, with a set from Strum Bucket and then the Deadlocks playing until the early morning hours.

Though this is the first Pow Party the company has hosted, the founders hope to re-create them around the world (they have people who live and work in San Diego and Berlin). Their plan is for each Pow Party to have the same basic elements, live music, food and beverages, and in keeping with the purpose of the business, part of the proceeds will go toward the overall mission of building water systems.

“It’s a great way for us to not only get our brand out there,” Hartpence said, “but say, ‘Hey, just by coming to this event ... and watching the Deadlocks, we brought this many people clean water tonight.’”

Though the Pow Party will be the company’s official launch, the founders have done lots of behind-the-scenes work, including reaching out to corporate partners. The first partner is Grand Teton National Park, for which Powwater made a spate of branded water bottles. Hartpence said the company envisions it will focus equally on developing partnerships like the one with Teton park and direct-to-consumer sales.

Above all else, Powwater’s founders are excited to move beyond the planning stage.

“We’re just ready to get the momentum going and keep this train rolling,” Hartpence said.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-5902 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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