Charitable water startup sees progress

By Molly Packer

A year and a half ago, Dr. Ted Mettetal of Athens was struck with what he calls a divinely inspired business idea.

Standing in the bottled water aisle of his local grocery store, Mettetal was buying water to take on a mission trip to Mexico where, like many other countries in the world, clean drinking water is not easily available.

“I believe that God gave me this question: ‘What would happen if there was a bottle of water that gave 100 percent of its profits to charity?’” said Mettetal, a small-town family physician. “I thought that surely someone was already doing it but when I went back home and researched it, no one had done much with it.”

That was when Mettetal came up with Hope Springs Water, a brand of bottled water that donates 100 percent of its profits to funding clean water wells across the world. But even though he had the idea, Mettetal wrestled with how to start his business.

“I’m a pretty busy family physician in a small town and it’s not like I needed something else to do with my time,” Mettetal said. “I went and started talking to some of my friends and they thought it was a wonderful idea that we start our own company. We’ve been very naïve going into this.”

However difficult it was to start a business, Mettetal obeyed a call he felt was from God. The doctor remembers traveling to Mexico and seeing drinking water that was not clear enough to read a newspaper through.

Recently, Mettetal received an email from a student at Uganda Christian University about the trouble his village was having with finding clean drinking water. The nearest well was three kilometers away and children needed to skip school to obtain clean water. To relieve their thirst, people dug holes during the rainy season and drank rainwater out of the holes in the ground.

“It’s the 21st century,” Mettetal said. “Most of the time the water is right under their feet. It’s just a matter of getting it to them.”

After coming up with his business idea, Mettetal decided he needed assistance in coming up with a business plan. He approached Dr. Marlene Reed, a management professor at the Hankamer School of Business.

Reed and four members of her Baylor Excellence Scholarship Team (BEST) decided to team up with Mettetal and help him write a business plan.

“[Mettetal] needed information about how to run his business,” Reed said. “They really concentrated on the marketing part of the plan since that was what he really needed help with.”

Aledo senior Emily Phillips participated as a BEST member in helping Mettetal. “It was a really neat experience,” Phillips said. “It was great that he gave the students the opportunity to work on a business plan for his company. We were actually able to use real information and he was always very accommodating.”

The team’s hard work on the business plan has been paying off, Mettetal said. Hope Springs Water is now available in two small grocery stores in Athens and the business may be coming to a larger chain of East Texas grocery stores.

“I think the most useful thing is that they can use it to show to investors and suppliers and grocery stores as an organized way to show them what their business is,” Phillips said.

Mettetal said God will determine the future of his business.

“He’ll put it on their hearts to buy it or not,” Mettetal said about his customers. “It’s just up to me to obey.”

Mettetal said he is excited about the progress Hope Springs Water has been making and hopes the company will be able to fund many more wells in the future. “We built three wells in Nicaragua,” he said. “We’re looking at another in Uganda.”

Still, Mettetal needs help expanding his business to fund wells. “People are interested in what we’re doing and one of the big ways they can help is by asking for it at their grocery stores,” he said. “We’re going to have to expand and the only way to do that is by getting people to ask for it.”