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“ThirstTees: From Cleaning Toilets in New Zealand to Changing Lives in Africa”

“ThirstTees: From Cleaning Toilets in New Zealand to Changing Lives in Africa”What is your product or service?

ThirstTees (www.thirsttees.com) is a charitable clothing line that raises money to build wells and water purifiers throughout Africa and South America. Every tee purchased provides one person with 25 years of clean water.

Why did you start your company?

Do What You Are Afraid of:

After graduating from college, I decided to pass on a career in finance and chose instead to spend a year traveling with my brother. He quit his job working at a technology company and we decided to head to New Zealand. We both love the outdoors and felt that this was the perfect fit. We each packed a backpack full of the absolute essentials and took off. We booked a hostel for the first night that we arrived but decided to leave the rest of the trip unplanned. Most of our friends and family thought that this was crazy but I have found that you will have great results when you do what you are most afraid of.

We quickly discovered from other travelers that hostels around New Zealand will give backpackers free accommodation in exchange for a couple hours of cleaning each day. This led to essentially free rent for the next eight months. However, cleaning toilets and making beds for two hours a day can get pretty repetitive and your mind starts to wander.

I started to use this time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks about marketing and entrepreneurship that I had downloaded for free. Listening to other entrepreneurs discuss their inspiration and strategies led to a flood of ideas and I would spend more time taking notes than I would cleaning. It started to become a problem when people would be waiting at the door to the bathroom and I would be busy writing down ideas in my journal.

I would spend my first two hours of each day cleaning and taking notes. I would then spend the next hour reading books on philosophy and business that I had downloaded on a refurbished Kindle that I bought for cheap before leaving. The rest of the day was spent hiking, swimming, cooking and chatting with travelers from all over the world. It was a cheap and amazing way to design a business.

“ThirstTees: From Cleaning Toilets in New Zealand to Changing Lives in Africa”Start something for the passion, not for the money:

When I decided to adapt all of my notes into a business plan, I knew that the only way that I would be successful was to work on something that I was passionate about. I had been on two mission trips to Sao Paulo, Brazil while still in college. While I was there, I was exposed to the water crisis that millions of people deal with every day. A child dies every 19 seconds from a water related illness. I knew that others would be as shocked by this information as I was. I wanted to create an easy and transparent way for people to help. When people are passionate about a cause, they want a trigger to tell others about it. There is no easier way to trigger a conversation than with clothing. That is how the idea for ThirstTees was born.

How was it Financed?

I decided to max out my student loans throughout college because I knew that I would be able to make more by investing the money than the interest rate that I would be charged. I used this money to buy the initial inventory for ThirstTees and then have grown organically.

What free online or off line tools do you use?

- Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a note taking tool that allowed me to write and organize my entire business plan based off of the notes that I compiled while listening to podcasts and reading e-books.

- Inkscape (inkscape.org) is an open source graphics editor like Illustrator. I was able to design my entire website by myself with the combination of this program and a template that I purchased for $140.

- FeeFighters (http://feefighters.com/) – This is the way to go if you want to set up a merchant account for processing credit cards, instead of using Paypal (merchant account is cheaper). They allow you to compare prices in a simple format because they do not allow hidden fees.

- I also live in a rural area and do not have access to high-speed internet. Therefore, I created the entire business, and run the business, from a combination of libraries and coffeehouses.

“ThirstTees: From Cleaning Toilets in New Zealand to Changing Lives in Africa”Do you use Social Media?

We use Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/wearwater), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ThirstTees) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/). When starting a business on a budget, there is no better way to spread your message and get in contact with people then through social media. The goal is to build a community around one idea. We are building a community around a group of passionate people that believe that no one should be thirsty (ThirstTee).

What is the best advice that you never got?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network. People are usually willing to help if you just ask. Explain what you need and ask them if they would be willing to help. Try and trade skills instead of paying for the task. Maybe you have some design skills and can trade that for some coding work. It could be as simple as doing yard work or cooking a meal. A friend of mine designed all of our tees for free because she wanted to help out with the cause. Allow people to be part of your project.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell it in a couple of years?

I would like to run this company for as long as possible. I feel passionately about this cause and am blessed to have the opportunity to work on it every day. However, my dream is that at some point in the future, everyone will have access to clean water and my business will not be needed. I will then look for other social entrepreneurship opportunities.

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