We chat to GiveMeTap founder Edwin after his £10k Be The Start win

September 11, 2013

A few weeks after Start and Virgin Money's Be The Start sustainable business competition, we catch up with Edwin Broni-Mensah, founder of GiveMeTap and winner of the £10,000 prize to see if the buzz has worn off!

You can read more about the competition in our news story here, but briefly, as part of Start's Be The Start campaign, Virgin Money ran a competition for entrepreneurs with sustainable businesses. From a huge selection of entries, five successful businesses were judged in a live 'dragons den' style Google hangout by five senior employees from big names BITC, IBM, Marks and Spencers and Virgin Money.

GiveMeTap was founded by Edwin after he experienced difficulties accessing tap water while out and about. As a result, he founded GiveMeTap and created a reusable stainless steel bottle that he believes can change the world. Each GiveMeTap bottle purcharsed enables you to get free tap water from a network of cafes in the UK; reduces plastic bottle waste and saves people money. Furthermore, every GiveMeTap bottle sold helps to provide one person in Africa with clean water.

So Edwin, how did you find the Virgin Money Be The Start competition?

Well, first and foremost, the whole experience was a lot of fun! Being in the studio, pitching GiveMeTap to the judges: it was a really cool experience. Whether you won or not, it was great that so many people got to hear your message and find out about your business - we're really trying to get out there in the press at the moment so we want to be at the forefront of peoples' minds.

It was brilliant to be pitching to the judges, and it was amazing to know that people at big businesses like Virgin Money and M&S are behind the product and think what we're doing is great. It was also really great to be critiqued by them and hear their feedback on the business.

So you think competitions like this are valuable for sustainable businesses and entrepreneurs like yourself?

Definitely yes! The money is obviously great, but even taking part helps you to consolidate your business into bitesize pieces which helps when pitching or presenting your ideas. The whole process helps you to think in depth about your business and what you're offering.

And how did it feel to actually win the £10,000?

I literally couldn't stop smiling - it was such a wicked feeling! I completely didn't expect it and being in the moment and in front of the cameras, my heart was racing, but I was so happy and delighted to have had recognition from the judges for what we've been doing. As a team we totally believe in what we are doing, but we might be a bit biased so it was great to have confirmation from external people and get such worthwile feedback.

More importantly, what are you going to spend it on?!

This money is going to help us develop the business even further. It will enable us to expand our product lines with different coloured bottles, and we are looking at developing a bottle for hot drinks. We will also be able to complete our GiveMeTap app for Android. Of course, this will result in more social good - helping people in Africa to get access to clean drinking water. I've actually only recently arrived back from a trip to Ghana, to unveil the latest water well where 850 people will now have access to clean water for life.

Do you think there should be more of this sort of thing?

Yes! It's really important for big businesses to help smaller start-ups find their feet. I think that social and sustainable businesses should definitely partner with larger organisations to help them scale up and get their message/product out to the masses. Although start-up costs usually start low, there's not a huge amount of capital available for entrepreneurs. For example, GiveMeTap has partnered with Deloitte and we've already supplied them with 12,500 bottles for their employees in various countries. We're also talking to seven other corporates about supplying their employees with co-branded bottles. Our product is great for them because it allows these companies to be more sustainable at their core and helps their employees live more sustainable lifestyles - it's win win for all involved!

So you think we should do it all again next year?

Definitely. If I could do it again I would - it would be great to do it again, but perhaps with more prize money! *laughs* There was a whole variety of businesses taking part this year, some of which, like ours, which has been running for a couple of years. I suppose the prize money should reflect the sort of companies you want to apply - brand new start-ups needing initial capital where £10,000 will help them immensely or more established businesses who need a sizeable chunk of money for development. Apart from that, I wouldn't change a thing!

Is there anything else you want to add?

Just that at GiveMeTap, we love what we do and that we are very excited about where things are going for us at the moment. We would definitely like more of the big cafe chains to get involved with GiveMeTap! Between a couple of the larger brands, they have 6,500 stores across the UK which would make amazing GiveMeTap locations - you'd be able to get tap water on almost every high street!

Things are certainly going very well for GiveMeTap - this is your third award in a few weeks and we're seeing you all over the news. We wish you all the luck in the world with GiveMeTap and hope to be seeing a lot more of the business in future. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us!

This summer, to combat the dangers of heat on the Underground, and reduce the just under 750 annual faintings, GiveMeTap has launched its own London hydration campaign called MindTheTap. Building on the TFL's recent 'Beat the Heat' programme, GiveMeTap are creating a network of cafes and restaurants around major tube stations, where commuters and travellers with the GiveMeTap bottle can get free refills of tap water, on the go.

Find out more about the app on the GiveMeTap website and order your bottle today!

A final thanks to Virgin Money for making the competition possible, and to Google UK for producing the amazing live hangout show.