He knew the bottle part of his bottled water company was a problem, so decided to come up with a biodegradable substitute. The company, now a team of three, didn’t finish the run of music festivals because they didn’t want to order any more plastic bottles.
I wanted our new bottle responsibility-free
“Plastic wasn’t all over the news the way it is now, but we couldn’t continue to be a part of that,” he says. “We ended up losing a lot of revenue. I knew I had to come up an alternative to the plastic bottles we’d been selling. Something sustainable, good for the environment, something we could sleep easy knowing we’d brought into existence on the planet.”
Longcroft’s income was cut immediately, the business surviving only on a small number of glass sales that covered overheads. The Choose Water founder spent evenings and weekends building websites for clients; the rest of the time was spent in his Edinburgh kitchen, converting the space into a makeshift lab.
“I ordered in a lot of natural resources. Mother Nature has spent billions and billions of years to develop waterproof things, why not borrow some of this instead of trying to make my own?”
The entrepreneur spent time researching bioplastic, cans and tins, but no ready-made alternative met the ambitious criteria Longcroft had set
himself. “I wanted our new bottle responsibility-free. But you have to be responsible with our bottles. You can’t just throw them out the window. Although they would biodegrade.”
My 3 tips for success
- Don’t try to do it by yourself. You’ve got to surround yourself with as many people as you can from different backgrounds.
- Say yes to every meeting, every phone call – you never know what could come of it.
- Celebrate the tiny victories rather than beating yourself up.
Longcroft continued his trial and error for a year-and-a-half, manipulating plant-based materials and naturally occurring waxes. It was, in his words, “a right faff”. He recalls: “We had two small fires, an explosion and I have bled more than I thought humanly possible. But we did it, so it was all worth it.”
The final prototype was as simple as Longcroft had hoped. He had settled on paper casing for the outside of the container, made in a similar way to egg cartons. The bottle is completely biodegradable, made from ethical and sustainable materials.
It was the waterproof liner of the bottle that proved the biggest challenge, but eventually Longcroft landed on the perfect ‘recipe’ – one that will remain a mystery for the time being until they launch in the new year.
In May, the team cautiously went live on a digital crowdfunder for the plastic-less bottle. The public response was huge and the project duly funded – and then some – by enthusiastic contributors. Some £40,270 was raised, 144 per cent of their goal, making it possible for Choose Water to set
manufacturing into motion.
Still, the company is committed to handing their profits over to Water For Africa. Longcroft sincerely hopes that figure will stay at 100 per cent, but he concedes that if the company continues to expand, outside investors may become a necessity, and a few per cent could ultimately be knocked off that. He’s happy that they would be handing over “a smaller slice of a bigger pie” though.
Next on the Choose Water agenda is the launch, for which they have already been inundated with potential clients. This is a real plus, he says, because they can prioritise those who are really driven to reduce plastic and “aren’t just jumping on the PR opportunity”. Half a million bottles will be produced in the first six months, with an intention to grow to around 20 million. “Then just keep going. And growing andgrowing and growing.”
Illustration: Lyndon Hayes