SPOUTS of Water

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SPOUTS of Water: Providing clean drinking water access to Ugandans in need

Seguku, UgandaUganda
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

SPOUTS of Water is social venture and locally-based manufacturer and distributor of household ceramic water filters in Uganda. Ceramic water filters are an effective, sustainable, long-term approach to addressing water-borne diseases through the supply of clean drinking water.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if clean drinking water was directly accessible in homes without (1) outside aid from donor agencies and (2) the costs associated with boiling?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

More than 30% of Ugandans, or 10 million people, lack access to clean drinking water. Diarrheal diseases remain the number 1 cause of death for children under the age of 5. One must also consider (1) the economic costs of diarrheal diseases, (2) the opportunity cost for the time it takes to fetch and boil water and (3) the burden of fetching and boiling water that disproportionately falls on women and children.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

With international agencies and NGO's striving to help deliver clean water, SPOUTS takes a different, more sustainable method of providing access to clean water. SPOUTS is the only local manufacturer of filters. This manufacturing facility has multiple advantages: - The high tariffs on imported filtration systems are avoided - Local jobs are created - Raw materials are all available and sourced locally - Filters can be produced to be affordable for all Ugandan families At 20 USD, each filter can provide clean drinking water to a family of 10 for more than 2 years. With sustainability as one of our key foci, the project would generate enough revenue to support the production of ceramic filters without outside funding.

Awards

Sorenson Legacy Foundation Grant, Rice Business Plan Competition semi-finalist, Unreasonable East Africa Fellows, MIT 100K finalist, Harvard Dean's Cultural Challenge runner-up
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A SPOUTS filter provides clean drinking water for a family of at least 10 people for two years at ~$20 USD. A typical household in Uganda spends an average of ~200 USD for two years of fuel for boiling water. Mariam, a mother of four, took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a SPOUTS filter for her home. She and her eldest daughters are responsible for filling their SPOUTS filter to make sure that there is always enough clean water available. Mariam enjoys using the filter and has noticed that her family has not been getting diarrhea, typhoid, etc. since they have been using the SPOUTS filter. She is pleased with how easy it is to use and clean. In two years’ time, Mariam is confident that she will buy another SPOUTS filter.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, SPOUTS has sold and distributed approximately 3,500 filters since its first sale in February 2015. Filters have not only been installed in households, but also prisons, schools, hospitals, refugee camps and other public spaces, providing clean drinking water for more than 60,000 individuals. Through the work in retail shops and also with micro-finance institutions, SPOUTS has ensured the availability of different payment options for customers to ensure greater affordability. This has allowed households to pay in installments for our filters. SPOUTS currently operates through 5 retail shops and with 3 different financial institutions across the country. In 2016, SPOUTS expects to distribute more than 25,000 filters, providing 500,000 people with access to clean drinking water.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

SPOUTS will first work with NGOs and 3rd party distributors to use marketing and advertising strategies, including shop-front placements and radio ads, to encourage adoption of our filters. We will then work towards government collaboration and the opening of retail stores to further expand our sales. SPOUTS aims to provide clean drinking water all across Uganda, producing 8000 filters per month by the end of Year 5. SPOUTS has started distribution in South Sudan as of September 2015 and is looking forward to expanding into DRC.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Because SPOUTS is a business and is based on the model of filter sales instead of free distribution, this solution is financially sustainable through selling filters and maintaining a margin above production costs. In order to grow to a scalable and sustainable model, SPOUTS has applied to grants as funding for start-up and production costs, as well as a base for business operations.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

SPOUTS is one of the only locally sourced solutions and the only ceramic water filter producer in Uganda. Not only are ceramic water filters effective and locally produced using local materials, they are socially accepted given the ease-of-use and terracotta aftertaste. It is undeniable that there are many organizations on the ground working to solve the water crisis, but most advocate short term solutions or communal solutions. By providing affordable household filters that individuals can purchase as a durable good, SPOUTS empowers people and encourages continued use and greater adoption.
Team

Founding Story

I had traveled to Uganda the summer of 2010 and had previously worked for Engineers Without Borders for water-related projects in the Dominican Republic. Living with a local host family, I recognized the similar problems in Uganda. After returning to school and focusing on a design project for an appropriate technology in Uganda, ceramic water filters were found to be the most apt for the region. It wasn’t until we piloted the filters in Uganda that there was a big “Aha!” moment. We knew that the filters were easy to use, but people provided surprising feedback in that they preferred the taste of the filtered water. The terracotta aftertaste was a taste that reminded them of tradition.

Team

The organization currently has four management roles, three interns, a team of five salespeople, and a production team of approximately 20 people. These four management roles include two co-founders, who have been developing the project on the ground since 2012, a production manager, who oversees the daily operations at the factory, and a field operations fellow, who oversees sales and marketing avenues for the company. Both co-founders are working to teach others all of the work that needs to be done, in order to ensure sustainability during leadership transitions. SPOUTS is looking to hire more management roles or promote internally to create a more structured division of labor as our organization grows.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

email

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

co-Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

SPOUTS is the first social enterprise that I have started from scratch although there have also been various stints in management consulting (McKinsey in South Korea, BCG in Chicago), starting my own tutoring center, being on the leadership board of Harvard College Engineers Without Borders, etc. My co-founder and I started this venture when we were both students in college and have continued to pursue this dream of building the Brita of Africa since graduation last year. With my background in Engineering and my co-Founder's background in Economics, we make a well-balanced team. We started this from scratch with the help of many supporters around us who have donated their time and skills to help grow our business through marketing and designing help, technical support and other operational input. While we might not have the most experience when it comes to double bookkeeping or human resources, we have the requisite humility in knowing when to ask for help.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

SPOUTS has been working with many external partners to help provide clean drinking water to the maximum number of people. SPOUTS has worked with PRIDE microfinance and other financial institutions to provide financing options for our filters so that the upfront cost is no longer a barrier. SPOUTS will expand this network in the coming months by working with Vision Fund / World Vision.
And although SPOUTS doesn't believe in free distribution at the household level, SPOUTS has installed hundreds of filters for schools, clinics, hospitals, prisons, refugee camps, etc. And Save the Children, IDEAS for Uganda, SURGE for Water, Oxfam International have all been pivotal partners in ensuring proper usage of our filters.
Additionally, SPOUTS has worked with the MTN distribution network, the largest telecommunications company in Uganda, to help sell our filters out of retail stores.

As for mentors, SPOUTS has an extensive network for established businesspeople over the past few years of working in Uganda. And through the Unreasonable East Africa network, SPOUTS has received much help.