Aquaint: Doing well by doing good

What’s the story?

Aquaint is a 100% natural sanitising water, the only product of its kind on the UK and European market. Since its launch in 2011, we have secured national listings with leading retailers and outlets including Boots, The National Childbirth Trust, Babies R Us and Ocado. We export to 13 countries and are on target to increase this to 30 countries by the end of 2014, plus we have agreed terms with High Street TV to launch a TV campaign later this year. We have also had very positive discussions with Tesco, Mothercare, Superdrug, Waitrose etc. to name but a few, and we hope to get more High Street listings over the coming months.

Two variants of Aquaint water-based sanitiser are available – one for the baby and child market and one for general purpose use. 

Where did the Aquaint idea come from? 

The way we discovered Aquaint was quite unique. We were at a trade show in Japan and discovered a company selling the Japanese equivalent of Aquaint. We were amazed at the revolutionary technology behind the product and approached the Japanese manufacturer to enquire about distribution in the UK.

Following months of talks and negotiations, we finally secured exclusive distribution rights for the whole of Europe, the USA and Canada. All was going well and to plan until in March 2011, the Japanese Tsunami struck and crippled a large part of Japan, but more problematic and of great concern to us was the fact that there was a lot of radiation fall out affecting Japan. As a result of this, importing ‘water’ from Japan with fears of radiation contamination was not an option for us anymore due to consumer perception. As we believed in the product so much, the only other option that we considered worth exploring was to set up a production plant and manufacture the product ourselves.

We discussed our proposal with our Japanese counterparts, who were reluctant at first, but then understood why we needed to adopt a different strategy. Six months later we had developed the Aquaint brand, sourced packaging (bottles, closures, labels, boxes), partnered with various consultants to assist with brand strategy and design, regulatory approvals, logistics etc. In addition, we had to source premises, procure equipment (from Japan), fly the Japanese engineers over to build and commission the plant. The plant became operational in August 2011 and now we are selling Aquaint into major national retailers in the UK and Europe with contracts signed for the Middle East, Canada and the US. 

Why do you think this hasn’t been done in the UK before?

There have been attempts, but stabilising the natural acid (Hypochlorous Acid) to give it a reasonable shelf life (to facilitate a commercial proposition) is very difficult. Our technology and know-how have enabled us to stabilise our product for 12 months and more, which then allows us to get it onto the shelves.

Did you always want to run your own business?

Absolutely! I believe that true entrepreneurial spirit runs through the veins. My adventure into the entrepreneurial world started when I was just 14 years old. When I was at school in Lagos, Nigeria, my mother (an amateur business woman at the time) often travelled abroad and purchased items to sell to friends and family. I saw an opportunity here and started to advise her on items she needed to buy for boys of my age. She took a chance and started buying the items I had requested. She would tell me how much to sell them for and I would add a markup, making a profit. I returned to the UK when I was 17 and, after college, ended up spending many years in the corporate world. I knew that I would end up running my own business. In April 2011, I gave up my role as a Managing Director within one of the world’s largest banks after 21 years in the Investment Banking sector. My global boss thought I was nuts and so did most of my staff, my friends and my family, but I stuck by my motto “I would rather try and fail, than fail to try”. Three-and-a-half years on, I haven’t looked back yet, and if one or two of our major projects come to fruition this year, all of the hard work and seriously long hours would have paid off.

How has your experience on Dragons’ Den helped you develop as an entrepreneur?

The only thing that the Dragons’ Den experience has done for me is to put more fire in my belly to prove them wrong! The experience on the Den hasn’t helped me develop as an entrepreneur, what has helped me to develop as an entrepreneur is doing business in the real world and dealing with real issues. 

How important is Global Handwashing Day and why?

Global Handwashing Day takes places on 15th October and is organised by the UN to encourage a global culture of handwashing. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing and good hand hygiene among children and schools in particular, but over 200 million people across 100 countries are involved in the celebrations. 

It focuses on handwashing with soap but this is not always possible, convenient, or available. Products, such as our hand sanitiser water, allow adults and children to cleanse their hands wherever they are (in the home, on the go, at school, at work), especially before eating and after going to the toilet. 

The overall aim is to bring about change in handwashing habits to meet the Millenium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by 2015. 

How do you plan on using this event to promote your brand?

We are getting involved in the day by raising awareness of the activities taking place and highlighting the importance of handwashing. We are carrying out press and social media activity, posting news on our blog and running a giveaway to win Aquaint products – always providing links and information on the UN initiative: http://globalhandwashing.org

What are the main benefits of using your product?

While there are many sanitising, sterilising, disinfecting and cleansing products on the market, Aquaint stands apart and has no direct competitors, as it is the only product on the market to offer all of the following; 

  • Does not contain alcohol, fragrances, preservatives or harmful chemicals 
  • Does not dry out or irritate the skin
  • Does not need to be rinsed off
  • Is gentle, powerful and extremely safe
  • Is harmless if swallowed or gets in the eyes
  • Has multiple uses at home, out and about and whilst travelling
  • Safe to be handled unsupervised by infants
  • Is eco friendly
  • Kills 99.9% of bacteria in seconds
  • Safe to use from birth
  • Suitable for sensitive skin and endorsed as an ‘Allergy Friendly Product’ by Allergy UK
  • Is as safe as drinking water!

Where do you hope to be in 12 months?

As a result of our commitment to the product, progress to date and sheer determination, our Japanese counterparts have agreed to extend our contract to be worldwide (excluding Asia), and have even given us the ability to sell our product in Asia if the right commercial opportunities exist. Subsequently, we are aiming to export to a minimum of 40 to 50 countries by September 2015 including to the USA, Canada and to the Middle East. 

Was it always an aim to create a brand that has a social impact?

To be perfectly honest, no it wasn’t, but when I discovered the product in Japan and learnt about its amazing properties and benefits, I instantly felt that the product could benefit many people’s lives in many parts of the world, and that then became my goal. In addition to this, as Aquaint does not contain any toxic chemicals, it is completely eco-friendly. Being able to sell a product that can have such a positive impact on people’s lives whilst being completely planet-friendly really makes me proud to be doing my bit for corporate social responsibility.  

To find out more about Aquaint check out their website or connect with them by following them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page. 

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