I have a spring!
by Clay Bell, Vice President & General Manager, Melwood Springs Water Co.
“I have a spring and it has the purest water that has ever been tested. I want to get in the bottle water business.” How many of us have had this call, I personally get about 2 a week.
My first question to the person is what is pure? I have looked at all my test analysis and have yet to find a MCL (maximum contaminate level) for pure. I have called the FDA for a definition that I can measure but have yet to find one. We (Melwood Spring Water Co.) are in the Bottle Water business and are members of the SEBWA and IBWA. Without these organizations I can see in my mind the number of times that I would have been standing in front of the television camera with a microphone in my face being asked all kinds of questions and answering ‘I don’t know’.
Guess what I do know, I attend the conventions; I get my C.E.U.’s, I am a certified bottle water plant operator! The knowledge, resources, and relationships that these associations bring to the table are priceless.
The second thing I do when I receive the call about a spring and someone getting into the water business is recommend to that person to join the SEBWA. I explain the wealth of knowledge they will get for the small sum for joining. Then I tell them to go to the conventions meet the people use their experiences before they invest a lot of money. The people that you get to know in this business are a very valuable asset to doing business. I don’t know how many times we have been late on a shipment of raw materials or had equipment down and picked up the phone and called another SEBWA member, who is my competitor, to get help to get my product out the door. What kind of price can you put on that?
The SEBWA is an organization that the small Bottler or Distributor is just as important as the big guy. We work together with our Suppliers (who support our organization as much if not more than the bottlers). Our Supplier members attend the conventions and board meetings and they support SEBWA. They will work with us to make each one of us feel just as important as the next. The one-on-one setting at the shows is a great way to share news ideas or products. This is a great business where your fierce competitor Monday through Friday can be a friend and share knowledge at meetings and conferences.
I recently had the opportunity to repay some of those favors when a dear friend and bottler called me with problems in their plant. We jumped at the chance to help them out till they could get their plant back up and running.
In summary, I think that the SEBWA is one of the best organizations that a bottler can belong to. Just look at our board meetings — we try to hold them at one of our bottler’s facility and have a plant tour afterwards. What other organization would invite your competitors into your house and show them what you are doing. This is great that we make our industry stronger by sharing our knowledge with each other.
I am glad to say I am a member of the SEBWA.