Just Go Grind Podcast Episode #179

#179: Ryan Emmons, Co-Founder and CEO of Waiākea, the First Premium Hawaiian Volcanic Water, on Building a Healthy, Sustainable, and Ethical Brand, and Becoming One of the Fastest Growing Companies in the United States

Ryan Emmons

Ryan Emmons is the co-founder and CEO of Waiakea, the first Hawaiian Volcanic Water of its kind. Waiakea’s mission is to provide healthy, delicious, Hawaiian volcanic water to people throughout the world with as little impact as possible while contributing to and promoting conservation and access to clean water and education for people in need throughout the world.

This is embodied by Waiākea’s slogan “Drink Healthy, Drink Sustainably, Drink Ethically”. Waiākea volcanic water originates in Hawai’i through both snowmelt and rain on the pristine peak of the active Mauna Loa volcano, one of the purest environments on Earth. The water is then filtered through thousands of feet of porous volcanic rock that enriches Waiākea with a variety of trace minerals, making it electrolyte rich and naturally alkaline, before emerging at its source, surrounded by rich forest preserves just outside quiet Hilo town.

In accordance with the Hawaiian practice and notion of “malama i ka ‘aina”, meaning “to respect and care for the land”, Waiākea is also proud to be the first American premium bottled water and beverage to be certified Carbon Neutral for its variety of eco-initiatives, including using 100% RPET packaging, sustainable sourcing, and its regional reforestation projects. On top of this, every bottle bought guarantees funding through PumpAid.Org that provides over 650 liters of clean water to those in need in developing countries…Waiākea is truly unlike any other water on the planet.

Connect with Ryan Emmons

Some of the Topics Covered by Ryan Emmons in this Episode

  • How Ryan’s Hawaiian roots led to him founding Waiakea
  • Becoming an entrepreneur
  • Starting Waiakea while at USC
  • Proving a differentiated product
  • Early informal fundraising and getting a loan
  • Building an ethical brand and a premium product
  • Finding their first distributor
  • Getting into Whole Foods
  • Attending trade shows
  • Expanding the business beyond natural channels into e-commerce, food service, convenient stores
  • Product placement within stores
  • Value alignment with distributors
  • Being the first 100% upcycled bottle company
  • The challenges of transitioning to their own production facility
  • Going from 50 to 90% OEE
  • Waiakea’s social initiatives
  • How Ryan views fundraising
  • Prioritizing profitability and scalability
  • The value Ryan found in executive education
  • Overcoming challenges and what motivates Ryan

Links from the Episode

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About the Just Go Grind Podcast

Just Go Grind is a podcast started and hosted by Justin Gordon, an entrepreneur and recent USC MBA alum, that exists to help you launch and grow your business, supporting you along your entrepreneurial journey with new episodes each week featuring entrepreneurs, CEOs, and other go-getters.

On the show we discuss:

  • How the entrepreneur started their company
  • What strategies were used to get the initial customers
  • How the entrepreneur built their team
  • The best marketing and growth strategies for different businesses
  • The biggest challenges the entrepreneur had to overcome
  • Short term vs. long term thinking in a business
  • The first things someone should think about before starting a business
  • How the entrepreneur manages their time day-to-day
  • The biggest lessons from their entrepreneurial journey
  • And much, much more!