#SWAAYthenarrative

Why We Ditched Corporate to Empower Women & Girls

4min read
Business

As mothers of daughters, empowering women and girls has been at the forefront of our business agenda since our inception. We started as neighbors and longtime friends living in a small suburb outside of Boston, and our vision was born out of countless conversations that took place on the sidelines of our girls' after school activities. As anyone would, we did a tremendous amount of hands-on research before we officially founded our social impact company, Everybody Water.


We knew we wanted to align with a larger purpose, and were shocked to learn of the alarming statistics behind the clean water crisis. One out of three people worldwide don't have access to clean water and a working toilet. More than 2 billion people still lack access to water that is safe to drink. 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. The stats behind hydration and sanitation are staggering. But we haven't even gotten to the impact the crisis has on women and girls. The lack of access affects them disproportionately because of the time spent collecting clean water.

Women and girls are tasked with walking miles for hours on end every single day in order to bring safe water to their villages. This time spent translates into the loss of opportunity to obtain an education and earn an income. As women and mothers of girls, it is unfathomable that our birthplace alone is really the only major differentiator that separates us from also bearing the burden of this global crisis. When we learned that an estimated 100 million children worldwide, mostly girls, receive no education at all as a result of water carrying responsibilities, we felt compelled to take action and make a measurable impact.

We knew we couldn't give Everybody Water our full attention if we were still working in our corporate careers. We also realized that our backgrounds were the perfect blend of expertise in executive strategy, operations, design and brand development. Once we put a business plan together, we invested our collective savings and set out to bring our vision to life. However, before we developed our product, we knew we needed to see the crisis firsthand, and identify a reputable nonprofit partner that we truly believed had sustainable solutions that could scale.

We took our first trip to the village of La Virtud, Honduras, in March 2018. We teamed up with Seattle-based nonprofit Water1st International, and together we were able to provide running water, toilets and showers in the homes of 350 people. The stories that the members of the community shared with us were heartbreaking and inspiring. In our travels, we met a mother of fourteen children, for instance, who told us that she has spent her entire life with a gourd on her head, traveling miles each day to provide water for her family.

Another woman shared with us that before La Virtud was granted access to the sustainable water source, there was almost no education available. She said that she felt hope for the first time, and that the whole attitude in the village had transformed by gaining access to such a basic need that we often take for granted. Watching members of the community work together to build more than 10 miles of piping from the top of a hill down into their village was remarkable. They were beaming with hope and pride. Children laugh and young girls are gleeful as they are finally able to drink clean water without walking for miles to collect it. We left Honduras with full hearts, and the validation we needed to move forward and establish exclusive ties with the Water1st International organization.

As we continued to build our business, we planned another trip as these travel experiences greatly influence our key brand decisions. Thus, in December of 2018 we headed to Bangladesh. Here, we witnessed the tackling water and sanitation infrastructure solutions challenged by dense urban living conditions. We met with strong women and young girls in slum villages organized and determined to change the course of life for their families and community by working to bring running water, showers and toilets to all dwellings. We were so impressed by their implementation of micro-loans and hygiene education programs for menstrual health, hand-washing, and street food vendor best practices. These projects clearly offer leadership opportunities for women in their own communities as they gain confidence in their successes and communication skills, further advancing these programs while also tackling other issues to improve their lives.

Photo Courtesy of Everybody Water

By the time we had returned from our two trips abroad, we were ready to formally launch Everybody Water. With a separate passion for sustainability and reducing the plastic footprint, our premium water is offered in a 16.9-ounce, eco-friendly carton. In partnering with Water1st International, we donate a portion of all sales proceeds to fund more life-changing clean water projects in developing countries around the globe.

After more than three years in business, this is just the beginning of the ripple for Everybody Water. Our next aspirational milestone entails our new, growing partnership program that enables companies to make a bold statement by exclusively carrying our cartons. It gives brands a chance to highlight their efforts to be more socially conscious and actively contribute to the clean water movement. We're empowering organizations like hotels, cafes, markets, corporate offices, fitness facilities and more who realize that making a social impact can be as simple as in the water they choose to offer.

We are confident that Everybody Water will open the door for more corporate giving—a simplified way to demonstrate a brand's dedication to global issues. This will ultimately help organizations connect more deeply with conscious employees and consumers alike—a win-win for all parties involved. Individuals can also join our community and subscribe to cases of water online to do their part. We believe that together, everyone has the power to make amazing change happen.

For Social Media: Follow us on Instagram @everybodywater and Facebook @everybodywater using the #waterwithaheart hashtag.

4 Min Read
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.