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"'Ask the Small Business Professor' is a must read for small business owners looking for free expert business advice. Using a Q&A format, Bruce Freeman covers important small business topics weekly by bringing in recognized experts on subjects including accounting, legal issues, trademarks marketing and sales. Don't miss it!"

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AlternaCare Wellness Centers, LLC

Water Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink

Bill Fels sells bottled water – for pets. Why, you may ask do animals need bottled water? For more reasons than you can imagine. Did you know that many pets, including certain birds, cats, dogs, and exotic animals, as well as people, don’t like the smell or taste of tap water? The chemicals we add to water to sanitize it are repellent and sometimes even harmful for animals. Many of the mineral and trace compounds we remove from our municipal water are needed by animals for optimal health. In many countries where water purity is a perpetual problem, animals won’t even drink water humans routinely consume. PetRefresh (Patent Pending) was created to alleviate this problem and how it came about for Fels, the entrepreneur, is quite a story.

In the winter of 2001, Fels and his wife, Rhonda, adopted a dog born on Halloween, whom they named Jason. The dog was in pretty bad shape when they got him and one of the first things Fels noticed was that Jason wouldn’t drink more than one bowl of water a week. They tried every kind of water, tap water, bottled water, boiled water, but nothing could get that dog to drink. Then, while camping in upstate Washington, Jason jumped into a creek in and drank like crazy. Fels couldn’t get Jason to leave the creek water alone and the dog seemed more alive than Fels had ever seen him.

Upon their return home, Jason again stopped drinking all but subsistence levels of water. Intrigued, Fels went back to the stream and brought gallons of the water home. He tried tricking Jason, offering bowls with different water types, but Jason would only drink the stream water. Excited, Fels started experimenting on Jason and his friend’s pets, and educating himself on the complicated science of water.

Fels found that the municipal water where they lived had elevated levels of lead and heavy metals and to Jason’s sensitive nose, they smelled like poison. Fels also found that the chemicals commonly introduced into water for sanitization purposes adversely affected taste and smell. Investigation into alternate disinfecting methods brought Fels to Paris, France where one of the oldest sterilization processes is still in use.

The French use ultraviolet light and ozone to disinfect their water, a method which does not add chemical taste or smell to water. Fels found a good source of water, purchased the European sterilizing equipment and a micro-bottler, experimented with different kinds of filters using Jason and other sensitive pets, and after much trial and error, came up with the right mix and began bottling the water. Rhonda, whom Fels refers to as the public relations goddess, created a web site and began sending press releases everywhere. Internet chat about the product began to climb and soon, container loads of Pet Refresh were being shipped to Asia, and parts of the U.S.

Still not satisfied that PetRefresh was the best it could be, Fels took Jason on a nation-wide water sampling road-trip. Jason’s nose finally led them to a North Carolina site that he preferred above all others and Fels sent the water for extensive and expensive testing. Jason’s nose, it seems was right on the money and Fels began stockpiling inventory in Washington to cover for the move and set-up in North Carolina.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of bottles of PetRefresh are being shipped annually, but Fels expects this to increase substantially when the North Carolina facility comes on-line. The product line includes vitamin enriched flavored waters, and organic flea and tick repellent varieties as well.

The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom

Recognizing something as an opportunity is only the first ingredient in building a successful business. Passion and dedication to being the best are also needed. Willingness to take risks and be flexible in your personal life is also part of it. Public relations and marketing also enter into it, but the most important ingredient is demand for the product. Discover or invent something people need and the world will come knocking on your door.

  • Case History: www.petrefresh.com
  • Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Take a concept already successful in one market (bottled water) and bring it to a new market.
  • Could This Work For Me? What are you selling that might be bought by a completely different group?

Did you know that many pets, including certain birds, cats, dogs, and exotic animals, as well as people, don’t like the smell or taste of tap water?