“For social enterprises that are in that early stage prior to taking on investment, I really think that all companies should be involved with the WJF competition because it provides immediate feedback on your plan, even if you only get through the first round. The feedback helped build our team focus.”
“It should be in the entrepreneur handbook – you’ve got to do WJF.”
–Tricia Compas-Markman, founder and CEO of DayOne Response
DayOne Response took first place in the 2012 William James Foundation Venture Phase Competition. The team at DayOne Response makes the DayOne Waterbag™, a lightweight reusable personal water treatment device. A single 10-liter unit provides all the essential functions for water provision: (1) collection, (2) transport, (3) treatment, and (4) hygienic storage. For treatment, the Waterbag is designed to use Procter & Gamble’s (P&G)’s Purifier of Water™ treatment packets. Even muddy floodwaters can be clarified to near tap water quality, and pathogens are eliminated. A single Waterbag with a dozen of P&G Purifier of Water™ packets can serve a family of four for 10 days, helping keep them healthy during the lag time before relief operations get into full swing. The WJF’s Sarah Wester spoke with Tricia Compas-Markman, the founder and CEO of DayOne Response, about her business.
How many people do you employ?
There are 2 of us right now at DayOne Response, myself as CEO and Amy Cagle who heads up business development, sales and marketing for us.
Where are you located?
San Francisco, California
What problem are you trying to solve?
According to the American Red Cross, the #1 challenge following a disaster is providing clean drinking water. That is the problem we’re trying to solve. After a flood or earthquake happens, infrastructure is compromised, and basic needs must come back online so people can survive. A lot of times people are forced to drink the contaminated water surrounding them.
How did you become interested in this problem?
I studied civil engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and co-founded the Engineers Without Borders university chapter. I became interested in how important clean drinking water is, whether for day-to-day survival or in vulnerable situations. I did a lot of work in Hill tribe communities in Thailand and saw how water affects everyone – from little kids to students to the elderly. I wanted to continue my involvement in water and community water issues.
What is your solution to the problem?
Our solution to the problem of providing clean drinking water rapidly and affordably in disasters is the DayOne Waterbag™. This is a 10 liter bladder that allows you to collect water, treat it, transport it and store in a single unit. We are trying to give the local people on the ground an opportunity to survive after a disaster by empowering them to treat their own water. One bladder with 12 purifying packets can provide a family of 4 with 10 days of clean drinking water before infrastructure and larger units can come back online.
Who are your customers?
We have different markets that we’ve been working with, primarily in disaster relief:
- Relief Organizations: faith based organizations, government agencies such as USAID or FEMA, and other large and small relief organizations like UNICEF and CARE
- Military: the military does a lot of first response work in disaster situations
- Local Preparedness Groups: whether in San Francisco, New York, or any other city around the world, when an earthquake or flood situation occurs, these are the local groups that respond first
Has the William James Foundation competition and mentoring program helped you on your way?
For social enterprises that are in that early stage prior taking on investment, I really think that all companies should be involved with the WJF competition because it provides immediate feedback on your plan, even if you only get through the first round. The feedback helped build our team focus. It should be in the entrepreneur handbook – you’ve got to do WJF.
First, the WJF competition helped our team internally really evaluate what problem we are solving, who our customers are, how we will build a sustainable company, and how we will scale. WJF helped us to look at those questions from a financial standpoint, operational standpoint, and from a team standpoint.
Another big piece was the judges or mentors. Being able to get their pages of feedback on specific issues (financials, manufacturing, operations) was very helpful for us to iterate on our plan. And the opportunity to have 1-on-1 conversations with those mentors was probably the highlight for us. It was worth the time we put in for sure.
Now we have a business plan that we can stand behind and feel confident about and we have a roadmap of what steps we need to take in order to hit our milestones and scale.
What other resources have you found that are particularly useful for social entrepreneurs?
Other organizations and fellowships:
- Unreasonable Institute
- Echoing Green Fellowship
- National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA)
Also, for social entrepreneurs, try to find local hubs of other social enterprise companies in your area. That could be the HUB network or local social working spaces. That will help you build a network of entrepreneurs and potential investors.