The Aquasky story begins in 2017, when the Western Cape government started raising alarm bells about Cape Town’s low dam water levels.
Like most Capetonians, Brendan Williamson was paying attention. By 2018, the province was experiencing the worst drought in a century and a countdown to day zero had begun: day zero being the date the city planned to turn off the water supply to over four million households.
The threat was real. Brendan began researching alternative water sources and stumbled across the technology that is today, Aquasky. “I always wanted to start my own business and with the water shortage, I naturally started investigating what could work in the current situation and environment.”
THE WAY THINGS WORK
Aquasky extracts water from the clear blue sky and then bottles it. Yes, you read that right. From the clear sky. The company does this by using atmospheric water generating machines that cool and condense the air to extract the moisture.
During the 2017 drought, the city of Cape Town held a conference where they invited participants from around the world, to share ideas and technologies that the government could invest in long-term – to alleviate the crisis and prevent a similar situation reoccurring in the future. Brendan attended the conference to pitch his atmospheric technology to a larger audience. Initially he did not consider using the technology to bottle the water. He wanted to use the machines in a larger format, to help municipalities produce water for service delivery.
While the South African government passed on the technology, in the audience were two German venture capitalists and they took note. The VC’s supplied Brendan with the seed capital he needed to bring Aquasky to market “I’ve been blessed to have two business partners in Aquasky that are both extremely successful in their fields and provide countless ideas and guidance,” he says. “Water is evolving,” says Brendan, “it’s not just about simply having bottled water on the shelf. Everyone is looking to add value and make the experience of consuming water exciting.
Whether its unique flavours or pairing certain types of regional flavoured waters with different dishes. Just as there’s wine sommeliers, we now have dedicated water sommeliers – sommeliers who study the flavours of water based on the region it is from and how to pair with food. The bar has been lifted. To ensure that our product is top notch we must continuously improve. Therefore, Aquasky will be introducing the Prost range of products to ensure we are always at the forefront of the trends. More information will be available closer to launch.”
Aquasky’s current premises, a white minimalistic, modern dome-shaped building, overlooking a picturesque vineyard in Paarl – juts out the landscape as you drive closer. The architectural style complements the juxtaposition of the environment it sits in. You almost sense you are approaching a smaller version of Tesla’s headquarters in Freemont, California. Aquasky’s MD is like Tesla founder, Elon Musk – both have big, bold, out-this-world ideas and the daring ambition to bring them to fruition. “You must take the risk if you have a dream. Do the numbers and ensure that all is well planned and executed.” The Aquasky brand tries to minimise its impact on the environment. When it comes to energy consumption, Brendan is incredibly careful about the company’s carbon footprint. “We looked at obtaining local units that cover all the aspects of energy usage so that we can be as efficient as possible. Aquasky also have a glass exchange program where we collect, refill and deliver the same glass bottle multiple times; then there is the eco range of bottles that are biodegradable and compostable.”
The road less travelled
Starting Aquasky has not been without its challenges. “Family life in the first couple of years was hard but to have my kids see the business grow and the excitement they have for the brand – it’s all worth it.”
Aside from his partners, Brendan counts two mentors he had during this decades long career in FMCG, for teaching him valuable business lessons, “At Stamford Sales, Shane Turnbull and John Taylor were instrumental in guiding me through all the aspects of running a business.” His guiding principles elucidate his character, “Be honest, straight forward and do business with integrity. Never burn bridges as you never know when you will need these again. Treat your staff as family because they are an integral part of the business. I have been blessed to have known my employees for many years – some even moved with me from previous positions. Without them your business will fail.”
Brendan’s vision for Aquasky is as ambitious as the product he produces, “The future is extremely positive. We have grown quickly in a short space of time and have managed to survive a year of Covid-19. We are now looking to secure new premises and expand our product range and offerings significantly. We want Aquasky to become a household brand.”
For Brendan and Aquasky, the sky really is the limit.