A middle school presentation is usually a very forgettable experience for most students, but for University of Maryland senior Jon Berry, it planted a seed that he is finally able to grow.
Berry remembers sitting in the auditorium as the CEO of Charity Water, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing safe drinking water to developing countries, talked about how many hundreds of millions of people lack the most basic of needs.
“When he proceeded to tell my class that one in 10 people on Earth didn’t have access to clean water and that millions of people are dying each year due to not having their most essential need, I was absolutely taken back,” said Berry. “There I was complaining about what my mother was making for dinner while over 700 million people were starving for their most basic need.”
That speech stuck with Berry through high school and into college, but it was not until his senior year that he was able to actually act. After returning from a semester studying abroad in Australia, Berry thought about what he wanted to accomplish with his life and career. He had thought of creating an app for a long time but the financing and resources were out of his reach.
He looked at the bracelet on his wrist and thought, “It would be really cool if I could fill one of these with water from the ocean to help represent the Earth’s extreme water imbalance.”
That idea took Berry to Alibaba, a website that hosts foreign manufacturers, where he started inquiring about producing his bracelet idea. After contacting hundreds of producers and spending hundreds of hours and dollars on samples and research, he was unable to find anyone able to produce the type of bracelet he was envisioning.
“I could not sleep,” Berry said. “I was laying awake for three hours thinking about what I was going to do with my future cause I couldn’t make what I wanted to happen.”
And then the idea hit him on Oct. 14, 2016. He thought about Lokai bracelets and how they had water from Mount Everest and mud from the Dead Sea representing the highs and lows of life. Berry thought about how he could manufacture using a similar process, but also how he could differentiate his idea from Lokai’s. Berry decided to make his bracelets branded to try and reach out to a new demographic on college campuses.
The next months were filled with hard work and legal processes. Roommates Josh Yardeni and Alec Matalon joined Berry in his idea and the three of them began the process of creating a business model and obtaining licensing rights from the University of Maryland and the NCAA.
“We realized how many people in the world suffer from not having clean drinking water,” said Josh Yardeni, “and wanted to help that cause while also spreading school pride around campus.”
The company was named Watersply, and the trio labored to build a brand around campus while also ensuring their product was being manufactured to their specifications.
“After years of volunteer work at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, I was able to see firsthand the underlying effects of contaminated water ingestion and water deprivation,” Matalon said. “I am glad my two partners and I were able to create an initiative to help solve our Earth’s water crisis.”
It took hundreds more hours of research, product inquiries and samples being shipped back and forth, but Watersply finally found a manufacturer able to create their idea. The team used freelancers to create marketing materials, worked with relatives to take care of all their legal needs, teamed up with Maryland alumnus Sam Roberts to create and maintain a website, and after months of meetings and waiting they obtained their license to use the University of Maryland’s logo on their gear. The whole process was not cheap however, and after using up much of their savings, Berry secured a loan from his dad to keep the business running.
After the dust had settled Watersply was a licensed LLC with manufacturing in place to make a difference and help the global water crisis. The company has partnered with the Water for Life Foundation and for every ten bracelets that Watersply sells, they will be supplying water to a child in need for their entire life.
“It feels amazing to finally be at this point,” said Berry.
Both Berry and Yardeni plan on spending the next year going school to school marketing their product and building their brand. Berry hopes that Watersply will eventually be able to move into the water-wear market, supplying bathing suits, goggles and other licensed wear to the public while continuing to raise money to aid in the fight against the global water crisis.