Q&A: Snapping the scourge of unsafe drinking water

This week we chat to Ellie McGovern, founder alongside partner Dylan of Project PARGO. Originally conceived during while spearfishing with the locals in El Salvador (Pargo means snapper in Spanish), the social enterprise sells insulated coffee cups and water bottles with the proceeds going to provide clean, safe drinking water to people across the developing world.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you founding Project Pargo?

EM: Project PARGO was born on the road, in the back of our beloved 4×4 camper, amongst a tiny village, where clean water doesn’t come easy and single-use pollution is as thick as ever. Having spent years living in some of the world’s most remote and poverty-stricken villages, we learnt the reality, clean water is life, and, unfortunately, not everybody has clean drinking water. This moment of realisation made us ask ourselves how we could get people at home to help these amazing humans and countless others we had met along the way. That’s why most importantly every PARGO sold helps a person in need gain access to clean water.

ISB: And how does the revenue you raise translate into helping people in remote parts of the world get access to clean water?

EM: With every PARGO purchased, a person in need will gain access to clean drinking water for five+ years. We do this through implementing and teaching the Sawyer 0.1 micron filtration systems, which are a fast-flow, gravity-fed water filter. We purchase the filters through our partner Waves For Water, who assist us in connecting with villages in need.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

EM: Definitely the product development phase. We were adamant in creating a unique range of premium products that not only looked incredible but were functional for every day use. We knew that having our message retold from our customers would be crucial for the success of Project PARGO. Making sure our products were of the highest-quality, a pleasure to use and drink from, suited for both men and women, were made from zero-plastic packaging and working with a manufacturer that complied with all of our fair trade requirements, brought an array of challenges – all of which we are proud to have overcome before the launch of Project PARGO.

ISB: Please tell us how your co-branding model works, and what that sets out to achieve.

EM: Our co-branding model works in the same way our giving works with customers purchasing PARGO products. Being able to connect with other businesses, clubs and organisations who share the same values as we do is an amazing opportunity for us to further spread awareness about the clean water crisis and, in turn, implement more water filters for people in need.

It’s humbling to watch our PARGO partners share with their community the positivity behind reducing unnecessary single-use plastics and helping those in need.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

EM: More filters implemented, more products designed and more PARGO adventures. Taking small but solid steps, we will continue to work with Waves for Water in providing as many people in need access to clean water, designing and building exciting new PARGO products that will enhance your day-to-day living. And, of-course, testing our products in the wild ourselves.

We will also continue to expand our wholesale and co-brand partners, nationally and internationally.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your business journey you’d share with others looking to start a social enterprise?

EM: As cliched as it sounds, trust your gut and don’t let fear get in the way (it nearly happened to us). If you’re looking into product development, know your space inside and out, do not settle for second best. It takes time, just don’t give up.