Q&A: Water-powered growth

This week we chat with Steve Petteras, owner of Alka Power, the only ionic alkaline spring water in the country. Steve became intrigued with the health benefits of alkaline water after being introduced to it by a friend. After thoroughly researching the alkaline water industry, Steve discovered Alka Power and took over the NSW southern highlands-based business in 2012.

ISB: When and why did you first become interested in the benefits of alkaline water?

SP: Having trained as a personal trainer and been involved in martial arts, I understood that the human body is a fine-tuned machine. I believe that what you put in is what you get out. A friend introduced me to the world of alkalinity and I researched the benefits of keeping your body in an alkaline state. I was shocked to read that certain alkaline waters were not that good for you due to very high amounts of bicarbonate that can lead to calcification build-up in the kidneys. I discovered Alka Power, a product that raises pH through marine minerals (coral, mother of pearl and sea shell) that efficiently put ionic minerals back into your system.

ISB: Please tell us briefly about your patented processes that create a product from which consumers can get those benefits.

SP: It’s a unique process of drawing natural spring water from the source, filtering it to remove any impurities and infusing with our marine minerals. The pH9-10 is raised naturally – unlike some other high pH alkaline waters that use electrolysis, an artificial way of raising the pH that has no real health benefits. People think that high pH and alkalinity are the same, but they’re not. You can have a high pH water without any real health benefits, you need active minerals that are absorbed into the body.

ISB: What was the #1 challenge you faced in taking over an existing business, and how did you overcome it?

SP: Alka Power was a start-up. Knocking on doors to retailers and buyers was a huge challenge, as no one knew about alkaline water six years ago, we were – and still are – the only ionic high pH alkaline water in the market. By educating them with demonstrations showing the difference between spring water that was very acidic and Alka Power, they realised that we had a huge point of difference. I was so passionate that I gave them samples for them to try for a week so they would notice the difference, and most of them were converted.

ISB: What changes did you make to the business to boost its growth?

SP: I had two jobs while trying to build up enough sales to concentrate on Alka Power full-time. We had attracted some big retail groups but it was time to look outside the square and not rely on one distributor. I happened to meet Darren Grace, who is a very experienced in the FMCG space, and we sat down and mapped out what we were lacking within the business in terms of its backend. Darren put his expertise into working out a strategy to build our retail presence and brand awareness (my own expertise was in marketing and opening growth opportunities but lacked the day-to-day store experience). Today Darren is the general manager of Alka Power.

ISB: How do you see the business developing in the next couple of years?

SP: Being an Australian family business is the key to our success, and I can see us broadening our product range with other functional waters that assist in maintaining wellness.

ISB: Finally, what advice would you give to those looking to leave paid employment to start their own business?

You need to put food on the table and I have this mentality even today. I would recommend working smart, not hard, to achieve your goals. I would also not be embarrassed to put your hand up for help or advice. My last six years of being involved with Alka Power has had its moments. Trusting people who you thought were there to help but instead try and take what you have worked so very hard for. I always say, “With success comes the sharks!”

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