California dealership prioritizes health, sustainability & customer safety
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When Ariane Paris entered the water industry 20 years ago, she did not initially know she had stumbled upon a career she would quickly learn to love and grow with.
“I accidentally fell into the water filtration industry,” Ariane Paris, CEO for Ethical H2O and a now 20-year industry veteran said.
When Paris was 24-years-old, she lived in Hawaii for a year before returning to San Diego, California, and searching for a job. She ended up taking a position as an admin for a water quality company, in what she originally thought of as a perhaps temporary role. From there, she quickly worked her way up the company as a sales representative, marketer and finally manager.
“I always say I just accidentally fell into it because I never would have ever in a million years thought of myself selling water filtration equipment or doing something like that,” Paris said. “I think what resonates with me is the health and wellness aspect—the quality of life and care that water quality brings. Water is one of, if not the most important thing in our lives. It is the only thing besides food we cannot sustain more than a few days without. Water is everything to our health and so I just love the idea of supporting families and people’s health and wellness through good clean water.”
Launching a Business
Since her initial entrance into the water industry 20 years ago, Paris did spend some years in between in and out of the industry, but always found herself coming back. Prior to launching her own company, her last position was working for a business-to-business water quality company in San Diego for approximately five years. However, she missed the personal aspect of working with residential clients and had always wanted to launch her own company.
“I really, really care,” Paris said. “I know it sounds cliche, but I think that is one of the things that makes us stand out is that we really care. I have a child at home and I have a family. I understand what it is like when I walk into a person’s home and they want to get the safest environment for themselves and their family, especially now with COVID-19 and fires and more. We need to do even more to make our home our sanctuary.”
In 2012, she took the plunge and registered her corporation, Ethical H2O, though the last three years in particular have seen the most growth for the business. The business was originally established as a partnership, though the other partner had to leave the partnership approximately a year ago due to their health. Paris admits it has sometimes been challenging to get the business off of the ground in the early days, pointing to a heavily saturated market as one obstacle.
“I always say you can throw a rock and hit a water filtration company,” Paris said. “So it makes the challenge of standing out, but I just really focus on what I think is valuable. I do not pay a lot of attention to my competition. I just kind of stay in my lane and do the things that I feel are important and I feel like those are the people that will just resonate with me and be our clients.”
An additional challenge Ethical H2O faced was working to discover the correct market. While the business initially relied heavily on working wholesale with plumbers and contractors, the strategy then pivoted to operate completely to residential and by selling direct. Paris jokes the business was “trying on different hats to see what would be a good fit,” but has since landed in the correct market working with residential customers.
A 20-Year Water Journey
While Paris has seen her business grow and develop since she joined the water industry 20-years ago, she believes many facets of the water industry have remained constant.
“The irony is that [the industry] has not changed much, which is why I feel like it is good to have some new blood coming in to create some of these changes,” Paris said.
Beyond the tech side of the industry and considering how sales practices or business management has changed in the past 20 years, Paris still sees misinformation directed to the customer as an issue in the industry. Instead, her business focuses on building trust with the customer and working to educate the consumer so they can make the best confident decision, she said.
She has seen some changes to the water industry over the years though, notably from a marketing perspective. Paris increasingly sees the industry shift to a more digital presence by leveraging technology tools to reach customers in new ways. Ethical H2O incorporates digital tools into its marketing strategy, as well, including Facebook ads and sales funnels. Much of the business’ marketing is locally focused, as Ethical H2O operates on a regional level.
Regional water quality concerns Ethical H2O commonly faces include chloramines, hardness, and emerging contaminants such as PFAS or microplastics. Customers are increasingly becoming more aware of emerging contaminants of concern and regularly inquire about them, according to Paris. Additionally, fluoride previously was a large area of concern, but is now less frequent.
Like many businesses, adapting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a crucial area of focus of Ethical H2O over the past few months. However, the current climate has not impacted the business negatively, Paris said. In fact, Ethical H2O faced its two largest months in the last three years in late summer of 2020.
“When COVID-19 happened, there was that March to April time which was really slow, but I used that time to rebrand and redo my website and to just kind of gear up for a relaunch,” Paris said. “I used that downtime to my advantage and then we relaunched in early May and hit the ground running from there.”
While in the spring some customers only wanted to interact over the phone, many customers are now reacting positively to having representatives from the business visit their home. However, Ethical H2O has adapted its business practices to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Setting Goals & Moving Forward
Moving forward, Paris has big plans for the future of Ethical H2O. While Paris hopes to keep the business working in the residential sphere, she aims to expand in San Diego before expanding into different areas throughout the country. Additionally, she would like to partner the business with home builders to develop a home wellness package. Finally, she aims to expand Ethical H2O’s offerings to include air quality.
“The overall goal is not just to be, I call it a ‘one trick pony,’ but to really look at a home and find out how we can create total home wellness,” Paris said.
Developing a great team is a part of reaching those goals. Paris approaches employee education holistically and aims to teach new employees not only what a system does, but how and why it works effectively. The onboarding process for a new employee to Ethical H2O is extensive, Paris said, with the end goal being to teach an employee how to educate a client effectively through a more in-depth perspective on the water quality industry as a whole.
“With our company, we are always brainstorming and we are always learning from each other,” Paris said. “I think there is a very ‘we are in this together’ mindset. We work together and it is very team-oriented in that sense.”
Finally, to Paris and Ethical H2O, the future of the water industry could not be brighter.
“I think it is probably one of the most powerful industries to be in,” Paris said. “Water quality is getting more scarce. The quality is getting worse and there is only going to be more need to improve on that.”
At the end of the day, “water and air are like the next oil,” Paris continued.