SLOwater works quickly to assist customers & provide smart solutions
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Eric Foronjy is sales manager for SLOwater, which was founded in 1999 by his father, Richard Foronjy. The water dealership is centrally located in Los Osos, California, servicing the entire Central Coast with Hague Water Quality water softening and filtration equipment.
Eric joined the team in 2001, taking over sales, marketing and operations, and eventually bringing his wife Erika into the business, who manages the dealership’s payroll and bookkeeping. He has been operating the business for the last 10 years.
Currently, there are 12 employees on the team. The team has factory-trained service professionals that cover both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
SLOwater’s market segment breakdown is about 95% residential and 5% commercial. In the case of commercial water, however, “if something commercial falls into our lap, we’ll handle it,” Eric said.
“We also have quite a bit of silica in our water around here. It’s not something that most people are aware of, or some people find it really problematic and others either don’t see the issue or don’t complain about them,” Eric said. “So we’ve been doing treatment systems to deal with silica as well, and we typically use reverse osmosis (RO) to do that.”
Keeping up With the Latest Technologies
In addition to the normal softening services the water dealership offers, the team focuses on whole-house RO systems, with an emphasis on zero wastewater.
“We use it (whole-house RO) as a water softener and sulfur purifiers, but then try to target properties that can reuse the wastewater from that RO for landscaping to make it zero waste,” Eric said.
SLOwater has also added leak detection systems to installations as a recommendation. A big challenge in the area is that there are water softener bans in new developments.
“Being as we’re not in the portable exchange business, and the no-salt conditioners don’t work effectively in our area due to high hardness, we’re working on implementing RO whole-house systems for people in developments that have banned water softeners,” Eric said about the business’ actions to work around these bans.
The team is figuring out how to do this cost-effectively, as well as gauging appropriate sizing for these neighborhoods.
Growing the Water Dealership Business
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, business was steady for the dealership. According to Eric, the policy on how service calls and installs were handled did change to adapt to social distancing recommendations.
SLOwater often receives business from their website and referrals.
“As far as our clients needs and solutions, that never really changed,” Eric said. “It was more just working around limitations.”
Though the dealership is named SLOwater, weekly service calls are handled as soon as possible. Eric shoots many videos to help train his team, keeping up-to-date with emerging technologies in the industry by creating whiteboard videos.
These videos are also shared with customers and potential clients in order to create a well-informed and comprehensive experience about what water quality issues SLOwater is facing and how to fix them.
“The education level of the consumer is much higher than it’s ever been,” Eric said about the correlation between coverage about water quality issues and an increase in customer service calls. “Twenty years ago when I first started it was having to learn that there’s probably going to be an issue with emerging contaminants that aren’t regulated that we don’t know about.”
Once PFAS first became a concern in the area, the water dealership obtained PFAS-certified filters and Eric pursued emerging contaminant sampling training.
The ABCs of Water Quality in RVs
The team also started making water systems for RVs. Eric bought an RV in 2019 and quickly realized there was a lack of good water systems available for them on the market. As a result, he then began prototyping an RO system, which SLOwater now uses for clients.
He embarked on this project after discovering that a company out of Kentucky had begun manufacturing LED disinfection systems that had a fast on/off trigger time. After ordering a few prototype systems from them, he made an electrical conversion system to make that run off of an Aquatec booster pump.
With this, he was able to trigger an Aquatec booster pump solenoid and UV system every time RO kicked on, so that it would only run if he had 1/10th power from his RV.
“That was a pretty fun project, and I’ve done maybe a dozen or so in the last year,” Eric said. “So that’s something that is a pretty small niche market and is something that we have been playing with and working with, so that’s kind of like a separate company we’ve created for RV water systems called RV Water USA.”
Looking towards the future, Eric wants to see water treatment solutions to become better understood and for water treatment systems to be implemented properly. He hopes to educate and connect with the larger market of developers, builders and contractors to properly install these systems.