Tapping Entrepreneurial Spirit with Arctic Aqua

In large cities, with our plentiful access to filtered and bottled water, we seldom consider the challenges faced in South Africa’s outlying zones. Kuruman nestles within the rural districts of the Northern Cape, where this challenge piqued the entrepreneurial spirit of Alex Jarvis.

He has established a company called Arctic Aqua to meet the needs of the local community, which thirsts for a healthy water supply. Of course, a good business mind is an essential start, but most start-ups also need a leg-up in the form of a capital and logistical boost, and that was when Jarvis reached out for the support of United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK) and their Enterprise Development Programme. Jarvis recounted his inspiring journey from selling ice to becoming a growing local player in the water purification industry:

Jarvis began his career as a sales representative in the liquor industry, where he identified a gap in the market for ice. “Every time I went to liquor outlets, I noticed there was a shortage of ice,” he said. This observation sparked the initial idea for his business, which initially focused solely on the manufacturing of purified ice.

A twist of fate, however, would change the course of his business. Jarvis had applied at another development programme, which provided him with the means to acquire a water purification machine. His ice business was in full swing, but one day he was struck by an epiphany: “Why restrict myself to ice? Why can’t I also sell water? I have the machine, after all.” This would lead to the birth of Arctic Aqua in 2013.

Jarvis’s business has since grown exponentially. “We sell lots of bottles in various sizes, and our offerings now also include homemade ginger ale, purified ice blocks, and personalised water bottles for events and corporate clients.

A significant milestone in Arctic Aqua’s journey was an investment in two new machines: a bottle blowing machine and water-filling machine. This hasn’t only reduced costs, but also increased production capacity, enabling Arctic Aqua to cater to larger clients such as mines and big corporates. In support of his enterprise, UMK has become one of Jarvis’s biggest customers. Arctic Aqua now supplies the company’s mining operation in Hotazel with drinking water.

Jarvis acknowledged that the road to success hasn’t been without its challenges. “We’ve had our ups and downs,” he admitted, and concedes that supplying the large volumes of product that UMK needed was a major challenge at first, but one that he ultimately met. The support from UMK was crucial, however, in forcing his business to grow. From having once been a small retail shop, Arctic Aqua is now a production plant with a distribution footprint, and this growth has had a positive impact on the community in which it’s rooted: “We started with three employees and now have nine,” Jarvis noted proudly. “The support from UMK has provided an amazing ripple effect on employment opportunities in the rural areas. It’s crucial for big companies to support smaller businesses, because it boosts unemployment figures and enriches the rural areas that so badly need it.”

Jarvis has ambitious plans for Arctic Aqua: “I’d like to see myself entering the retail market; supplying the big supermarket chains,” he shared, proving that there’s no stopping the entrepreneurial mind; particularly within an environment of big business support.


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