Former ASU baseball player, serial entrepreneur and Arcadia resident Aaron Klusman embraces the “buy local, give local” philosophy with his latest venture, Neighborhood Initiatives (NI).
Neighborhood Initiatives produces a branded product, NI Water, that local retailers can buy and offer for sale in their business. Proceeds from NI water sales are donated to a cause chosen by that business, in their neighborhood. Founded in 2015, Neighborhood Initiative’s water is sold at local hot spots such as the Original ChopShop Co., Flower Child and The Henry.
Klusman may be onto something with his niche water. Americans drink more bottled water than soda, according to a recent Bloomberg article. With options including Coca-Cola’s Dasani, Glaceau’s Smart Water, Pepsi’s Aquafina and Starbuck’s Ethos, the market is saturated, pun intended.
“Another water that’s just another one-trick pony is not what’s needed in the world,” Klusman said. “But our water adds value to its retailers, with a micro-giving component to invest in communities, creating a feel-good for customers...and it’s obviously healthy.”
The water aims to stand out amongst the abundance of choices, to make a difference, right where the consumer drinks it.
Maricopa County Food System Coalition (MarCo) received NI’s first donation from the Original ChopShop Co. created by husband and wife team Ryan and Caitlin Jocque, Original ChopShop Co. gave $2,000 to MarCo, whose mission – to enhance its neighborhood by serving “just feel good food.” – jives with its own. MarCo, comprises leaders in government, health and the restaurant industries and focuses on driving local food sourcing for restaurants, as well as nutrition education, food distribution and sustainable farming.
“These funds will be used to help raise awareness about how the food system functions throughout the county,” said Paris Masek, a MarCo board officer.
Klusman strives to make this giving process as flexible as possible for retailers, since they know their demographic and hear about causes from customers and employees. Retailers can choose to give monthly, quarterly or sooner if a cause pops up, like a need for funding for a disaster or medical emergency. Ultimately, restaurants, employees and patrons choose the beneficiaries of the money raised by selling NI Water.
And that’s Klusman’s overarching principle in doing business.
“My hope is to foster collaborative enterprises that inspire a common good. Neighborhood Initiatives is the best example of that,” he said.