Like Water For Profit
by Kweli Wright
CEO of Mist H20 Derick Halliman discusses his pathway to business ownership.
Derick Halliman believes there are two professions where you’ll always find unshakable drive and blind faith, with a dash of dumb luck: entrepreneurs and athletes. “Entrepreneurs and athletes don’t usually have an alternative skill set to fall back on,” he says. “They want to do this one thing and that’s that. They understand the road they want to go on and don’t accept failure.”
Halliman may have the passion of an athlete, but entrepreneurism is the path this Atlanta native chose to success. Now a 35-year-old pioneer in the imported bottled water industry, he was only 22 when he launched a water filtration business, Lucid Enterprises. Back then, Halliman was supplying offices with five gallon bottles of water and today he’s the man behind Mist H20, a premium bottled award-winning water that tastes as clean as it looks.
More than once, Halliman found that he had to think of a new way to sell water. A misstep in buying a California water-bottling company didn’t turn out to be lucrative. “That was a big failure, I lost a lot of money,” he admits. “And since I don’t have any business partners or investors, every dollar I make or lose is my money.” It was late 2005 and Halliman was at a turning point. When a friend connected him with a local job to supply water for businesses in DeKalb County, Halliman was inspired and says his next venture came to him like a dream.
“We don’t usually have two or three chances to make it and I said if I ever get into this business again, I’m going to start from scratch,” Halliman recalls. “One night I woke up and drew the bottle for Mist.”
Within months in 2007, he had the Mist bottle prototype and a Tennessee spring and bottler. Halliman bought the company and controls the distribution of Mist H20, which is currently available in high-end restaurants, exclusive clubs and boutique hotels. Mist H20, a stand-out in a sleek bottle, is decidedly upscale. “I don’t want this product to be in a grocery store. The quality and taste is preserved because of the glass bottle and you are really tasting water from our spring.”
His imported bottled water is a rarity in the United States—there are only a handful of water brands in glass bottles here—but worldwide, there are over 250 brands bottled in glass. His unique design, undeniable product and entrepreneurial spirit have turned Mist H20 into a million dollar company.
Throughout his bumps in the road and successes, Halliman has remained steadfast to his goal of providing a quality product and building his brand. While his business is water, everything that he did before launching his company and products have been the keys to his success. “I realized early that this is what I need to do and never looked back.”
What makes a great entrepreneur? Here are some key quotes from Halliman:
Risk-Taking Personality – Entrepreneurs are known risk-takers who have the ability and willingness to make decisions in the absence of solid data. Halliman is that guy. “I’ve only had two jobs: from about 15-19, I worked as a delivery guy at Pizza Hut and then I worked at UPS for about three years.” Halliman, unable to understand why someone would pay for packaged water, researched water filtration and discovered that it could be a prosperous business.
Discipline – “You have to be willing to do what it takes to make your dream come true.” Halliman isn’t a fan of the word “hustler” because he feels it has a negative connotation and brings up images of someone who is juggling 15 things. His advice is to stay focused on one goal. “If you look at the two jobs that I had, they have something in common: delivery of product. Since I was 16, I’ve been routing, delivering, knowing how to handle different situations with customer service. All of my experiences together really helped me to have my own product and distribute it.”
Smarts – “A bit of advice that I always give people: know what you are bad at. People are always going to give you credit for the great things you do, but I believe in knowing what you’re not great at and working on it because people are going to focus on that too.”
Passion for Business/Determination – “I’ve always wanted to be a guy to teach people how to start a business and how to sustain a company.” When his 5 gallon bottle water business was growing too fast, Halliman came up with another plan he could manage. When his water filtration system business slowed down, he recreated himself and bought a bottling company. And when that failed, he may have been down, but was not out. “Everything I’ve done has kept me connected in the water industry and I still loved the concept of water in a glass bottle, I just couldn’t give up.” It’s good to be a dreamer, but you have to be a realist. Most entrepreneurs that are successful aren’t doing it just for money, they want to make a change. They are passionate and for years they did what they loved for practically free. The money will come.”
Honesty – “The thing that I’m most proud of is that I’ve been in business for 13 years and I have 13 employees, most of which have been with me since the beginning. Life, and being an entrepreneur, is about being loyal and stable. That’s what I credit for my longevity in such a high-risk business.”
Sold in Georgia, Florida and St. Louis, MistH20 can be purchased online. Mist H20 will be formally launched in the United States in 2011, there are plans to launch a vodka, and Halliman is currently producing the Mist Live Concert Series.