From an idea to a business: my experience with the VIA Water Challenge


If you are the type of person who detest driving a dirty car, then visiting a car washing station or washing your car personally at home every now and then naturally becomes your habit. Such is the situation I find myself in and as much as I try to curtail it I just cannot. On one of my usual visits to a car washing station, I happen to observe the gallons of water that navigated its way into a nearby drain. And it hits me, is that what happens anytime I wash my car? I never really thought of it that way.

Then I began to ponder about the volumes of water that gets wasted just by getting the filth off my car. Upon inquiries, I learnt that the water was bought from a tanker truck which collects it from a popular stream within the town - wheeew! So if the drain eventually empties into this same stream, then it means the water taken from the stream is always returned polluted. What happens then to the aquatic life in the stream and to the numerous downstream users? Other car washing stations even draw water from the very potable water supplied by the urban utility companies thereby denying others who might use it for domestic purposes.

As a young entrepreneur and an environmental aficionado with a Civil Engineering background, this got me thinking. I immediately conceived an idea to design a system that can recycle the wastewater onsite to reduce the need to constantly abstract water from streams and most importantly prevent pollution. However, considering the resources required to pull off such a project most people I discussed it with remarked that this cannot be done - it is not a viable business. Although, I really believed that this can be done, I allowed the negative remarks to overshadow the huge gateway to possibilities. The idea was therefore dormant until I attended a seminar organized by VIA Water on the urban water challenge. In fact, as I listened to the presentation, this idea kept coming back to my mind. I saw this as a great opportunity to breathe new life into this dormant idea. Putting together a teaser on the project was not a difficult task since I had everything planned out in my mind earlier and have thought of this comprehensively sometime back. I received positive feedback from VIA Water upon submission of my teaser.

Consequently, I had the opportunity to participate in weeks of online training sessions during the VIA Water Innovation Challenge with 8 other selected participants, competently coordinated by Saskia Reus-Makkink and Dick Bouman, to put together a good business proposal for funding. The support during the training sessions, I must say, was second to none that I have seen. Apart from the online sessions, participants were provided with useful materials even to the extent of receiving hardcopies of relevant books on developing a business model sent to them by post - YES! by post. Despite the poor internet connectivity and my busy work schedules, I managed to be part of most of the training sessions and it was a great experience. It afforded me the opportunity to disabuse my mind of the fear of failure in my entrepreneurial ventures and rather test my ideas, embrace failure when it occurs, make adjustments and try again and again. In any case, there is no harm in trying and those who win are those who don't quit! 

As of now, I am unrelentingly pursuing this dream to turn this idea into a product and with the support of VIA Water, test it, probably fail, get back to the drawing board, test it again, probably fail again, continue testing until the tadaaa moment. That is what real entrepreneurs go through. Never give up on your idea just keep trying...... Project brief: I am developing a business solution to close the water loop at car washing stations in Ghana using a low-cost treatment technology. This will be complemented by a rainwater harvesting system. The operation of system would rely entirely on solar power to avoid dependence on the unreliable conventional power supply system.


Isaac Monney's picture
Kickstart your business
Isaac Monney's picture
Turning ideas into business
Lisa Freiburg's picture

Hi Isaac, how is it going with your plans for the car washing station? Would love to hear about it! Greetings from Accra, Lisa