Find your people. I was hopping into an industry and a community I wasn’t familiar with. Although it can be intimidating at first, it’s wonderful to ingrain yourself into the community and be surrounded by people that want you to succeed.
Ihad the pleasure interviewing CJ Pennington. CJ is the President at Proud Source Water, a brand known for bottling 100 percent naturally alkaline spring water from Mackay, ID. Pennington began his professional career as an architect and engineer before finding his way to Proud Source. He spent time on construction projects ranging from sports arena’s to mixed use throughout the northwest for clients like Simplot, University of Oregon and Boeing. He has a passion for sustainability and the outdoors.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iwas originally contacted to design what is now Proud Source’s bottling facility and by the time the building was complete, I had constructed the entire company. Our bottling facility represents hope and renewed life for the small town of Mackay. I remember being inspired by some of the lessons in architecture school that spoke of buildings instilling hope to countries, communities and people. After school those lessons began to feel more like fiction — companies don’t often put people and planet before profit. That changed with Proud Source. I wanted to make a real difference.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
The initial goal of the business was to create a large impact on a local level and bring the community job opportunities, as jobs had grown scarce and the local high school was in the midst of a possible shut down. Doing right by the community was essential to the core beginnings of the business. We take our mission to heart and have become certified B-Corp, so we can continue to do good by the community. We’re pleased to say Proud Source Water has grown to over 15 employees in the Mackay, Idaho area. We are also witnessing positive economic impact to the local economy with the transportation of water in and out of the facility local businesses are benefiting from the commercial success of the water. Along with providing career opportunities to the 500 residents of Mackay, we have really honed in on the holistic nature of the business, by utilizing aluminum in our packaging strategy. We knew plastic water bottles were not the answer and shouldn’t be anybody’s long term solution due to the extreme harm it brings to the environment. Knowing aluminum is the #1 recycled material in the world, we knew we would be giving our consumers and planet a solution when it comes to bottled water done right.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Packaging is a key driver when it comes to sustainability and being a B-Corp certified company with an initiative of 1% for the planet truly allows us to stand out. At Proud Source Water we’re all about the three pillars of sustainability; economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.
For example, when it comes to environmental protection, we are always focusing on reducing our carbon footprint. Our state-of-the-art facility is located at the base of Idaho’s Mt. McCaleb where we source our water deep in the Rocky Mountains using a gravity-fed supply system to reduce energy consumption. Since we bottle directly at the source, this means little to no water is lost.
When it comes to social equity, at Proud Source we are always striving to do right by our community on a local and global level, as well as doing right by employees, retailers and so on. Proud Source Water began as a selfless business and we are always the first to raise our hand when it comes to fundraising, scholarship, or big project initiatives.
Lastly, it’s all about community. We are motivated by our mission and always transparent with our consumers. We are always bringing opportunity to the local community and are aiming to increase jobs in Mackay by 30% this year.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
I read many books when starting the business but really connected with anything written by Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard. One of my favorite things he says was “making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right’”. This was the DNA for building Proud Source. When we first founded the business, and had yet to make one dollar in sales, the local rodeo was looking for a title sponsor and we jumped right in. It was the right thing to do. We recognized the commitment to our community early on.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Listen to your critics. Stay open minded and listen to your consumer.
- Find your people. I was hopping into an industry and a community I wasn’t familiar with. Although it can be intimidating at first, it’s wonderful to ingrain yourself into the community and be surrounded by people that want you to succeed.
- Be yourself. Never try to be someone you’re not.
- Enjoy the ride. There are plenty of ups and downs. Take time to really celebrate the wins.
- Make time for family. As a new father, family means everything to me. It’s important to remember to make time for them and yourself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
For anyone looking to take on a new business I’d say always remember you’re going to need a support group. My support group has always been my family. My wife has always been extremely understanding of my work and knows the immense passion I have for everything I do. I am unbelievably grateful for the entire Proud family. The team has sacrificed a lot to get where the business is today.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
My father shared a lesson with me when I was back in college that I will never forget. He told me to always walk with a purpose — yes walk. His point was no matter what you are doing, do it with purpose and drive. I am Proud of all that we have accomplished for the town of Mackay and the planet while building our business. No doubt, our people walk with a purpose.