Value Added: DrinkMore Water's founder quenches a thirst for success

Bob Perini, president and chief executive officer of DrinkMore Water, shows off one of the robots that packs his five-gallon water containers.
Bob Perini, president and chief executive officer of DrinkMore Water, shows off one of the robots that packs his five-gallon water containers. (Courtesy Drinkmore Water)
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By Thomas Heath
Monday, August 2, 2010

I was interviewing Bob Perini, founder of DrinkMore Water, a week ago as he wrote a check to cash out the last of his investors.

If you were lucky enough in 1996 to invest in DrinkMore, whose 22 trucks deliver purified bottled water to 13,000 Washington area offices and residences, you earned seven times your money.

Better than my Coca-Cola stock.

My wife and I are DrinkMore customers, so I asked Perini, 51, how he got into the business.

He said he discovered his taste for water while living in Lafayette, La., and commuting to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico for 10-day stretches at a time.

"The tap water in Lafayette tasted terrible," Perini recalled. "But when you went offshore . . . it was fantastic."

Perini learned that the offshore rig employed a sophisticated water purification system called reverse osmosis, which turned the gulf water into the best-tasting H2O he ever had.

He eventually attended Harvard Business School and ended up in Rockville in the early 1990s, where he worked for an energy consulting firm. Through it all, he never forgot the taste of the water from the rig.

He considered Rockville's water to be no match. And then one day, while on a business trip to Phoenix, he happened to pass a store selling water.

The light bulb went off.

He went to work on developing a concept for a water store with a gee-whiz display where people could see the purification process first-hand, then step to the dispenser and buy a five-gallon jug. He would charge $2.50 per jug compared with competitors' $7.50. There would be no delivery; customers would have to come in with their empty jugs for refill.

The plan was to open 20 stores, each grossing $500,000. That would make it a $10 million-a-year business.


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