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A water distributor purchases water products from the factory or bottling company and then sells those products to retailers or other businesses for a profit. The success of your business will rely on your determination, management skills, organization and finances. As a water distributor, you will need to register your business with your state and acquire a sales tax permit.
Select a brand of water to distribute. You may choose to distribute bottled water, filtered water, purification systems or even multiple brands. Ask companies about rates, wholesale prices and general information about the water they sell. If this is your first venture into being a distributor, select a water company that is already well established and successful, rather than a smaller, unknown company. This will give you the most profit potential in the beginning. Read trade publications like The Bottled Water Reporter to learn more about the industry.
Secure storage space. Some storage facilities can be expensive to rent, so keep this in mind when creating a budget. It might be less expensive in the long run to purchase your storage space. As a distributor, the FDA says the bottled water must be packed in a sanitary container and a sanitary environment. If your bottled water is stored in plastic containers, be sure your storage facility does not get overly hot as it may cause chemicals in the plastic to leak into the water.
Invest in transportation. Distributors are typically responsible for the delivery and relocation of water inventory. Purchase a reliable van or truck suitable to transport multiple units of water—bottles or large jugs, for example—at a time. Purchase insurance for your vehicles and budget for fuel expenses.
Look for clients. Stock up on information on the brand of water you want to sell, including catalogs, business cards, order forms, price lists and promotional materials that you can hand out to potential clients and retail stores. You should also take these materials to locations where you will likely find clients who need water supplies such as business owners, grocery stores, schools, offices and even the average homeowner. If you feel overwhelmed, pick a niche to start advertising with. Seek investors who may be able to help you with start-up capital to order your first shipment of water.
Learn regulations. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, federal bottled water regulation is weaker than the tap water regulations facing city water supplies. Infact, there is some confusion on the regulation of products labeled "bottled water" or "purified water" and those that are "soda water" or "tonic water." The NRDC website goes on to say, "Water that FDA does define as "bottled water" is not required by federal rules to meet many of the specific standards and testing requirements that apply to city tap water." Bottled water companies often self-test (for bacteria, lead, etc.) Ask the company you choose about how they test their product for bacteria and chemicals. Go see the plant for yourself.
As your water distributorship grows, you will need to hire staff to drive vehicles, keep inventory and assist with other duties. Invest in software products to help you and your staff keep track of business functions such as shipments, purchase orders and sales.
Always ask a manager or owner if you can leave your promotional materials at their business or office.
Karen Taylor is a visual journalist, page designer and horse-lover in central Indiana. She designs pages for an area newspaper including feature pages and page A1. She has had a passion for journalism her entire life and enjoys both the design and writing aspects of the industry. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University in visual journalism.