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How Late is Using Bottled Water as a Means to a Social End

Late (pronounced lä-tā, the same as in ‘cafe latte’), is a for-profit limited company, based in Santiago, Chile. Late is the Spanish word for heartbeat. We met with Late’s Diego Taggart over a cool glass of heart-centered water to discuss the past, present, and future of the company.

Operating as a social enterprise, Late is one of the first of its kind in Chile. It’s business model is simple:

  1. sell bottled water
  2. make money
  3. give profit to parent organization
  4. parent organization donates to charities
  5. win

So why does Late sell water? Well, quite simply, it’s simple. Bottled water is one of the simplest, high-margin commodities you can get. It has an established market, and it’s something that almost all people buy on a regular or occasional basis. The only thing you need worry about is marketing your product. But, this can be trickier than you think.

According to Diego, marketing bottled water is a tough go. If you’re selling to consumers via business-to-consumer channels (B2C), you need to get shelf space in stores. This space is always at a premium, and is often monopolized by big brands, such as Coca-cola and Pepsico products. So, convincing store owners and managers to make room for an unrecognized brand is not easy to do. And even if you do manage to get on store shelves, your product may just sit, un-purchased by shoppers as they choose to buy from the big brands.

How do you get people to buy a subjective product like bottled water? Well, it comes down to brand recognition. By investing in a great marketing strategy, Late is slowly growing its brand recognition among its mainstream competitors.

Late has also had some help through positive feedback via news and other media channels. Since their inception, they have been featured in over a dozen well-known publications and television programs.

How much money have they made selling water? Well although we don’t have detailed numbers, we know that they handed-over 100% of their profits in the past 5 years to their parent organization, Fundación Elige Bien. This charitable foundation does not administer any charitable works of its own. Rather it hand-picks NGO’s who are already experts at what they do. These organizations receive a portion the funds to finance their social programs. This ensures that all the profits earned from each bottle of water sold are used efficiently by expert charitable organizations.

That’s right, Late is owned by a charity! This was not an accident or an after-thought. Both the corporation (Late) and the foundation (Elige Bien) were created at the same time to be married together; one existing only to feed the other, the other only able to exist because it is fed.

There is often a perception that charities are formed by good-doing individuals and corporations with too much money who need a tax break. So, here is proof that a corporation can be formed as a means to fund a non-profit organization. And instead of solely relying on grants and donations to fund itself, it forms a company to fund its social mission. This is exactly what we want to see more of at theSedge.org, and it’s why we really like Late.

To find out more about Late and where to purchase their products, visit their website at http://www.late.cl/.

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