This is the Entrepreneur Who Found a Way to Reinvent Convenience Stores
Rob Harmon, Founder of The Water Elephant
I have met so many amazing entrepreneurs. Usually, they have a dream to offer something a little different than what’s already out there. A better dining experience, a more effective tool, a faster way to accomplish something.
The heart of business is giving people something they want or need, filling a gap for customers. However, at the soul of business, innovation exists. Not everyone is naturally truly innovative (which is ok). But when you meet a truly innovative mind, it leaves an impression.
This is why I was floored when I was asked to work with Rob Harmon.
The reason he is an innovative inspiration?
He is creating a world where it is more convenient to be healthy.
But to do this, he is revolutionizing a very stable industry to create a space for his business.
Interview: Rob Harmon of Water Elephant
Ashley: Hi Rob! I am glad you are open to this interview – I loved working with you on your business plan last month and I admire your focus on creating healthy solutions for people. You are trailblazing the market and it takes a certain kind of perseverance to trek that path.
I thought it would be helpful for people to know your story. It is impressive how you are 100% dedicated to health and wellness!
First, tell me what made you want to start this brand and business? You have an impressive professional history. You are literally an expert in your space, and could have taken many simpler paths at this point in your career; why business ownership?
Rob: Thank you for your kind words and also the opportunity to share my experience. Ten years ago, starting Water Elephant (much less any business) was not a part of my mind set. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and was an entrepreneur myself after graduating from college.
I understand the trade-offs of owning your own business versus working for others.
As I have grown older, I started looking more at how my work and the company I work for impacts the lives of others, the community, and our planet.
Then, about six years ago, two events within a year changed my career path and life.
First, I read a book, Your Healing Diet, and followed up with a two hour session with the author, Deirdre Earls. Meeting at downtown Austin’s Whole Foods Market, she provided more background how to manage my health with natural and organic, nutritious foods. After our session, she walked me through Whole Foods Market pointing out and prioritizing various foods for me to consider.
I had grown up in the food and beverage business, but I also had always been a student of nutrition due to my lifelong fitness habits. Now though, terms like “natural”, “organic”, “fair trade”, and “sustainability” meant something to me and took me to a different food level.
The second thing that happened: I was downsized in my job not long after that session with Deirdre Earls. While I had numerous options, I wanted to be more of the solution to healthy eating and living than someone that enables an unhealthy lifestyle. During all this time, I had already started visioning what my Water Elephant might look like.
Ashley: Losing your job is never an easy situation; it’s inspiring to see that you viewed it as an opportunity. Ok Rob, thank you so much for sharing!! Now let’s hear about your healthier-for-you convenience store concept. Tell us what your mission is and how it is helping people to lead healthier lives.
Rob: First, as I try to eat healthy I find the most difficult time to do so is when I
am away from home and on the go. I also found this to be true for many others.
And for some of us, going into a store that stocks a few healthy items with a huge selection of unhealthy food and drinks only creates temptation.
So, after much consternation on how to replace the unhealthy with healthy (and still make money), I figured out how to do it.
A lot of people don’t know this, but the trade association for Convenience Stores states that a minimum variety of 500 SKUs should be stocked for a store to be classified as “convenience”.
Water Elephant will not have 500 SKUs, but it still meets the criteria of serving “time starved consumers”, which are the defined customers of Convenience Stores.
But this is just one of two platforms Water Elephant operates from.
Besides selling only healthy products in a convenience environment, Water Elephant advocates for healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, and being a part of the solution to childhood obesity. Water Elephant believes in educating both the children and parents about all food and drink options, and especially the best options, in convenient foods.
Ashley: I love what you are doing, Rob. Creating awareness and educating people is going to help improve health and wellness, especially if the right foods, drinks, and information are easily accessible.
Where can people find you for more information?
Rob: Below are ways to connect with Water Elephant and find out more about us.
Twitter – @WaterelephantTx
https://youtu.be/BsNiLY68t3c Super Foods
Ashley: Finally, what has been your biggest hurdle thus far in launching this business? What surprised you that you weren’t expecting?
Rob: Seems after I clear a big hurdle, it no longer seems like it was that big. I only wish I had found the solution sooner.
By far, funding is the biggest challenge so far. I am sure after I resolve that there will be another speed bump around the corner. That’s just the nature of the beast. Or should I say, the Water Elephant?
Entrepreneurship is one of the hardest paths someone can decide to take. There are no clear roads forward, no easy answers. What can make all the difference is having clarity in purpose.
Rob has a crystal clear view of his purpose. He is driven by what his business will do for people. His heart and soul are both dedicated to wellness, and his mind is focused and strategic about execution.
Water Elephant is really a business that’s a different animal – not because it is meeting a great need for people seeking to lead healthier lives, but because it is backed by someone with the practical and imaginative traits needed to create something unique and sustainable.
Rob accepts a purpose that is bigger than himself. This is why I’m shining the success spotlight on Water Elephant’s founder, Rob Harmon.