Thirsty? No More, By Chuck Hunt, Editor, Faribault County Register. Community Focus, April 2012.
On March 15, Jeremy Coxworth celebrated his five-year anniversary of being in business operating Coxworth Water Conditioning in a big way.
It wasn't with balloons or banners, champagne or prizes.
Instead, Coxworth started a new venture at his place of business on Blue Earth's Main Street.
Bottling drinking water.
"It is a little funny that we started bottling water on the same date we started in business five years earlier," Coxworth says. "Although getting it done wasn't really that funny."
Coxworth says it took more than a year to get all the proper certification to bottle water.
"We needed to get a lot of things done," he recalls. "Including getting a Processing and Wholesale Manufacturers license from the State of Minnesota."
Unfortunately, that process came to a complete halt when the state shut down occurred last year.
During that time Coxworth continued to make weekly round trips to Des Moines, Iowa, to pick up bottles of water to supply to his customers, something he had been doing for several years already.
"The guy I was getting the water from suggested I bottle it myself," Coxworth says. "It seemed like a no-brainer."
But actually getting it done took a lot of hard work.
Coxworth had a good back room to use - one that had once been a drive in area for hearses when his building had been a funeral home.
"We bought as much of the material locally as we could," he recalls. "And used local contractors. I thought it was important to do."
So, Shorty's Plumbing did all the plumbing work, Tvedten Electric the wiring, Ankeny Builders the epoxy flooring and the hardware came from Breen's Hardware.
"Don's Fleet was able to order in the large bulk tank we needed," Coxworth says.
The actual bottling machine, of course, had to be ordered from the manufacturer.
"It had to be in its own room," Coxworth says. "So we built one."
The machine takes in a bottle, sanitizes it, fills it and caps it, all in one continous motion. It takes five minutes, start to finish, per bottle.
"Maximum speed is 100 bottles per hour," Coxworth says. "But that will never happen. We take it slower."
They are filling five gallon plastic, refillable jugs. Whenever they do a fill, they go through 150 bottles.
Filling the bottles is a Coxworth family affair.
"My girls like to help," Coxworth says. "They take them off the rack and feed them in. I take them off and stack them back up. The kids also like putting the labels on the jugs."
The process involves more than just filling the jugs, of course.
First, the large water tank is filled. The water is purified by reverse osmosis and treated with ultra-violet light.
And, there is a lot of testing involved.
"We have to test the water in the tank before we start bottling," Coxworth says. "Then we test some of the bottles after they are filled."
All the testing samples are sent into a lab, as required by the state.
"We do not complete - or even start - a bottling run until everything is tested," he says.
His wife, Tara, is in charge of all the testing paperwork that has to be done. She is the office manager of the business.
The filled jugs are taken to customers for water coolers. Coxworth has developed a network of customers, which is growing every week as word spreads.
The water company is also going to be filling 3-gallon and 6-gallon jugs soon.
"The 3-gallon jugs are used in special coffee making machines that we have," Coxworth says. And, like the true entrepreneur he is, Coxworth also sells the coffee.
"Why not?" he asks. "We are already there delivering water and maybe softener salt, anyway. So we deliver the coffee too. It is a high quality, premium coffee."
His coffee and water customers include places like Seneca Foods, Riverside Town and Country Golf Club, Double Play Restaurant and the Winnebago Grill.
And, of course, Coxworth Water Conditioning has a coffee maker, too.
"It really does make a crystal clear, great tasting cup of coffee," Coxworth says. "And the water is already there, ready to go. Just put in a filter, scoop in the coffee and punch the button."
Coxworth says the bottled water business may have taken a while to get up and running, but has been good since it started.
"We bottled 123 jugs in our first run and they were all gone in a week and a half," he says. "It has been growing ever since."
The entrepreneur has a lot of praise for the help he has received from the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC), its director, Linsey Warmka, and the City of Blue Earth.
"FCDC has helped us all the way," Coxworth says. "They helped us develop our business plan and worked with the state and city with us,"
Warmka says she helped the new business receive a $70,000 loan from the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA), which was instrumental in helping Coxworth purchase the bottling machine, the jugs and remodel the area for the new venture.
"It took him a while to get it done," Warmka says. "But he perservered through all the red tape and now he is doing very well."
Coxworth says it has been worth it.
"We first got the idea to do this three years ago," he says. "Then a year ago we started working hard on it, and it took longer than we thought to get it in operation. So it is great to see it finally running."