As a whole, the Boston College student body spends thousands of hours each year helping local communities through programs like 4Boston and PULSE. Max Ade, A&S ’12, hopes to take things one step further.
Ade recently founded Maji, a for-profit company dedicated to solving the world’s water crisis and cutting down on waste produced by bottled water. Maji, a word meaning water in Swahili, sells steel, matte black water bottles for $20. For every 1,000 water bottles sold, Maji donates $5,000 to charity: water, enough money to drill a well for a village without access to clean water.
According to Ade, the average American drinks 215 bottles of water per year, resulting in 50 billion plastic water bottles in landfills annually. On the other hand, one billion people on the planet cannot access clean drinking water, and in Africa, a child dies every 20 seconds due to a waterborne illness.
Based on businesses like Toms and Simply SEA that donate proceeds from each sale to charity, Maji hopes to do the same in support of the world’s water crisis.
“The problem is people care about a lot of causes, but how many causes do you care about that you don’t donate to?” Ade said. “I can think of a lot of things that I care about, but I’m not going to go out of my way to donate money. The only time you give is when you have a lot of extra, like celebrities who have no problem donating a ton of money. But the average person throughout their day doesn’t have the opportunity to do that. The idea behind Toms, Simply SEA, and Maji is: ‘Let’s build charity and giving into a business, so that when the business thrives, the charity thrives too.'”
Ade says that his idea for the business model was inspired by Simply SEA hats, which gained popularity on college campuses throughout the fall. After researching the world’s water crisis and becoming passionate about changing it, Ade brought his idea for Maji to the Boston College Venture Capitalists pitch competition, winning audience choice and $100 to start his company.
After the competition, Ade recruited fellow BC students Paul Veiga, CSOM ’12; Austin Nissly, CSOM ’14; and Alex Trautwig, A&S ’12, to help grow the business.
Ade says the most common misconception he has noticed since starting the business is that many people question the morality of profiting off of a charity.
“People can easily look at it the wrong way, having a for-profit company that’s charitable,” Ade said. “But by being a for-profit company, we can grow it faster. We think we can put in more wells and give more people water by motivating customer-philanthropists than we could ever do by simply asking our friends to donate to a cause without receiving something tangible in return.”
Ade further emphasized the viability of the business model of social entrepreneurship.
“Who benefits when you donate to a charity?” Ade said. “The cause. The charity doesn’t benefit because they’re a non-profit and they’re just passing on the money to the cause. The person giving doesn’t really benefit because they’re just giving. In this business model, the cause benefits, the business benefits, and the consumer gets something in return. It’s in the way we are as humans that we want something in return for something else. Look at how big Toms is. They’ve done so much good. And if they were just a charity that collected shoes, they wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much good.”
In addition to selling their bottles at BC and online, Ade said that he hopes to expand the business to other schools. Maji has established a social entrepreneurship program that allows interested students to buy discounted bottles in bulk and sell them at other campuses. So far, Maji has plans to expand to more than 10 other universities, including New York University, Georgia Tech, and Auburn University.
In the future, Ade said he hopes to contact BCVC, BC SEED, charity: water, and Simply SEA to host a panel discussing the benefits and future growth of the business model of social entrepreneurship.
Maji received its first shipment of bottles on Tuesday and has sold more than 40 to date.
More information can be found at Maji’s website, www.majibottles.com.