9 Cool College Start-ups

bottled water, social entrepreneurship
Anthony Verde (still life)
5 of 9

Give Water, University of Pennsylvania

The summer before entering college, Ben Lewis, who describes himself as "the 10-year-old who read The Wall Street Journal," borrowed warehouse space at a friend's dad's office and started selling bottles of Give Water from the trunk of his car. He persuaded a few delis and grocery stores in his hometown, Pittsburgh, to stock the product. Give caught the eyes of distributors, who picked up the product along the East Coast, in Canada, and in the Midwest. The bottled-water brand donates a portion of each sale to a local charity. Customers can choose where their donation goes based on the color of the label of the bottle they buy--a green label will fund environmental causes, for example, while buying a bottle with a pink label will send money to breast-cancer research. In the 18 months since its debut, Give has donated more than $50,000, which suggests retail sales of about $650,000. Whole Foods is now distributing the product in stores on both coasts, and Lewis thinks Give will have national reach by 2010. He hopes someday to donate $1 million a year to charity. —Beth Sussman, Penn class of '09