In the later years of his successful career in the metal packaging industry, Greg Stromberg felt compelled to give back, help others and make a difference in the world.
In 2008, he founded a social entrepreneurial charity, CannedWater4Kids, to do just that. CW4K, based in Sussex, sells drinking water in aluminum cans to raise funds for water projects in disadvantaged communities worldwide.
The idea for the organization was inspired by a keynote address Stromberg heard during the annual Canmaker Summit in Chicago in 2007. The presentation was about the role of metal packaging in reducing food waste and alleviating hunger in developing regions.
“I had always wanted to do something more for my company, my family, and when I learned more about the problems with water, I said, ‘Well, let’s put water in the can and give it a higher purpose,’” Stromberg said.
Then working for INX International Ink Co., Stromberg approached his CEO about the idea and got the green light to pursue it. The company made an initial pallet of cans, which were then filled with water at a brewery in Michigan.
Since then, CW4K has sold more than 3 million cans – including 12-ounce aluminum cans and 16-ounce aluminum bottles – with all proceeds going to its mission. Stromberg does not take a salary through the organization. Additional revenue comes from philanthropic donations and sponsorships.
Aramark, the hospitality partner for national and state parks, is among CW4K’s largest clients.
“We do very little advertising,” Stromberg said. “We’re a lean virtual e-charity … We get customers through e-commerce.”
As companies re-examine their sustainability practices, Stromberg said they increasingly are turning to eco-friendlier solutions, such as ordering water in aluminum cans. CW4K is capturing some of that market.
“As part of their sustainability policies, the first thing they attack is their waste, and that includes their water bottles,” Stromberg said.
Over the years, CW4K has completed 33 water projects across the world, including projects in Guatemala, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania. It has also shipped canned water to areas of the U.S. affected by hurricanes and other disasters, along with Flint, Michigan.
Stromberg recently appeared on the most recent season of entrepreneurship pitch show “Project Pitch It” on WISN-TV Channel 12. Exposure through the show has opened new doors for the organization.
“Every day we’re seeing more orders coming in and I attribute that to Project Pitch It,” Stromberg said.
Leadership: Greg Stromberg, CW4K founder and chief executive officer; Peter Gorman, CW4K board member and chief marketing officer
Address: PO Box 116, Sussex
What it does: Provides purified canned drinking water to communities around the world.