We had the good fortune of connecting with Christine R. Manson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christine R., how does your business help the community?
Terra’s focus is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6: ensure access to water and sanitation for all. Our social enterprise is dedicated to making ceramic water filters, a low-resource, inexpensive, proven technology that has been around for more than 40 years to make pure drinking water, and teaching families about WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). In Indonesia, the child mortality rate due to diarrheal diseases from dirty water is still more than 10%. That means 410 children die per day. Either families can’t afford imported bottled water, or they do not have access to the financial or physical resources needed to boil their water to make it clean. The benefits of clean drinking water at the household level are numerous, and include economic, social and environmental impacts resulting in everything from increased opportunities for women and girls, kids and education, to less plastic bottles in our oceans. Most people’s perception of Bali is an island paradise, (and don’t get me wrong it certainly is), therefore it is easy to forget how the locals live here. However, many of these issues are front and center in every day life. Especially now that COVID19 has disrupted our current lifestyles, including the way we access water. Terra aims to bring this basic human resource as close to the people as possible by sourcing our materials and talent, and doing all of our zero waste manufacturing locally. Our goal in 10 years is to have 10 self-sustained locally-run ceramic water filter factories spread out through Indonesia, solving economic, social and environmental challenges by the communities who need these solutions the most.
What should our readers know about your business?
Terra Water Indonesia started in January of 2020 as a social enterprise based in Bali, Indonesia. We’re a start up, and in fact in the product/market testing phase of our official launch in August of this year. After spending 6 months testing our product in our three identified market segments, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response. People love Terra filters. However, getting here wasn’t easy. Brian, my partner in life and business, and I left the USA almost 4 years ago in search of a more meaningful life. After both having had lucrative but demanding careers in finance and humanitarian assistance in Denver, Colorado, respectively, we knew we would work again, but it would be under our own terms. Those terms included a work life balance that made sense to us, and making a positive impact on the world. Water wasn’t an obvious choice for us in the beginning. Brian’s social passion had always been education, and mine public health. We canvased the list of UN Sustainable Development Goals dozens of times, researching specific issues in every country we visited. We slow traveled 16 countries, living in a car through South America, an ashram in India, a sailboat from Honduras to Panama, and endless questionable hostels, before finally landing in Bali, Indonesia. Access to safe water and sanitation for all became our focus. It was a perfect combination of education and public health. We settled on ceramic water filters, because as an open-source technology we knew we could learn how to make them, and based on our research, they made sense in a place like Indonesia where there is a strong and long history of ceramics (essential for introducing a new product of this type). We also learned that in Indonesia under-reporting is a chronic problem, which made it difficult for us to get accurate statistics for child mortality rates due to diahhreal diseases. So we met with several high level Indonesian partners such as USAID and the Ministry of Health, organizations dedicated to WASH, and confirmed our assumptions. We then went back to the US and trained in the technology with Potters for Peace, the worlds authority on ceramic water filters. As a final step we visited several of the world’s leading ceramic water filter factories, such as Ecofiltro in Guatemala whose CEO has been an incredibly generous partner throughout our journey. After all of that, we came back to Bali, and got to work. That was the easy part. Starting a business in another country, learning all the mechanics, numbers, and in-and-outs associated with starting and running your own company, has been the hard part. Not only that, but persevering through what feels like endless points for failure (says every entrepreneur, ever) has been something that without our amazingly dedicated and positive local team, and everyone’s commitment to our mission, would not have been possible. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished so far. We have already learned a great deal about pivoting in our market, and creating systems that we can replicate and scale as we grow. While other humanitarian and manufacturing companies are fixed, Terra feels like a different kind of social enterprise, one prepared for the future.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh gosh, this is impossible in Bali because everything is so Instagrammable! Right now due to COVID19 many of our favorite public spots and restaurants are closed. More than 60% of Bali’s population works in tourism (restaurants, transportation, lodging…), so on one hand, it’s a terrible time to visit. On the other hand it has been wonderful for those of us who live here because our Balinese friends tell us this is what Bali was like in the 1980’s, before tourism really picked up. It feels like a sleepy tropical island where you can lay on the beach all day, uninterrupted with an endless supply of coconuts (for $2!). Generally, we would drive our scooters down to Uluwatu and watch (or surf) some of the world’s best waves. We’d wake up at 3 am to hike Kintamani volcano for sunrise. We’d visit the monkey forests and water temples in Ubud, and have a late yoga session before sunset cocktails overlooking the Jatiluwih UNESCO Cultural Heritage rice fields. If we had time, we’d dive some of the world’s most preserved reefs, and sail to Komodo, the land of the dragons. And since much is closed, we’d end up eating nasi goreng (friend rice) at a local warung, in a local village, because the alternative is I make dinner, and that can be pretty much guaranteed to spoil the whole trip!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There is no question in my mind that my shoutout goes to all those in need of safe drinking water around the world, no matter your culture, country or economic status. This basic human right belongs to you. You’ve given me purpose. I’d also like to shoutout to my amazing team at Terra. You make me go to work every day, (even if some days I’d rather be surfing!), and I couldn’t ask for a more fun, smart and mission-driven group of people to challenge me while we change the world for the better.
Linkedin: Christine R. Manson
Facebook: Terra Water Indonesia
Gaile Juknyte, Johan Aris Haiva
Nominate someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.