EAST CANTON, Ohio — Joe Knopp was a student at Walsh University when he first thought about the world's water crisis. Little did he know, his curiosity would change thousands of lives.
"I was in my second year of university when I decided to make this this leap of faith. I just felt like I had to go all in," he recalled. "I always heard my mom say, 'Drink your water before getting up from the dinner table, because there's kids that don't have that luxury on the other side of the world.
"So I looked over at my roommate ... and I said,' Chip, do you think we could solve this problem?' And he goes, 'No, Joe, you're crazy. Somebody else will have already done this by now.' And I researched and I learned that we could drill one well for about $8,000."
From there, Joe and Chip Gottschalk made a plan. They realized that selling water bottles would give them enough to build a well and they never looked back. Thus, Ripple Water Bottles was born, but there were a few early hurdles.
"I didn't know where I was going to put the bottles," Knopp admitted. "We didn't even have enough money for a warehouse. So, because these bottles were stacked to the roof in our dorm room, we got started selling them, and six months later we drilled the first-ever modern solar-powered well for [a] remote village in Uganda.
"I headed off to a country where I'd never met anybody in person. Seeing those kids' smiling faces and knowing that they were going to have clean water because some kid in the dorm room decided to make a difference, it just blows my mind. Previously, they had gotten their water about two miles into the jungle, and they don't have to do that anymore."
That was two years ago, but today, Ripple has expanded into even greater heights, growing their team locally and partnering with multi-billion dollar companies.
"I even sent a cold email to the CEO of Coca-Cola, and he answered us back and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, is this really happening?'" Joe said. "We've been able to give more than 50,000 people access to clean water. So far, we've been able to run water into elementary schools, hospitals, orphanages.
"When I started Ripple, my goal was just to build one well by the end of the year. But the world answered, and now we're at 20."
Today, Ripple continues to expand. Joe has plans for this international company to have a local imprint, as well.
"Our goal is within the next five years to actually open our own manufacturing operations here in the U.S., specifically in Massillon, Ohio. It's going to create jobs and increase profitability so that way we can donate even more back towards funding more wealth projects."