More than 500 Island businesses get their drinking water from Wight Crystal. By buying locally, they’re also supporting Island charities. Molly Power finds out more
“When people come and visit us, they love us, so getting people through the front door is crucial,” explains Tracey Hill, the new chief executive officer at Wight Crystal. “There is a lack of understanding around what we do. I want to encourage people to learn more about Wight Crystal and how we support the Way Forward.” The name Wight Crystal will be known by many Island businesses already. The company has been producing bottled water from a local water source in Knighton since 1989. Almost all of the water is sold on the Isle of Wight, including in Southern Co-op and Tesco.
Based at Osel, a registered charity on Daish Way, Newport, there’s more to Wight Crystal than first meets the eye. Osel, the parent company, runs three separate enterprises: Wight Crystal, the Way Forward and Working towards Wellbeing, with Wight Crystal acting as the central point of all activity. Up to 45 staff work for the three businesses. The Way Forward is a 24/7 support service for those living with mental health issues and disabilities.
“Any profits from Wight Crystal go towards a development programme for the Way Forward, offering new sessions or equipment for the centre,” Tracey explains. “We provide one to one and group based sessions within the centre, including activities such as film, photography, dance and drama. We put on two performances a year at Medina Theatre.” They also offer a mixture of education qualifications too, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award and ASDAN qualifications.
“When someone buys Wight Crystal water they are supporting the Way Forward charity. They are also buying locally sourced water, from the point it is collected to the point that our customer gets it. We employ people that wouldn’t otherwise be employed to help people in the workplace. They come here to learn skills that encourage them to grow in confidence, helping them to work elsewhere in the future,” Tracey says.
Having previously worked at Island based Readers and Artigano, Tracey joined Osel in May 2015 with plenty of business experience. “I wanted to re-energise the company and take it forward, allowing our customers to make a decision about whether they wanted to buy Wight Crystal drinks to support the Way Forward but also to help the charity to grow”. The two aims go hand in hand and Wight Crystal faces the challenge of getting their name out there in order to continue to expand. Events are a key way of raising awareness and generating income. Wight Crystal’s branding is prominently featured at summer shows like Jack Up The 80s and the Garlic Festival, as well as VDub and Cowes Week events. Tracey’s team also offer a bespoke labelled service for businesses.
“It’s a growing market for us”, Tracey explains. “With our bespoke labelling we also like to mention on the labels that the water is locally sourced and bottled by Wight Crystal and we are a registered charity. We want to make people aware of the local community work that we do every day of the year.”
Business is continually growing since Tracey took over, with over 700 water coolers currently in over 500 companies, including the Isle of Wight College, the NHS and Island Roads. The smaller home market has also grown for them. “People are becoming more and more aware of drinking water and wellbeing and they want water coolers in their homes now. We are also delivering a lot more of the smaller bottle orders to homes too.”
It’s been a busy year for the team, which has included more marketing activity and a new look for the office. They’ve raised standards in customer service, achieved a five star food hygiene rating and applied for the Chamber’s Quality in Business accreditation. Tracey knows that the Island’s business community is crucial in helping the business grow.
“Wight Materials Handling donated a fork lift truck to us which was a huge benefit to the charity. Island Roads have also been helpful with the ASDAN qualification and donated some of their old computers for use in the centre. We are always looking for local support and it means a lot to us.”
With a great year behind them, the future looks even brighter for Wight Crystal, with new products that will reach new customers and supporters. They’re looking at new styles of watercooler and as well as a wider range of carbonated drinks.
“We’ve identified development opportunities and we are constantly revisiting our product range,” Tracey says. “We’re always looking for new accounts too. Our three and five year objectives are to continually grow without moving away from our customers. We want increases in capacity to produce more profits allowing us to offer more opportunity at the Way Forward.”