Field Note #174: Filters and Bathrobes

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What do our ceramic filters have to do with bathrobes anyway? Read below for Gilad Lang's involvement with Wine To Water in his company's bathrobe endeavors.


Hello good folks at WTW,

To begin, my development journey began in the Peace Corps, 16 years ago in Romania. I remained in Romania for eight years, where I delved into innovative program and communication design, targeting vulnerable and at-risk youth, in partnership with USAID and Population Services International (PSI Romania). After Romania, I returned home to South Africa for six years and worked in the fields of domestic violence and HIV/AIDS prevention. I share this with you because I come from the development/social impact world; and I applaud Wine To Water’s effort to be different and so impactful. I’m a fan and now a student of how you are amplifying impact with lean, innovative approaches.    

While in South Africa, my eyes were blasted wide open to the importance of clean water as the base necessity for everything in life. The mayor of Cape Town asked my team and I to develop an effective hand washing initiative for children in townships, who were becoming fatally ill by the hundreds.  As a response we developed and launched Hope Soap, a clear bar of soap with a toy on the middle. What I really took away from this experience was that we were giving kids Hope Soap who didn’t have access to clean, safe water to wash their hands. The naivety on my part of providing a ‘Band-Aid' solution, while not addressing the systematic root (safe water), had a profound influence that drives me today.   

Fast forward to my introduction to WTW, which occurred just over a year ago when I started working for Fathom - a social impact cruise line that immerses travelers into community impact and cultural exchange activities, both aboard and ashore. During training in the Dominican Republic, the team and I spent the day with Radhames Carela and his team making ceramic filters and delivering them to community members (I’ve since visited the factory nine times). As the manager of the Fathom Impact Team, I trained the Impact Guides to ensure they fully understood the context of each impact activity and designed communication approaches to convey how everyone’s collective efforts were achieving specific, human-centered results. Additionally, I oversaw the Explorer’s Desk aboard the ship, where we would help inform travelers about their impact activity options ashore. I’m happy to say that WTW was always fully booked and the easiest experience to talk about as the impact is so clear and the experience so rich.

During my one year stint on Fathom’s Adonia, I had the pleasure of meeting Isabelle and Nathalie (WTW SoFlo chapter members), who sailed quite a few times with us. They won the affection among crew members as being their favorite and most lively travelers! It was such a treat to see how they gave rise to IN-tention Travel and their sheer enthusiasm launching the WTW SoFlo chapter. Upon learning that Fathom’s cruise ship was coming to an end, I knew that I would return to Miami and that somehow I would find a way to support/collaborate with them and WTW.  

As of three weeks ago, I joined my mom’s company, The Madison Collection. We produce and distribute wholesale luxury cotton products, towels, and robes to high end hotels, resorts, and boutique spas. Water is wellness in this industry and such a big part of every facet: from volume of water needed to harvest cotton crops to the amount of water used in hotel laundry facilities to treatments in spas. We have a responsibility to focus our efforts and give back to human-centered water initiatives.    

My mom has been in the industry for over 20 years and is an influencer in the hotel and spas industry. She and I will be presenting and attending annually at iSpa and the Global Wellness summit, where thousands of the industry’s decision makers will be in attendance. We have a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of WTW from those in the industry. On a daily basis, we interact with spas, hotels, and resorts from around the world. We looking forward to help champion this cause on behalf of WTW SoFlo.

While we’re wholesalers, about a year ago we launched our e-commerce retail website. I developed it a week before I left for Fathom. I’ve long been a proponent of the "buy one, give one" model. Our luxury bathrobes have just barely enough margin in order to be able to "give one". I can’t think of a better "give one" than the ceramic water filters. However, we are still a very small, family-run company.  

Over the last year, my dear mother, who I love more than anything, is 65 years old and just left the site to be - she’s not a technology enthusiast. There really was no TLC in the form of sustained social media or marketing campaigns and strategies. Nonetheless, we sold 27 bathrobes (without any effort or cause) and an incredible amount of towels and blankets. Now that I’m back, this is 100% my project and I’ll be fully dedicated to all marketing efforts. Therefore, I truly believe that once we’re up and running we can be selling hundreds of robes within a year. I’ve set a target of 100 more robes (e.g. 100 ceramic filters) for 2017. Based on our learning, the target should greatly increase in 2018. We’re committed long term to this partnership. In addition to the buy one robe, give one ceramic filter approach, we’re also open to implementing "give one" based on a certain purchase/cart amount. For example, for anyone who buys $350 or more of any product we’ll "give one".  

-Gilad Lang, vice president of The Madison Collection and W|W SoFlo chapter member

Sydney Wolford