Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co. driving local economy

Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Company co-owners, Mitch Watson and Brylie Rankine hero

It all started with a dream of creating a sustainable and responsible business, armed only with a A$5,000 credit card. But today, Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co. has expanded to include global exports, innovation products being adopted across the hospitality industry and a sustainability approach that includes local businesses in Victoria.

The company was formed by Mitch Watson and Brylie Rankine, who had an ambition to extract the mineral water from the Daylesford spring and put it forward to the market. Their vision of sustainability both towards both business and a local-first approach, has seen the pair achieve 10 years of successive growth as a result.

A fully self-sufficient home base

Now, Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co has opened its first sustainable warehouse—a massive 3,500 sqm base that remains completely carbon neutral.

Watson explains how they tapped into local resources to achieve this result and benefit the entire community: “Everything we do there is zero net emissions.”

“We own shares in the community-owned, large-scale renewable energy generator—which is Hepburn Winds,” he said.

“We buy our electricity from their retailer ,which is Powershop. We also buy Hepburn Winds’ premium offset product to offset our own solutions and some of our emissions.

“We also have a logistics partner in Greenfleet, where all of our vehicle emissions are currently are offset.”

On top of that, the company recently launched their EcoKeg innovation, and is selling their product from Dubai to Beijing.

The next stage of the project will see a collaboration with Melbourne University and Hepburn Wind for a solar array at the factory, which will include battery storage.

Watson said the overarching goal was to cover a four-acre block of land with panels and provide stored electricity for all businesses working in the industrial estate.

EcoKeg delivers products to vendors in a sustainable way

Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co. is always seeking sustainable innovation, and they recently found that with Victorian designer, horticulturalist and artist Joost Bakker.

Together, they have developed reusable, lightweight plastic kegs called EcoKegs.

“We had a process where, because we own our own distribution as well, we would fill them with carbonated mineral water, and deliver them to restaurants and cafes,” Watson said.

“Mineral water was on tap, so there was no packaging waste and we picked them up and recycled them and then re-filled them.

“We were a finalist for the Premier’s Sustainability Award in 2015 for the innovation and we are a now world first.”

Victorian Government support allows for international expansion

Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co. was involved with the Victorian Government’s Grow Your Business scheme recently, which paved the way for a vital grant that allowed the company to start exporting its products.

“We used those funds to engage a third party contractor with expertise in export and we worked with them to develop an export strategy along with getting all of our documentation in order and understanding and reviewing export markets that might be good for us to sell into,” Watson said,

“Out of that, we now export into markets throughout Asia and the Middle East, including Dubai, China, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan.

“Through that substantial growth in volume we were able to employ to some more people and we were also able to start the process of building the new warehouse and factory development which we have now moved into.”

Collaborations with local businesses

Watson said there has been a cultural shift with SMEs in Victoria in the 10 years the company has been operating, which has created the opportunities for the local partnerships it has forged.

“We have always operated with a social and environmental mindset, but when we started social enterprise wasn’t really a thing,” Watson said.

“For 10 years we have re-invested all our money in either new jobs, creating new jobs, and growing our business or supporting not-for-profits or social causes within our region.

“What we are seeing now, is that mindset in business is not only taking a foothold but it is growing exponentially. We can see it through other businesses that we know of or have relationships with.

“There is a real ecosystem growing of like-minded business operators that don’t compete with each other, but support each other to grow and develop business strategies and networks for not only mutual gain for businesses, but also the society at large.”