MIW Office Solutions was established in Gateshead by Mike Winter. With one employee (Mike’s mum, Lesley) and a £1,500 loan from the Prince’s Trust, MIW was a small-scale enterprise specialising in IBM typewriter and computer supplies.
A holiday to the US introduced Mike to bottled water coolers, something he thought would appeal to a UK audience. Importing the units was easy enough, but Mike met a challenge as no UK bottling plants were offering 19L refills.
A meeting with the director of Northumberland’s Water & Robson, Tony Robson, led to the creation of 19L water cooler refill bottles in the UK. This market is now worth £200 million.
With the core product and supplies ready, all that was left was for MIW to find a client base.
MIW took to London to find its ready-made market. Once a week, Mike would load 25 bottles of water into a van in Newcastle, drive to the BT tower in London, deliver his water and be back in Newcastle that evening.
As demand grew, so did the company. Mike employed new team members to help with deliveries so that he could explore new markets and opportunities.
By now, MIW had become the UK’s leading distributor for the world’s largest water cooler manufacturer: Elkay.
Elkay was the first major water cooler manufacturer to cater for people with special needs in their designs, creating coolers and fountains that could easily be accessed by wheelchair users. Now they are the premier manufacturer of plastic waste-reducing bottle refill stations.
MIW imported its first plumbed in water dispensers – or Point of Use (POU) units – from Italy, beginning a supply agreement into the UK. This helped MIW attract an even broader customer base, working with both blue-chip companies and water authorities.
MIW facilitated Yorkshire Water’s Cool School campaign, helping to bring drinking facilities to schools.
MIW continued its educational work, helping Anglian Water in its Captain Splosh and Cool Fuel promotions. Thanks to MIW, 4,000 water dispensers were introduced into primary and secondary schools in order to improve concentration through hydration and reduce obesity through lower sugary drink consumption.
We worked with Anglian Water again as part of the Health on Tap campaign. This studied the effects of dehydration on health and dementia in care homes over an 18-month period.
By this point, we were also in need of space. MIW relocated to a purpose-built 15,000 sq. ft. office and distribution centre in County Durham.
MIW introduced the first Elkay bottle refill station into the UK. Over the next six years, we would become the leading supplier of this equipment across both the UK and Europe.
This is the year in which MIW Office Solutions underwent a Time Lord-esque regeneration process and emerging as MIW Water Cooler Experts. A name far more fitting for the company’s established area of expertise. (MIW Office Solutions Ltd T/A MIW Water Cooler Experts)
Gaining a reputation for eco-consciousness, thanks in no small part for its work in promoting bottle refill stations in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste littering the planet, MIW Water Cooler Experts became a #OneLess stakeholder. Following a project with ZSL London Zoo, Mike, as a representative of MIW, was invited to join a group of pioneering and progressive individuals, communities, businesses, NGOs and policymakers, collaboratively striving to reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles entering the ocean from the city of London. It has become a passion project.
Always busy, in 2018 the MIW team barely had chance to draw breath, let alone make a cup of tea. As demand for Elkay bottle refill stations grew, the company was called upon to carry out installations for rail networks, airports and numerous high-profile businesses. All in the name of reducing waste plastic.
This theme continued with MIW’s work with the London Mayor. Initiated by MIW, supported by Elkay and in collaboration with #OneLess, the London Drinking Fund was launched. This project has seen the introduction of around 40 new drinking fountains placed across our capital’s leading landmarks to encourage a refill culture and reduce plastic waste.
The company already has bookings galore into the middle of 2020, and plans, oh, such plans! But we can’t tell you what they are… Not just yet.
Mike’s mum Lesley still works in the business albeit now on a part time basis, and Mike insists that they started together and will finish together… Lesley’s views about this are unknown!