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 in the USA introduced Mike to the area of bottled water coolers, something he thought would appeal to a UK audience. Importing the units was easy enough, but then Mike faced the challenge of finding a way to fill them – at that time there were no bottling plants in the UK offering 19L refills.
A meeting with Tony Robson, the director of Northumberland’s Water & Robson (and grandson of the founder) led to the creation of 19L water cooler refill bottles in the UK. A market that is now worth £200 million. MIW now had the core product and its supplies. The only small challenge remaining was to find a client base – for which the company needed to look further afield than Newcastle.
Leading the way in the UK’s bottled water trend, London provided a ready-made market for MIW. Once a week, suited and booted to look his London-best, 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 later that evening. As demand grew, so did the company, and as Mike employed new people to take care of deliveries he was freed to explore new markets and new opportunities.
MIW became the UK’s master distributor for the World’s largest water cooler manufacturer, Elkay. Attracted by the US giant’s ethos as much as its products – Elkay was the first major water cooler manufacturer to factor users with special needs into its unique designs, crafting coolers and drinking fountains that could also be easily accessed by wheelchair users. It has since gone on to become the premier manufacturer of plastic waste reducing bottle refill stations; something about which the MIW team are equally passionate.
MIW imported its first Plumbed Water Dispenser (AKA, point of use – POU) units from Italy, with a supply agreement into the UK. Pioneers of this innovative new approach to drinking water provision in the UK, MIW attracted 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, aiding Anglian water in its Captain Splosh and Cool Fuel promotions, placing more than 4,000 water dispensers in primary and secondary schools. The aim being to help improve children’s concentration through hydration, and prevent obesity through the reduction of sugary drink consumption.
MIW again worked with Anglian Water in 2008, as part of the Health on Tap campaign – a two-stage primary research programme, which studied the effects of dehydration, health and dementia in care homes for the elderly over an 18-month period.
By this point MIW was in desperate need of space and 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. In the space of the next six years, MIW would become the leading supplier of this equipment in 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!