Copyright: Lea May

Micha Fritz ‘s Viva con Agua: The Scalable Social Business

Viva con Agua, co-founded by Micha Fritz, is a remarkable movement that we need more of. It started with the collection of deposit cups at festivals and has since transformed the German social business market, reaching 4.2 million people with projects for clean drinking water. But does helping others bring happiness? What changes are necessary in the German economy? And why are networks crucial for working with Ed Sheeran?

A GICA talk with Viva con Agua’s co-founder Micha Fritz.

Co-Founder of Viva con Agua – Micha Fritz

GICA: What’s the idea behind Viva con Agua?

Micha Fritz: Viva con Agua has grown into a nonprofit ecosystem with the goal of raising funds in innovative and exciting ways to provide access to clean drinking water for those in countries where it is not easily accessible. We achieve this through events, donations, and the introduction of various products to the market, such as water, toilet paper, and our art festival.

GICA: How did you start?

Micha Fritz: We established Viva con Agua de Sankt Pauli e.V., a non-profit organization, to raise funds for water projects. At the Hurricane Festival, we collected cup deposits, which helped us raise €15,000.

At the time, 1.2 billion people lacked access to clean drinking water, and we realized that collecting cups alone wouldn’t be enough to tackle this problem. We needed a scalable business model that could address the issue more effectively. However, social businesses were not common in Germany then.

While there were foundations, charities, and donations, there was no business that consistently funneled profits into charity. This realization led us to become social entrepreneurs. Our goal was to contribute to a world without thirst without harming anyone, and we stumbled into social entrepreneurship as a means to achieve it.

GICA: Have other companies been founded on this model since then?

We helped make social business trendier in Germany and presented it as an alternative to the conventional approach of ‘bigger, faster, more’ purely for personal profit. – Micha Fritz

Micha Fritz: Definitely. That’s one of the things we can be proud of. We’ve contributed to a different narrative of entrepreneurship. We helped make social business trendier in Germany and presented it as an alternative to the conventional approach of ‘bigger, faster, more’ purely for personal profit. We believe that there are other options to consider.

GICA: How many projects have you approximately completed?

Micha Fritz: In the last 17 years, we have reached around 4.2 million people with water projects in countries such as Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, Nepal, and others.

Copyright: Andrin Fretz

GICA: Are you a social enterprise, or an impact company, or are they the same?

Micha Fritz: In the end, definitions and labels are merely subjective. From my perspective, I am whatever encourages people to engage with me. The founders of Viva con Agua do not possess any ownership rights; rather, we are all employees working towards a charitable cause. The entire ecosystem operates with a charitable mindset.

GICA: How many employees do you have?

Micha Fritz: Globally, we have approximately 170 employees, as each entity has its own staff.

GICA: You say you’re an All-Profit Project. What does that mean?

Micha Fritz believes that it’s possible to change the way we think about money and work with money to benefit everyone.

Micha Fritz: When we first started, we didn’t know much. We just believed that a non-profit organization should only exist if it benefits someone. Our approach is more than that. It’s not just about providing access to clean drinking water or sanitation facilities, it’s also about making sure that everyone has a good time.

If we change the way we talk about money, then the structures that currently exist will also change. These structures are still very capitalist, and we need to think carefully about what we value and how much we value it.

GICA: Why did you choose this job instead of a regular office job?

Micha Fritz: When we founded Viva con Agua, my co-founder Benny and I had no idea what we were getting into. Benny used to play soccer for FC St. Pauli, and I was a history and English student. Neither of us had traditional jobs, and we stumbled into social entrepreneurship. Looking back, I realize that there’s no other choice for me. I could never fit into a normal work world where you just do a job to earn money. That would be way too boring for me, and above all, it wouldn’t be meaningful enough.

GICA: Is it true that having a job with societal significance results in greater happiness?

Micha Fritz: In my opinion, the greatest chance of finding happiness is by doing something for others; all studies seem to confirm this, and I have never heard anyone say that their money made them happy.

Copyright: Tobias Schult

GICA: Germany has one of the strongest economies globally. What should the future of its economy entail?

We need to change this mindset and strive for a better common good. – Micha Fritz

Micha Fritz: I believe the traditional approach to business has caused more harm than good. The focus has always been on achieving more, faster, and bigger, often leading to a culture of success and status. We need to change this mindset and strive for a better common good.

If politics were geared towards serving the people, large corporations would be proud to pay their fair share of taxes, knowing that it would be put to good use. It’s unacceptable that some companies privatize essential services like water, health, and education to make a profit.

When profits become the main goal, the common good suffers. Similarly, we can’t go flying to Ibiza for €40. That’s an ecological genocide, and it must come with a price.

However, we also need to find ways to ensure that marginalized communities aren’t left behind. Social enterprises, activists, and entrepreneurs all have a role to play in promoting positive change. As individuals, we can contribute, but as entrepreneurs, we can reach more people and set an example for others.

GICA: How significant do you think networks are in contributing to the success of companies?

Micha Fritz: I believe that networks play a crucial role in achieving success, and this cannot be measured with KPIs. At Viva con Agua, our big vision is to ensure that water is available for all.

To achieve this goal, our network is essential. For our major campaign “Water is a human right,” we had the support of renowned figures like Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, and Sting. However, it was the people who helped me access these celebrities that were crucial to the campaign’s success. All important initiatives require creativity, financial support, space, and a strong network.

GICA: What’s your message to wealthy people?

According to Micha Fritz, it is important to integrate social, political, and environmental issues into the foundation of your business from the beginning.

Micha Fritz: Entrepreneurs and founders are urged to consider the socio-political and societal impact of their ventures.

It is important to integrate social, political, and environmental issues into the foundation of your business from the beginning. You don’t necessarily have to own the company entirely; you can build a foundation from the start or pledge one percent. If you’re unable to pledge one percent, it’s unlikely that your business will be successful in any case. This means that you need to think beyond your own self-interest.

Resources are privileges, and privileges come with responsibilities. The more resources and privileges you have, the more opportunities you have, and the more you should donate or integrate into social causes. Those with significant financial resources should also donate generously. A question I like to ask is: “How much can you donate without adversely affecting your own life?”

Micha Fritz on LinkedIn? Here!

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