Able Made Go-Getter: Peter Thum

Go Time and Giving With Peter Thum

We're proud to feature Peter Thum, founder of not just one but several companies and not-for-profit organizations. The first two brands are Ethos Water (acquired by Starbucks) and Giving Water which funds programs providing water, adequate sanitation and hygiene education for children in need in Kenya. There’s also Liberty United, an organization that partners with American communities and law enforcement to create jewelry and accessories out of illegal guns and bullet shell casings released from evidence. Proceeds help fund programs to reduce gun violence. 

We caught up with Peter in his NYC headquarters taking bold steps in our socks.  



"I think that every child deserves an equal opportunity to pursue happiness."

What makes you a Go-Getter?

I do things that I believe in and I enjoy work and accomplishing the things that I set out to do.

What inspires you to create an impact?

When I meet the kids in the programs we support I think of my daughter. Children are the same everywhere I’ve worked:  Kenya, DR Congo, Chicago, New York, Philly.  They smile easily, they have dreams of what they want to do and be in life. I think that every child deserves an equal opportunity to pursue happiness.


What keeps your passion moving forward?

I know that the work that we do has saved the lives of people who I’ll never get to meet. 

You have founded several companies and not for profit organizations. Do you have a favorite?

I suppose that some parents have a favorite child, I don’t.


What was the experience like to create a social impact brand (Ethos Water) and leading the company as its president through its acquisition by Starbucks?

Ethos Water was my first experience as an entrepreneur. The beginning was pretty isolating, because when I first came up with the idea for Ethos, there were very few people who had created anything like it — Paul Newman, Anita Roddick, Ben & Jerry — so people had very few examples of hybrid models and most didn't really understand it or think it could work. The ecosystem to support social entrepreneurship didn’t really exist the way that it does today. Ethos was the first social purpose brand to connect product consumption to a directly-related social issue — water for water — so shepherding that idea that started out on a cocktail napkin in my pocket come to life was pretty cool. The acquisition by Starbucks was an amazing and I believe singular growth path for Ethos Water. Personally, it was a remarkable growth experience that I feel fortunate to have been able to have.


Any words of wisdom to share?

People who are cut out for entrepreneurship should go for it.  That said, It is really important to interrogate your self knowledge and ask if you have what it takes and the commitment to solving a big problem that is necessary to go through the start up phase.  This includes thinking about every aspect of your life. The founder / entrepreneur experience is romanticized by the stories of success that dominate the media, but most businesses don’t succeed and most entrepreneurs have 10 hardship stories for every victory story.  Are you really ready for that?

A deep personal connection to an issue is a good grounding for social entrepreneurs. Without it you’ll probably struggle.

Pursue a social enterprise if you feel that there is a solid argument why the social issue that you are trying to address really needs the social enterprise idea and strategy that you are considering.  If not, find a different way to address the issue.


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Photography: Jake Horgan | Hair/Make Up: Justine Sierakowski