April 28, 2016
The Story that Began With a Promise and a Bottle
By Kris Parfitt
Photo at right: Seating, shirts, bikes and bottles are available at the MiiR flagship store in Seattle. Photo courtesy of MiiR
Bryan Papé had a defining moment in his early 20s. A bad skiing accident left him alone in the snow with a broken femur. Fearing a torn femoral artery and a slow rescue he made a promise to the higher powers-that-be that if he survived, he would be a better person.
“I realized that I could easily die if I wasn’t quickly rescued,” said Papé, a Boise, Idaho, native who is now 31. “I asked myself what I would regret if I did die and the answer was obvious. I was selfish and I would regret not making a difference in the world, for the better.”
Thankfully, Papé is alive and well and generously fulfilling on his promise. He is the founder and CEO of MiiR, a for-profit company making a global difference using water bottles, bicycles and bags. The MiiR flagship store, located in Seattle, sells reusable water bottles, bikes, clothing, coffee, locally-brewed craft beer and soon, lifestyle bags.
By partnering with non-profits like One Day’s Wages and World Bicycle Relief, and for-profit companies like REI and Patagonia, MiiR is providing clean water, transportation and educational opportunities to those in need, not only in third-world countries, but also in the United States.
What’s in a Name?
Some think the two lower-case “i’s” in the name look like two bike tires, water drops or even two people doing things together. Papé encourages any positive symbolism.
“The inspiration behind the name comes from two sources,” explained Papé. “Muir, in honor of John Muir, the naturalist and activist, who made a huge contribution to our parks and protected lands. And the Russian word for world peace, mir. The extra i made it stand out, plus the domain name MiiR.com was available.”
Water Bottles = Clean Water
In 2009, just before the inception of MiiR, Papé was discouraged by reusable water bottle designs. The mouth opening was either too little or so big he’d splash water on his face when taking a drink. Removing the lid took too long and the size prohibited using a reusable water bottle in a car’s cup holder or bottle holder on a bike.
Already possessed with an entrepreneurial mind and a knack for out-of-the-box ideas, Papé designed a better, simpler water bottle.
Friends loved the stainless steel, BPA free, cup-holder friendly design and easy to secure lid. After R.E.I endorsed the product, MiiR launched in 2010.
Around the same time Papé learned from Charity Water that providing safe drinking water in third-world countries was very affordable—averaging $1 per person per year—yet the need for something so simple was not easily being met.
“I researched the water bottle industry for many months and discovered that no other company was helping get clean water to people who did not have access to it,” said Papé.
This was the beginning of MiiR’s One4One initiative which provides people access to clean water around the world. When one bottle is purchased, the consumer is educated about the global clean water crisis, and $1 from every bottle sold gives someone else clean water for
As of December 2015, MiiR completed 44 water projects through partnerships with various non-profits such as Well Done Liberia, Charity Water and World Vision. Committed to showing people how their purchase makes a difference, each bottle comes with a Track your Impact™ code. Once registered, within one year MiiR emails an update with photos about the water project that was funded by the purchase of that bottle.
Bikes = Transportation
During a water project trip to Liberia in 2011, Papé, his team and local people walked everywhere. He observed that the access to bicycles could increase economic development by mobilizing kids getting to school and transporting people to the market and other employment opportunities.
Soon after that trip, MiiR started building bikes that utilized a simple design for commuting and practical bicycling in both urban and remote regions.
The bikes also use the One4One initiative: one bike purchase equals one bike given to someone in need.
Since the inception of Miir’s bike product, the company has donated over 4,500 bikes to kids and adults in Africa and the U.S. And like the water bottles, each bike has a Track your Impact™ code that, once registered, tracks the location and impact of the bike gifted to another person.
Bags = Education
Recently MiiR finished a successful crowdsourcing campaign that raised funds to manufacture and launch everyday life and travel bags. The purchase of each bag will provide access to education for students around the world. Various education projects will focus on learning resources such as curriculum, teacher development, student scholarships and in-school meal programs.
Similar to the water bottles and bikes, each bag will include a Track your Impact™ code so consumers can see the education project the bag’s purchase funded. The bags are in production and will be ready for purchase this summer.
MiiR believes that everyone is designed to empower; that’s quite an impressive promise for anyone to live into.
When Kris Parfitt isn’t editing OutdoorsNW magazine, she’s out traveling the world connecting with organizations and people who are making a difference.