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Seeing The Big Pitcher

Teri Mathis in Oxygen Orchard’s offices in Richmond, where The Big Pitcher is assembled and shipped worldwide.  photo- MARA SOLOWAY

Teri Mathis in Oxygen Orchard’s offices in Richmond, where The Big Pitcher is assembled and shipped worldwide.  photo – MARA SOLOWAY

Local entrepreneurs create a countertop appliance that oxygenates water

By Mara Soloway

In 2000, while Teri Mathis ran her own environmental remediation company called BioTex Environmental Inc., she put her oxygen testing equipment to good use measuring the amount of dissolved oxygen in her family’s well water. It was zero.

“I knew that the amount of oxygen in the water could be much higher than zero. I started looking in the marketplace for a product we could buy that would oxygenate water. There was nothing at the time,” she said.

With her background in water chemistry and husband Lee’s design talent – and much determination from each – they began a six-year entrepreneurial journey to invent a countertop appliance that oxygenates drinking water. Both were working full time running their businesses during that time. Through a process of making custom parts and devising improvements, The Big Pitcher went on the market in 2006.

Today their family-owned company Oxygen Orchard, Inc. assembles The Big Pitcher and ships it worldwide from its offices in Richmond. The Big Pitcher sells for $229.95. Since its creation, three competitors now sell their products made in China for $450-500.

The Big Pitcher is sold mostly in independent health and vitamin stores, through distributors (including those who sell it on Amazon), on walmart.com and on the company website, oxygenorchard.com. Teri is working to have it sold on Target and Sears websites. Teri is company president and markets the product, a skill she started honing as a kid knocking on doors selling seeds to raise enough money to buy an ant farm. Lee is executive VP of production and the main one responsible for what the product looks like.

The Big Pitcher has a three-year warranty and uses about the same amount of electricity as a night light. It takes about 20 minutes to fully oxygenate a half gallon of water, which is the recommended amount per person each day. One difference between it and other filtration units like a Brita is that they remove oxygen.

According to Teri, the body benefits from drinking oxygenated water because, at the cellular level, the nutrients it takes in plus oxygen in the form of O2 equal energy. “Most people focus on the food part – things like vitamins and green drinks. But not many think about the oxygen required to create the efficient energy,” Teri said. “It’s O2 that we’re breathing and it dissolves into the water. It is still O2 in the water. What we do on the countertop is what your lungs do every minute of the day, delivering O2 to the blood stream.”

The Big Pitcher doesn’t change the chemical property of water, which is H2O. It works on water’s physical properties, oxygenating and purifying it.

“It’s the 21st century water treatment process compared to the 20th, which is filtration,” Teri said. The product’s name is a play on words of oxygen being the big picture in health.

Product sales got off to a slow start. “The Big Pitcher is the mousetrap, which creates a different set of challenges,” Lee said. Oxygen Orchard’s first real break came in 2008 with the placement of The Big Pitcher in Sky Mall magazine, where it was featured for five years. In the meantime, the couple had invented a three-gallon unit called the Oxygen Icon. It sold well but they stopped production to create some custom parts to make assembly easier and keep costs down. It will soon be back on the market.

Lee doesn’t think about being a successful entrepreneur on a day-to-day basis. “But being able to pay the bills and enjoy what I’m doing on my own time is a success in itself, and I’m happy to accept that,” he said.

Interestingly, Teri feels that although it seemed difficult to start the business, it’s harder now, having to tend to the less exciting aspects for an entrepreneur – finding a CPA, filing taxes, etc. But everyone at Oxygen Orchard is motivated to overcome obstacles, especially knowing that they are helping people improve their health. According to the company’s website, medical professionals are seeing positive results in patients who drink oxygen-enhanced water. The testimonials from customers include praise for it helping their energy levels, and improving acid reflux, chronic fatigue and chemical sensitivity problems, among others.

“The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but the rewards of helping people have been worth it,” said Teri. “Now I’m living my dream.”

The University of Houston Small Business Development Center has been useful to Teri and Lee. Joe Decker, its director, offered advice based on his background in the plastics industry. Teri and Lee attended UHSBDC seminars introducing entrepreneurs to investors. Oxygen Orchard is a certified women-owned small business. It received technical assistance through a NASA-funded technology program.

Lee advises anyone with an entrepreneurial idea to make a list of questions and answer them honestly, such as, “Is it truly a good product or service?” and “Is it the mousetrap or a better mousetrap?”

“And are you willing to sacrifice paying your bills on time or losing sleep and maybe a few friends along the way? If there is a significant other, make sure that person is supportive,” he said. “After that, go for it with your whole heart.”

For more about The Big Pitcher, call 1-877-347-7770 or visit oxygenorchard.com.

The Big Pitcher was developed by local entrepreneurs Lee and Teri Mathis to oxygenate a half-gallon of water. photo- ALAN COMACHO

The Big Pitcher was developed by local entrepreneurs Lee and Teri Mathis to oxygenate a half-gallon of water. photo- ALAN COMACHO


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