When you are a contestant looking for love on the ABC TV series “The Bachelorette,” you can travel to luxurious destinations all over the world for dates that are firmly seated in the lap of luxury.
So it is somewhat surprising that the first “real” date for Utah native Jef Holm and fiance Emily Maynard was a trip to Ghana to assess wells that would provide water to some of the poorest people on the globe.
Maynard, the star of the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” chose Holm over 24 other men vying for her affection, and she accepted his marriage proposal on the season finale of the show, which aired on July 22.
And during their first trip to Ghana, without reality-TV cameras following them around, the Charlotte-based single mother said that in her nascent relationship with Holm, “I fell in love so much harder.”
Maynard jumped at the chance to accompany Holm on a trip he had been planning for months. As founder of the Pleasant Grove-based bottled-watter company People Water — the company was founded in 2010 — Holm followed through on the company’s marketing promise that for every bottle of water sold, the company would provide an equal amount of water for people in need. (The idea, he said, was inspired by companies such as TOMS, which donates one pair or shoes to people in need for every pair it sells.)
Holm, Maynard, and two other People Water employees went to Africa for little over a week to check on the company’s latest well projects, which provide a clean water source for those who hadn’t ever had access.
“She is the best person to take,” Holm told The Salt Lake Tribune. He said that Maynard rolled up her sleeves, got dirty and even brought a suitcase full of toys and gifts to give to children she encountered.
Maynard said Holm is “not one to brag” about the company’s charitable arm, but his sense of philanthropy is one of the qualities that attracted her. During their first date on “The Bachelorette,” even before she knew what he did for a living, they talked about the importance of charity missions, she said.
People Water, which is sold in selected Harmons Grocery Stores, Seven-Elevens and Beans and Brews Coffee Houses, is not a non-profit. It is a for-profit, cause-based “premium-water’ business that is committed to alleviating the global water crisis, Holm said. “We measure success in two ways,” he said: the bottom line when it comes to profits, and the bottom line when it comes to helping others. In addition, the bottles are eco-friendly being both biodegradable and recyclable.
Maynard admittedly didn’t know much about People Water before she met Holm and spent quality time with him. “Jef is a great teacher,” she said. “I was really curious.” With future well projects planned in Africa and Haiti, she said she would like to bring her daughter Ricki along on future trips.
Recent weeks have delivered relationship-threatening stress to the couple, with US Weekly running a cover story last week about Holm allegedly throwing Maynard out after he discovered “sexting” messages between her and another man. At the time, the couple and Maynard’s daughter were visiting Holm’s extended family in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Holm’s parents are living in South Carolina while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The couple denied the tabloid reports about cheating, sexting or brutal fights. “It can eat you alive if you let it,” Maynard said of the tabloid reports. “We are excited about the future of our relationship.”
Holm, a graduate of St. George’s Pine View High School, said he was moving to Charlotte this coming week to live in the same city as Maynard and her daughter. But he admitted his love for Utah, and how it contributed to his ideas about the company, which he will continue to help run from North Carolina. “Utah is a very business-savvy state,” he said. “I grew up in family that was really outdoorsy.”