Thankyou co-founder and MD Daniel Flynn.
Australian company Thankyou operates differently to your average brand. For starters, 100 per cent of profits from sales of its water, food, body care and baby products goes towards helping end global poverty.
To date, the company has given over $5.5 million to food, water and health and sanitation programs around the world, and $5 million of that has been in the last four years.
Co-founder and managing director Daniel Flynn is also passionate about innovation and improving on the way his company is run. As he said at Online Retailer Sydney recently: “Who says we have to do things the way they have been done before?”
This includes creating a viral social media campaign to get Thankyou products into the major supermarkets. He has also written a book, ‘Chapter One’, about Thankyou’s journey so far, that customers can purchase for whatever price they choose.
Retailbiz spoke to Flynn about doing things differently.
Where did you find the inspiration to start a company at the age of 19?
I’d always had an interest in business growing up. I’d hoped to go into property development when I started uni but that all changed for me when I was 19 and… came across facts about the World Water Crisis. At the time (2008), 900 million people didn’t have access to safe water. I watched videos of kids walking to collect water for their families and it moved me to the point that I was sitting at my computer in tears.
I did a little more research and discovered that the Australian bottled water industry was worth $600 million a year. I saw these two extremes as a huge opportunity—what if we launched a bottled water product that would fund safe water projects around the world? I pulled together a group of friends and we launched Thankyou Water (now Thankyou).
Daniel Flynn holding his book ‘Chapter One’.
How fast has Thankyou grown?
We’re nearing our ninth birthday but it’s really been in the last few years that we have seen the greatest growth… In the last 12 months, we’ve seen our sales double in supermarkets as our range has grown to 50 products across the water, food, body care and baby categories. As an organisation, we now have over 50 staff.
How did you get your products into the major supermarkets?
By June 2013, we had Thankyou Water in over 3,000 retailers including 7-Eleven Australia and Australia Post. At this point, we were working hard on expanding our vision even further and we knew that helping communities access safe water was only a small part of a bigger problem… [This] sparked the idea to rebrand Thankyou Water to Thankyou and launch Thankyou food and body care.
We knew for this range to be successful it would need to be stocked in Coles and Woolworths. The problem was they had said no to stocking our water range for five years because we didn’t have a million dollar marketing campaign, so…we had to do something to get their attention.
Thankyou initially only sold water.
We launched a disruptive social media campaign [that went viral]… We campaigned for two weeks, met with both supermarkets, and just hours after our meetings they agreed to range us nationally.
That was a real turning point for the business because not only did it mean we had products on the shelf in the two main places that Australians shop, but we could also exponentially grow our impact.
What do you think is the secret to your success?
At its core, Thankyou taps into one of the deepest human needs—to help others. It reaches out to the part in all of us that wants to make a difference and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. By creating amazing products like hand wash, nappies, muesli or a bottle of water and giving 100 per cent of the profits to help end global poverty, we make it easy for people to help others in their everyday life.
The brand has since expanded into food, body care and baby products.
Do you think more Australians should be starting social enterprises?
There are already some great social enterprises in Australia. We’re lucky to have our offices around the corner from Streat, an incredible social enterprise that supports youth homelessness. I think because Australia has a culture that fosters innovation, social enterprises are the natural business model to support that.
What have been the biggest challenges of running Thankyou so far?
One of the biggest challenges for us is growing and moving forward in a world where everyone is telling you to follow a blueprint or the status quo. To grow in these established markets, we need to be harnessing innovation and doing things differently, and because we challenge the way things have always been done, people don’t always understand the way we operate. Campaigns like [the viral social media] Coles and Woolworths and Chapter One speak directly to not doing things the way they have always been done.
Strengthening our home base and core business is our focus right now. Over the past year we have doubled in sales, which is a huge win for us, but with that growth comes operational needs. We’re focusing on these needs so we can increase our profitability and grow again.
A term we have adopted and live by is ‘better before bigger’. At Thankyou we have big dreams, but we know that to create a business that will withstand growth and be around to see those dreams become a reality, we need to get better before we get bigger. We’re building Thankyou to last, not be a fly by night organisation.
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