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Walking into the Sydney offices of pioneering Australian social enterprise brand Thank You, you are immediately struck by the good energy humming in the space. A young, diverse team of people are toiling away beneath pictures of the people around the world they are affecting with their work. A giant chalkboard shows the results they are driving: Over $6.2 million to people in need, safe water and sanitation to 500,000, maternal and child health services to 183,000, and many more results to date. But the journey of Thank You’s humble and introspective co-founder Daniel Flynn started in a very different place: in tears, sitting in the docklands of Melbourne as he realized that great disparity between the wealth that surrounded him and the enormous problem of global poverty. “I’d gone on this journey of really discovering extreme poverty–stories of kids online losing brothers and sisters to waterborne disease. And yet I find myself sitting here in the Docklands in Melbourne and the reason I’m moved to tears is that I had this moment of going ‘that yacht there is a $3 million boat, that apartment up there is like $5 million. I’m sitting there going, ‘the money’s already here’. There is so much money in consumerism and yet we have this extreme poverty and I suppose the feeling was I’ve just got to find a way to connect this better.”
Thank You’s goal is to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and their purpose statement reflects that ambitious goal. “Our purpose is ’empowering humanity to choose a world without poverty’. I think we’ve taken a long time to develop it. It captures the essence of who we are and it is definitely the hope and the belief. So that purpose is aspirational and we have a plan to get there, but we really see this as an idea that really does empower humanity today, in Australia and New Zealand but hopefully in the future in America across Europe and Asia. This is a universal product idea.” Taking this purpose as a guiding principle, Flynn and his Co-Founders his then-girlfriend (now wife) Justine Flynn, and his best mate Jarryd Burns, launched in Australia with a unique approach to getting their brand in stores: leveraging the power of their fans and social media to get major retailers like Coles and Woolworths to stock their products. Their fanbase embraced the challenge to such an extent that a couple of helicopter pilots took it upon themselves to fly banners over the head offices of the retailers, leading them to be successfully stocked there.
But in addition to enthusiastic fans, another huge part of Thank You’s success has been their attention to creating a great product and a great brand, with beautiful, minimal aesthetics. “It comes from a great book “Do purpose” which says ’Rule number one, make a great product. Rule Number two, never break rule one. There’s a little asterisk above rule one and the fine print just says, ‘never use a good cause to sell an average product’. And that is the mantra at Thank you,” said Flynn. Their thoughtfulness extends to innovations like a unique Tracker ID on each Thank You product to see the exact details of the project your product is assigned to fund.
Another fantastic idea from this amazingly innovative little brand was the launch of their first book ‘Chapter One’ with a unique ‘Pay what you want’ model and all proceeds going into funding the next stage of the companies growth. “The book has worked beyond expectation. Part of it was we wanted to get our story in as many in people’s hands but we also wanted to raise money because we do have at own self-inflicted problem of raising funds because we don’t have any shareholders, we don’t have any investors. We’re not changing our 100% model. It’s awesome. But it does create this funding gap and that the idea was, well Thank You has been built by people the whole way along and people have solved our greatest problems like getting stocked in the supermarkets. And so we thought what if ‘we, the people’ could help solve that issue of funding?” The book blew past the initial goal of selling 80,000 copies, going on to sell 124,000 copies to date, and raising over $2,5 million that went towards the launch of their Thank You Baby line, and their subsequent expansion into New Zealand.
Flynn believes that this is because the brand created a space for their fans to be participants in their journey. “I think people innately love story but we also love being part of the story and feel like we’re contributing our little piece to a bigger story. I think what Chapter One does is that it’s an invitation to all of us to go, what part can I play?” In fact, Flynn reflects on whether the bigger impact of Thank You may be the inspiration it has been for others to find their own purpose. “Part of me wonders whether our biggest impact will actually be measurable, whether it will be the effect of other people in organizations seeing some of what we’ve done and then likely doing it better themselves and beyond.” Flynn has parting words of advice for anyone seeking to create their own social enterprise.”Don’t fall into the illusion that the ‘enterprise’ part will be easy because of the social impact. In fact, the social element can create complexity that the average enterprise may have not have. But it is rewarding, it is satisfying. It is not easy, but it’s important. So if that’s your dream and vision, chase it, go hard.”
May 26, 2019 at 09:14AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs