StartUp Creative talked tactics with Daniel Flynn, Managing Director of Thankyou Group, a social enterprise started in 2008 that ‘exists to empower the everyday Australian to change the world through a simple choice in their every day life.’
Tell us about the moment you knew you had to start Thankyou group.
I read facts about the World Water Crisis and had a moment of clarity: kids my age (19) were struggling with access to clean water. I immediately made a decision to help. I pulled together a group of friends and we came up with the idea of a bottled water company that funds safe water projects in developing nations.
What were your steps to make it a reality?
We worked on the idea as a group. From there, we met with different advisors who pointed us in the right direction. Five years on, we rebranded into Thankyou Group and launched new product ranges including Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care.
Tell us about your passion for starting Thankyou water.
I want to see poverty end in our lifetime. To me it’s heartbreaking that basic needs like water and food, that we have in abundance in Australia, aren’t available to everyone.
What is your definition of a social enterprise?
I would best define it as a company that exists solely for the cause. We exist 100% for the cause.
Why address a social need? Why not just start a business?
When we started there were plenty of charities already doing awesome work. Our aim was to be different. We wanted to develop a social enterprise with a quality product that could compete with the best brands. Our idea was to start a business that would fund projects implemented by charities.
What are your best tips for setting up a social enterprise?
Have a clear goal as a constant reminder of why you started, to help you last the distance. (And this applies to implementing any idea, not just a social enterprise.) During our first years we faced so many setbacks and had hardly any successes… I honestly thought about quitting every week. But we knew that the reason we’d started was much bigger than us. Our vision of changing lives kept me going.
How hard is it to address overseas issues?
Development issues are very complex, so we work with some of the world’s most experienced charities. The effects of poverty are multifaceted. Our local project partners have an on-the-ground presence to help address the root causes of poverty - both on a community level, and advocating on behalf of these communities on a structural level. The key is working with local communities and partners.
How big is Thankyou now?
We have 34 staff across sales, marketing, finance, supply and procurement, product development, graphic and web design, and people and culture.
Give us some stats on your impact to date.
We’ve given over $2 million to projects spanning 14 countries. We’ve funded safe water access, hygiene and sanitation programs for nearly 3 hundred thousand people, and 5.2 million days worth of food-aid.
Those stats are pretty amazing! Name your biggest challenge in starting this enterprise.
I’d say launching! Experts told us that we would need huge amounts of cash, which was pretty rough since we had a combined net worth of maybe a thousand dollars! But we discovered along the journey that the idea of ‘you need money to make money’ is a myth. By getting people to believe our vision, we formed the partnerships and relationships that got our idea off the ground without the huge amounts of cash.
You’ve gone into business with close friends/partners. Is that difficult?
I’d say it’s the opposite – I consider myself privileged to work with my two best friends - one of whom is my wife. What I love about our dynamic as co-founders is that we share the same vision and core values, and a deep respect for each other. We also work with an incredible team, and we are actually changing the world.
What have been the most memorable moments for Thankyou group?
The success of the Coles and Woolworths campaign is definitely up there. Since Coles and Woolworths agreed to stock our ranges, we’ve been able to fund more simultaneous projects and reach more people in need.
What’s next for you guys? How big are you going to go?
It’s been an amazing journey but I’m excited for what’s ahead. Our aim is to be a household name in Australia so we can increase our impact. Watch this space!
What’s your remedy for challenges and hard days?
Knowing how to switch off. It’s something that I’ve had to learn. It’s easy to get engrossed in your business and forget that you need time out, and time for family and friends. For me, personally, I love the outdoors. Being outside relaxes and clears my head.
What are your top tips for young people starting out?
- Everything starts with a solid idea, then a plan on how to carry it out.
- There will always be people that will criticise your idea. The key is to believe in your vision.
- Surround yourself with a solid team.
- Have mentors. That was one of the first things I did – I took my idea to people with more experience. It was extremely helpful to get their thoughts, wisdom and perspective.