At the age of 19, Daniel Flynn discovered that Australians spent $600 million on bottled water each year while 900 million people did not have access to safe drinking water. At the first Creating Future Leaders event of 2016, Flynn told a packed auditorium how he turned an idea to empower Australians to fund safe water projects in developing nations into reality.
Thankyou has donated $4 million to help hundreds of thousands of people in need of safe water, hygiene and sanitation, and food aid in 17 countries.
But, the journey hasn't been easy. "Social business can change the world but it's up against big money and cause alone doesn't cut through that," said Flynn at the Copeland Theatre on Tuesday 5 April 2016.
So, how has Thankyou become so successful?
Daniel and his co-founders believed in what they were doing and it sounded like it. They didn't talk about what they were going to do or what they hoped to achieve, they talked about what they were actively doing.
"People will continue to tell you it's not possible...but at Thankyou we believe that impossibility is only someone's opinion, not a fact," said Flynn.
They decided to approach a large manufacturer as a potential packaging sponsor. With no direct connections, Flynn called the 1300 number and asked for a meeting with the CEO. He was told to put his request in an email so he diligently sent his request in writing but didn't provide any information about the purpose of the meeting due to 'confidentiality agreements'. He wanted a face to face opportunity. They got the meeting and 30 000 bottles.
When you back yourself, others may not come on board but there's a chance they might. It's a chance you have to take.
Challenge conventional thinking
"Who says you have to do things the way they've been done before?" asked Daniel. Thankyou certainly haven't.
While the social cause got them into some pretty big boardrooms, it was innovative thinking that brought success. A few years in they needed to crack through the market with a large supplier. They set their sites high. Their first target was 7-Eleven. The team used Facebook to generate public advocacy for the product with prospective customers posting "if you stock the Thankyou range I'll buy it".
Coles and Woolworths were next and despite advice not to target the supermarket rivals in the same campaign, Thankyou challenged conventional thinking. A one-take video, shot in a warehouse with pop-up sets asking people to tell the supermarket chains to stock the product, got thousands of views. A few days later they flew helicopters over Coles and Woolworths head offices with signs that said "Together we can change the world, if you sat 'yes'". The products were stocked on both Coles and Woolworths shelves within eight weeks.
Never stop learning
At Thankyou one of our values is learning - not what you expect from a skinny jeans wearing start-up. - Daniel Flynn
In the early days Flynn received an order for 50 000 bottles. When asked how long it would take, he quickly and confidently responded 3 weeks. "We learned," he said.
The Thankyou team learn from each other with a company culture that is open to challenges and new thinking. Daniel also stressed the importance of having a mentor, where it's someone who's book inspired you or someone you know well, it's important to have someone to look to for guidance.
To make your dream a reality, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. - Daniel Flynn
Chapter One - a book by Thankyou turned conventional thinking on its side and may just be the inspiration you're looking for. A source of crowdfunding for the launch of Thankyou Baby and Thankyou New Zealand, the book has raised $1.4 millon.
Priced at whatever you want to pay for it, Chapter One is available here.