For many people embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, money is the motivating factor. Thankfully, there are social entrepreneurs who are willing to pursue business for the greater good. Daniel Flynn founded Thankyou Water (now Thankyou) at 19, and, four years on, millions of lives have changed as a result. After discovering that nearly 900 million people are without fresh water on the planet – and many who must walk for hours to fetch it – Daniel had one simple thought: “What if my younger sisters had to do that?” It was that notion that inspired him to start Thankyou Water and he has since has built that simple idea into the Thankyou movement – a consumer movement that empowers you to fund life-changing projects through simple choices in your everyday life.
Were you always an ideas man? I was always an entrepreneurial kid. My mother says it started way back when I was in kindergarten. I used to try to sell the other kids helicopters – the leaves that looked liked helicopters that fell from the tree. When I was in primary school I used to follow the trends. So, when yabbies were in, I would catch them and sell them at lunchtime. When Gobstoppers were in, I would sell them. I just had a whole bunch of crazy ideas going all the time. My parents never handed me money, I always had to work for it.
Can you remember the exact moment you came up with the idea for Thankyou Water? I definitely can. It was an interesting time. I was studying at university and had my five-year plan mapped out. I was studying project management and construction and thought I wanted to get into property development. I thought I had a good plan going. In 2008, I discovered the world water crisis and the fact that 900 million people in our world didn’t have access to safe drinking water. At the same time, I found out that Australians spend a crazy $600 million annually on bottled water – an industry that seemed ludicrous when you consider the fact that we can all get water from the tap for free. When I asked the question of myself, ‘What if that were me without access to water?’ that’s when it all started. I imagined my sisters having to walk for days to collect water, or me having to do it for them. I felt like something could be done – should be done – and I could be part of it. Along with my co-founders, we came up with the idea to join these two extremes together to make a difference. So, we created Thankyou Water – a bottled water company that would exist for the sole purpose of funding safe water projects in developing nations.
The organisation has grown quite fast. How did you manage to do this?
Today, Thankyou Water has evolved into Thankyou, a movement overseeing three different brands: Thankyou Water, Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care. Now, we don’t just provide safe water access for those in need, but also access to food and hygiene solutions. The mission hasn’t changed – we exist to empower everyday Australians to make a difference through a simple choice within their everyday life. We’ve just stepped it up a level.
Why did you choose water as a product? We all thought that bottled water was a ridiculous product and still do because we get tap water for free, but for some strange reason we all still buy it. People like the convenience and naturally we don’t have a tap in our pocket. When we found out it was a huge market, we decided to go after it.
What inspires you? My inspiration goes pretty deep and is founded by two core things. I consider myself so lucky to have been born in Australia. It’s a great country and I realise some people are not born in great countries. So I want to use my advantage to help others. My own personal faith plays a big part in my life. I grew up in church, and, in my late teens, I got a bit more committed in this space – the idea that I can live my life for someone else. My parents are Christian too, but I made my own call. They didn’t force me into anything.
What drives you crazy? The concept that such a small decision in purchasing behaviour can have such a profound effect on someone else’s life in such a positive way. What drives me crazy is the gap between where Thankyou is at the moment and where I know it should be.
How is a typical day spent for you? Internally, a typical day is spent managing the team. We have 26 staff members so there are a lot of meetings. A lot of my time is spent outside the office too. I travel a lot, seeing customers and introducing new ones to the product. My focus is growth.
How are the new range of products going? Some of the products are killing it. The body products are doing really well. The food range is doing well. The muesli is struggling. It’s such a competitive space and you have to work hard to maintain your position. We know the product is good – we just have to convert more people. Being in the supermarkets has helped lift our brand profile. The challenge is there is only so much shelf space. So for the small amount of space you do get, you pretty much have to try and smash it and outsell the other brands who have customer loyalty in order to get more shelf space. It’s tough, hard and a slow burn. I think a lot of money helps. It’s been fascinating getting into the grocery market as it is a tough market to make money in. Just because a brand is on the shelf does not actually mean it is making a profit. It will be a long road for us.
How do you overcome your fears? I think my biggest fear is if I fail! For me, my team around me is important – including my wife, who is one of our co-founders. My family and mentors help me. I just talk about my fears and they give me advice and wisdom. My faith plays a big part too.
Why do you think you care? I care because I fundamentally believe that each of us is here to do something bigger than ourselves. If everyone did something bigger than themselves, such as an act of kindness or starting an organisation that helped others, the world would be a better place. I just want to play a part in that.
Who are your rolemodels? My family, my mentors, my father. I have chatted to a lot of CEOs and business people who inspire me. I am inspired by Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr and William Wilberforce. I guess the people who are crazy enough to do the seemingly impossible.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? I think it is really important to remain naive – hopefully we still are! I think you need and can harness naivety to believe you can do the impossible. We live in a world where people are quick to criticise and quick to put you down, but self belief is important. An idea is a good starting point but everyone has an idea. There is a quote I like: ‘An idea is not worth much but its value is in its execution.’ That’s where we concentrate. Also, have a great team. Thankyou is awesome because of the great team we have.
What are your words of wisdom? Impossibility is only someone’s opinion, not a fact.