Daniel Flynn - cofounder Thankyou Australia social enterprise

Ep 67: Creating Viral Campaigns for Social Enterprises | Daniel Flynn (Co-Founder, Thankyou Australia)

Powered by RedCircle

Welcome to Episode 67!

Our guest for STIMY Episode 67 is Daniel Flynn.

Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thankyou, is one of Australia’s most recognisable & successful social entrepreneurs. He is the recipient of EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Southern Region) and Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.

Thankyou was conceived while Daniel was still in college and he learned, to his horror, that there were 900 million people who didn’t have access to clean water. 4500 kids were dying every day from water-borne disease and the women needed to trek 20km by foot to obtain clean water (they even risked being raped along that trecherous journey!).

Determined to make a difference, Daniel, his girlfriend (now wife) Justine and friend, Jared Burns, got together as first-year university students to launch the consumer brand now known as Thankyou.

Since 2008, Thankyou has raised over $17 million and impacted the lives of people across 22 countries. Thankyou’s products can be found in major retailers across Australia & 100% of its profits go towards ending extreme global poverty.

Thankyou has run many viral campaigns. To get 7-Eleven to stock Thankyou Water, they produced a youTube video that asked their followers to visit the 7-Eleven Australia Facebook page to promise to buy Thankyou water if it was stocked. Within two weeks, they had fans singing, dancing and rapping, and it was covered all over the media. 7-Eleven said yes & Thankyou became the third best selling brand (they were also top at certain points in time).

A similar viral campaign happened when they tried to get Coles and Woolworths, which controlled over 70% of Australia’s grocery market share, to stock Thankyou products. This time, they launched a video called the Coles and Woolworths campaign and also had two helicopters flown over Coles and Woolworths’ respective headquarters in Melbourne and Sydney. Unsurprisingly, both said yes!

And again in 2015, Daniel wrote a bestselling book, Chapter One, which generated over $1.4 million in sales & sold over 55,000 copies in its first month using an unorthodox ‘pay-what-you-want’ model.

However, these viral successes came after Daniel and his team experienced a great deal of setbacks. 

We explore all that and more in this episode.


Want to learn about new guests & more fun and inspirational figures/initiatives happening around the world? 

Then use the form below to sign up for STIMY’s weekly newsletter!

You don’t want to miss out!!

Get the latest podcast episodes!

With exclusive alerts on upcoming guests, a chance to pose YOUR questions to them & more

    So This Is My Why podcast

    Powered By ConvertKit

    Who is Daniel Flynn?

    Daniel shares how he was always entrepreneurial as a child and what led to his initial dream of entering property development. He had a full five-year plan which got completely derailed!

    • 4:00 Selling helicopters, yabbies & gobstoppers as a child
    • 5:15 Wanting to enter property development
    • 6:14 Learning about how 900 million people don’t have access to clean water (the genesis of Thankyou)
    • 10:17 Whether Daniel knew what a “social enterprise” was in the early days
    When I was 19, there was a particular moment. And it was really, I think it came from a deeper question I had, which was like, why am I here? What's my purpose? What does that look like? You know, I suppose the answer could be property development, but it felt like there was a something bigger than that.
    Daniel Flynn - cofounder Thankyou Australia social enterprise
    Daniel Flynn
    Co-Founder, Thankyou

    Founding Thankyou Australia

    Daniel began his journey in establishing Thankyou as first-year university students (alongside his two co-founders) and he shares how they hacked their way into the industry with no contacts, no capital and no experience.

    • 11:21 Figuring out how to enter the water industry as 19-year-olds
    • 13:39 Getting his business coach to donate $20,000
    • 17:57 Experiencing huge setbacks
    • 21:39 Deciding to not pivot
    Daniel Flynn - cofounder Thankyou Australia social enterprise

    Launching Viral Campaigns

    If you’ve ever heard of Thankyou, it’s likely because of its multiple well-executed, viral campaigns.

    Daniel breaks down how some of those viral campaigns came into being and his advice for others looking to create a community of passionate fans. As well as the decision to pivot and leave the water industry, and how he deals with difficult setbacks and public attacks.

    • 22:54 The idea behind the viral 7-Eleven campaign to stock Thankyou water
    • 24:54 Running the viral Coles & Woolworths campaign
    • 27:37 Building a core base of fans
    • 29:46 Managing the risks behind each campaign
    • 33:22 The “uncomfortable middle”
    • 34:46 Being almost crushed by the pressure
    • 42:19 Deciding to leave the water industry
    • 44:16 How Daniel & the Thankyou team celebrate their wins
    • 45:27 Any big idea Daniel has changed his mind on recently

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Lincoln Lee: Co-Founder of RICE Inc & winner of the HULT Prize 2018, which seeks to combat the 26 million tons of rice wasted during production every year & help smallholder rice farmers break through the convoluted supply chain
    • Rabi Malla: Nepali social entrepreneur & founder of KOLPA, which sells handmade Nepali handicraft worldwide (including from the nomadic Raute tribe)

    If you enjoyed this episode with Daniel Flynn, you can: 

    Leave a Review

    If you enjoy listening to the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉


    If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s patron page here

    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    STIMY Ep 67: Daniel Flynn [Co-Founder, Thankyou]

    Daniel Flynn: When I was 19, there was a particular moment. And it was really, I think it came from a deeper question I had, which was like, why am I here?

    What's my purpose?

    What does that look like?

    You know, I suppose the answer could be property development, but it felt like there was a something bigger than that. And I had this one moment when I'm in front of my computer crying. And I was crying because I'd just watched some stories of kids who didn't have access to clean water.

    The water that they had collected had killed brothers and sisters. And the statistics say that every day four and a half thousand children die from waterborne disease.

    It's hard to comprehend in 2008 when we started, there were 900 million people who didn't have access to clean water.

    And I remember thinking, wow, this is such a big problem. And also thinking the story I've just watched and the stories I've seen are heartbreaking. And if that was my story, I would have watched my sisters, Jess and Mao, die from water. And how as the big brother, would I even process that? And I grew up in Melbourne Australia, and I'd never traveled.

    So like my concept of drinking dirty water or not having a tap where you could just turn clean water on at any moment, it was outside of my concept. But I think what happened, the more I reflect on that moment and the moments that followed. I was moved, but I was also deeply challenged because as we've started this interview, my head was thinking a lot about money and I'd read a little bit and talked to enough people to know we live in a world with lots of it.

    And this is where this idea of thank you entered because if we're going to live in a world that is so developed, I feel uncomfortable that at the same time, there are people who lack access to basic human rights, like water, food, healthcare education.

    And so I think I was moved, disturbed and invigorated about this idea of imagine if one could serve the other, imagine if the money made the products purchased, could help right or wrong.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone!

    Happy new year and welcome to episode 67 of the So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer Ling Yah, and I'm so pleased to kickstart the year 2022 with one of Australia's most well-known and inspiring social entrepreneurs. Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thankyou.

    Now, if you haven't already heard of thank you, look it up.

    It was conceived while Daniel was doing college. And he learned to his horror that there were 900 million people who didn't have access to clean water. 4,500 kids were dying every day from waterborne disease and the women needed to trek 20 kilometers by foot to obtain clean water. A dangerous trek that could also result in them being raped.

    This cause moved Daniel deeply, and he decided to start thank you to serve bottled water and channel those profits towards helping people get access to safe water, but it was hardly a smooth journey. They got the largest distributor in the country to agree to start. Thank you water, but had to do a national recall because the labeling was unreadable.

    A year later, they found the factory willing to manufacture the bottles, but they couldn't obtain the supply in time for five weeks. And ended up losing 300 of the existing 350 customers. They make plans then to relaunch with a new distributor who then went into liquidation. And in 2017 on the date, Daniel gave some thank you products to President Obama, he ended up having to recall his products.

    So how did Daniel persevere through all these highs and lows? How did they decide it was time to leave bottled water behind? And how do they run their viral campaigns?

    Are you ready? Let's go.

    As a child, you were always very entrepreneurial and you were selling helicopters and catching yabbies and gobstoppers. What was it like?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. Well, Ling, thank you so much for the interview.

    My mum said that I was always trying to sell anything when I was a boy. And I suppose on reflection, I was. um, Whatever was in trend at the time. So Gobstoppers I was explaining to someone what that was, and they had no idea.

    They said, oh, Joe breakouts. So look, it depends what part of the world you come from, but they were kind of a thing. And so I was buying them from the supermarket in bulk and selling them. I was catching, yabbies when yabbies were a pet and people wanted them as a pet, I would catch them with a leg and sell them.

    And it feels a bit cruel now in reflection. And the helicopters, were, that's a cool name for basically a leaf that fell from a tree, like a helicopter. And I was trying to sell them. I don't actually think I ever sold any of them because I think people would probably struggle to understand why they needed to pay for a leaf from a tree.

    But yeah, that was me. I read books about business as I started to grow up and get into reading. I was naturally fascinated with the idea of starting things and selling and money and the general things that fall in the entrepreneurial books.

    Ling Yah: So why did you decide that you wanted to enter property development rather than something that was purely marketing?

    Daniel Flynn: Maybe the influence was late grandfather. He was a property developer and builder. So maybe there was some heritage there. There was a great man whose first name was actually the same as my surname Flynn. And my dad mentored him through uni and then he kind of reached out when I was about 12 to see if I wanted any mentoring.

    And he was all about property development and investing. So I think I just got exposed to that at a pretty young age and I saw it as a way that a lot of people have made a lot of money and also I love the idea of building things and making things. And so in particular, the more I went down, the property development world, I was quite in awe of towers in particular like building the skyscrapers, high-end homes as well.

    I was reading a lot about it, researching dreaming of that and ended up studying project management as well in construction, because I wanted to not just be a property developer, but being one that knew some of the intricacies of the process too.

    Ling Yah: You had a five-year plan or set up for you at the age of 19.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, I did. And that was probably because I had some good people and mentors who always talked about having a plan and building that plan.

    Ling Yah: So how did that get derailed?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, it did. It got very derailed.

    Aside from a little project, we had some fun with but I mean, when I was 19. By this point, I had been reading business books for years, following different people around in business.

    And I didn't know everything about business, but I knew that there was a lot of money in the world. I'd sort of been to some different meetings. I've met some different people and had a general understanding of, wow, there's a lot of money. And when I was 19, there was a particular moment. And it was really, I think it came from a deeper question I had, which was like, why am I here?

    What's my purpose?

    What does that look like?

    You know, I suppose the answer could be property development, but it felt like there was a something bigger than that. And I had this one moment when I'm in front of my computer crying. And I was crying because I'd just watched some stories of kids who didn't have access to clean water.

    The water that they had collected had killed brothers and sisters. And the statistics say that every day four and a half thousand children die from waterborne disease.

    It's hard to comprehend in 2008 when we started, there were 900 million people who didn't have access to clean water.

    And I remember thinking, wow, this is such a big problem. And also thinking the story I've just watched and the stories I've seen are heartbreaking. And if that was my story, I would have watched my sisters, Jess and Mao die from water. And how as the big brother, would I even process that? And I grew up in Melbourne Australia, and I'd never traveled.

    So like my concept of drinking dirty water or not having a tap where you could just turn clean water on at any moment, it was outside of my concept. But I think what happened, the more I reflect on that moment and the moments that followed. I was moved, but I was also deeply challenged because as we've started this interview, my head was thinking a lot about money and I'd read a little bit and talked to enough people to know we live in a world with lots of it.

    And this is where this idea of thank you entered because if we're going to live in a world that is so developed, I feel uncomfortable that at the same time, there are people who lack access to basic human rights, rights, like water, food, healthcare education.

    And so I think I was moved, disturbed and invigorated about this idea of imagine if one could [00:09:00] serve the other, imagine if the money made the products purchased, could help right or wrong.

    And I think at 19, I just couldn't unsee that. And so my plan of like go and build a building just seemed like it lost all its color. It lost all its interest in this idea to start a consumer brand. I mean, the back of my head, I'm thinking one day there could be a building and that money could go. That's fun. In fact, there's a moment I've talked about early on.

    And I think it's just because my head was in property, but I was standing in a part of Melbourne called the dock lands and we have a whole bunch of apartment buildings there and I was looking up at them and there's this one relatively new one that was built and I knew a bit about it.

    You know some of the apartments were selling for one and a half million and 3 million. I've got my calculator out and started doing the maths and started realizing wow. That money for that one apartment that could help you know, 75,000 people get access to clean water.

    Wow. My goal is to get that apartment for one person to live in. And, you know, [00:10:00] maybe a few friends or 75,000 people. And then you add up the whole building and then you add up like the 20 buildings you're looking at. I think For me, it was a very disruptive time and I couldn't unsee this idea of the money's already here. We've just got to figure out how to re-engineer the system

    Ling Yah: Were you aware of what a social enterprise was then? I mean, right now it's all the rage. But back then...

    Daniel Flynn: I I had no idea at all. The idea for me was use business to solve this issue and funnily enough and a little bit embarrassing, but we didn't really know what social enterprise was until a couple of years into our journey we sort of heard the term used more..

    And then I ended up going to a social enterprise forum in Melbourne and it was really cool. Those heaps of people that thought similar. And I was like, oh, this is embarrassing. Like we should have known about this and been coming to these events.

    And one girl said, " oh, I love how thank you. At the time we were in water, you've taken social enterprise into the mainstream."

    And I was like, cool, thank you for that. And

    I was [00:11:00] thinking, oh, we didn't even know what social enterprise was, so we're still learning about this. And that's in part because we should have done more research, but also when you start something, your head can be under that rock.

    And all you think about, and all we thought about was make great product, get it to market, give the profits. That turns out to be a very, very hard thing to do.

    Ling Yah: How did you even figure out how to start? I mean, you said you knew a lot of business people. Were any of them in the water industry or were you just cold emailing, cold calling people?

    Daniel Flynn: We did a lot of cold calls. A lot of cold emails. We Googled a lot and we still Google a lot and it is amazing how much you can learn when you don't know exactly what to do. Because you will ask questions differently.

    You will turn up to meetings and say things different, probably things you shouldn't really say. but you don't know. And that helped us. So that often referred to as beginner's mindset or that naivety that was very helpful for us. And so we started just by learning.

    We have always valued learning as if it's the secret weapon. And if you can get good at it, you can basically enter any industry, any product, any idea. You've just got to be humble, enough and willing and hungry enough actually to learn.

    Ling Yah: I love the initial stories. And you would say how you managed to meet the CEOs of water companies and they would spill all their secrets to you. How did you even manage to get them to open up and share how you can build something similar to what they have?

    Daniel Flynn: In the early days, just for those listening, like we booked these meetings with these companies who made water, factories and bottles that may bottles. And in answer to your question, there was a sense of confidence we had. We didn't approach any meeting. Like, Hey, we'd like to one day do something, would you be interested?

    It was a different approach. It was a, Hey, we're launching a brand. We're looking for the right partners. We're looking for the right bottling plan. We are here to learn if you're that fit for us.

    And so all of a sudden, even in that language, it's just different. And so I think that I was sitting there probably wondering who the heck are these kids, are they for real?

    But they don't know. They don't know if we are or not. And I think that there was a sense of passion in us, which goes a long way in confidence that people were willing to open up, willing to say, wow, you know, okay, well, look, to do business with us, you'd have to do this or that, or you'd have to pay this or couple of hundred grand here or there.

    And In those meetings, we're learning how to do it and what you need. And, It was really a huge adrenaline rush in those early days because we're learning on the spot and asking questions on the spot.

    Ling Yah: And I think one of the things you learn is that you need hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup capital.

    It's one thing to get someone to open up about how to do something, but another to get people to actually give you the money. There's this story of share about how your business coach donated $20,000. So how do you reach out to these people? What was your pitch like to convince people to jump on board when you had no track record?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, it's cool question. And I think anyone listening, if you're starting something, this became our secret and we figured it out and we've now spent 13 years at replicating it over and over again, just bigger. So the secret is, people listen to ideas. So if you're a good person you know, you've got a nice idea, people will listen to that, but that's probably all they'll do. People buy into momentum. So a good idea that has momentum is very different.

    That business coach you mentioned.

    The first time I caught up with him, I shared the vision. I shared the idea. " This is, thank you.

    This is what we want to do. And he said, look, I like it. But one of his questions was like, "Where are you going to get all the money to do this?'

    In my head, I was thinking, that's why I'm meeting with you. Like I was hoping, he'd give it. But he said, asked this question, Where would you get the money? And what's you know, shareholders and what's the structure going to be?"

    And I said, "Oh, there's no shareholders. This is going to be all for the mission." And that probably only made him look even more perplexed at our plan.

    And so I would say the idea phase, we really struggled to get anyone to buy in, but then as we built momentum, everything changed.

    Starting momentum is about getting a little win and then a bigger win and then bigger. and it's the domino effect.

    How do you get that first domino across the line? Our first domino was actually a big company in Australia called Visy. They made bottles for everyone in the country and we went in and we pitched a very bold, we want 10 million bottles a year for free as a partnership.

    They didn't do it. He agreed to 30,000 bottles as a one-off donation, which probably would have really cost them about $3,000. So that's not a whole lot of money for a multi-billion dollar. But what was really valuable about that wasn't the three grand. It was the fact that it was 30,000 bottles, which sounds like a lot.

    And it was a pretty big company Visy and everyone knew who they were. So with that little bit of momentum, we went to a factory. We said, we've got Visy on board and we've got some bottles. Would you make it? If we can sell it? And he's thinking about, yeah, of course, if you can sell it, I'd make it. And he was generous enough to drop some of the startup fees.

    So now you've got two people agreeing to not really a whole lot. I mean, the fact you say, I'll make it, if you can sell it, it's cool, but it's not again, a huge amount. And Then we landed our first sales deal for 50,000 units on the spot. And that meeting was interesting. It shocked us that he ordered that on the spot.

    But he, saw well Visy's on board, you've got a bottling plant which he knew about on board. and he figured if he doesn't jump on this, someone else will. So he ordered 50,000 units on the spot. Now I'm sitting back with my business coach. I'm not just telling him about the idea. I'm telling him about the momentum. And I said to him, I've got a factory, I've got a bottle, we've got 30,000 units donated. And we have our first order of 50,000 [00:17:00] units, which is incredible. But to make all this happen, we're going to need $20,000. And we've got about two weeks to find the money.

    And He ended up saying, well, not at lunch, but later that day, him and his business partner were really impressed with what we'd done and they wrote us a check for $20,000.

    But I would say to anyone listening, yes, we got the money, but we didn't just at the idea phase, we had to build the momentum. We had to take some risks. And then we found ourselves with a two-week window to raise that money, which is super scary.

    And that's how you get ideas off the ground . With momentum.

    Ling Yah: It was the really early part of "Thank you". But you hadn't registered, you didn't have your trademarks, nothing. So it must've been overwhelming at that point in time.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was part of that $20,000 was to cover those exact spent expenses, you know, registrations and stuff that we kind of skipped because we didn't have the money.

    to buy it or pay for any of that.

    Ling Yah: And how did you figure things out? Was everything an upward trajectory?

    Daniel Flynn: I think in our heads that was going to be a big upward [00:18:00] trajectory. So we got ready to launch product that had got sent out to three states in Australia.

    And they'd gone into the distributor and heading into stores. We had a pallet delivered to my mum and dad's garage. And as we unloaded it, a third of all the product in every box, the label was scrunched on some to the point you couldn't read it.

    And this was bad, bad, bad, bad. I called the factory and it said that the quality control guy was away when they ran out of product.

    I'm like still shocked to this day about that. But our launch ended up becoming a product recall. The distributor was so big and so fast, they had sent product into store. And so then we're now instead of having a smooth launch, we're pulling product out of store. We're pulling product out of warehouses, sorting it out and going again.

    And that whole process took about three months. And so three months later, we have a relaunch.

    It was hard. It was so hard. 12 months in, we had 350 cafes and outlets stocking our product. But on our Excel [00:19:00] spreadsheets, we were meant to have thousands.

    Everyone was meant to be on board. So we only had 350. Then our factory couldn't keep up with supply. They want to deal with the supermarket. And so we went down their priority list and over a space of five weeks they didn't supply product. During those five weeks we lost about 350 customers.

    It was crazy. Everything we had built had come crashing down and we could've given up but there were these two retailers in Australia and if one of them say yes, this will change everything.

    And so we kind of hung in there. We hung onto this hope and we found a new factory that could make our product. So we moved to them. We found another distribution company. These guys were huge up in Sydney, but they said to us, you be in 2000 stores in month one, but in month one, unfortunately they went into liquidation.

    And so our launch with them was a fail. I mean, We lost all the money we have left. And just as we're kind of processing the pain of that, then these two [00:20:00] retailers both came back and they both said, no. But then they both came out with their own bottle of water that went to funding, water projects, which was kind of everything that we had set out to do.

    Thank you is an idea of the products we make and the products we purchase exist all for the end of extreme poverty. And we're so passionate about it, but then to watch other people do it without us it was weird. And so we entered it was actually a three-year period of lows.

    We ended up getting uh, one of the biggest supermarkets in Australia. Initially they said, and really every retailer in Australia said the same thing, love your passion, love your idea but you're going up against the biggest brands in the world.

    They have a lot of money and you don't have that and so you won't, last in this category. We will always protest and show them like creative marketing plans. We had digital and social media and this is the future social enterprise. Once we learned the term, this is the future, but it was tough.

    Eventually the one supermarket said yes, and that was the greatest day of that.. And I [00:21:00] still remember it, like we'd finally, finally, finally broken through. But I never forget that the call to check the order size and the date of delivery, because a new person picked up the phone and he wasn't familiar with our brand.

    I said, oh, look, we've worked now for over a year and and we're about to launch with you guys. We just need to know when and how much product and we've started making it. Cause we know you guys are huge and he's like, well, I'll stop you right there.

    I've got the big brands. I've got my own brand and I don't need your order. We protested, but it didn't go anywhere. And that was it. Three years, setbacks, knock backs from every race out there in the country. It was not how we thought the story would go.

    Ling Yah: I'm curious because normally with startups, they would think maybe this is the time to pivot, to change direction, sell different products.

    Did it not occur to you? Because they were right. Bottled water is something pretty much anyone can come up with.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. I mean, We did. we, thought about a lot of things and it was hard because in particular we see thank you in lots of [00:22:00] products, in lots of categories. Maybe water is just the wrong one and we should pick a new one.

    But there was another part of us that thought, if thank you can't work in water I mean this whole vision we have falls apart. And that was the view we had at the time. Whether it's completely right or not is another story. But at the time we thought, if we can't get this off the ground, and the reason is because we're competing with lots of big brands, who've got big money. Well, they exist in every category.

    And even if you can get a new product in a new category, you might last for a little bit, but you'll be a fly by night story and you'll be out as fast as you were in. And so I think we wanted to, figure it out. How do we hack the system? How do we win in a really hard category? Cause if we can do it in a hard category and find the way to win, wow, that'll change everything because it means that we could enter any category. you know, and so that was the sort of purist approach we had.

    Ling Yah: It sounds from your stories as though the issue wasn't that people didn't catch the vision, but that you can't get to [00:23:00] the people. The middleman was stopping you. So was that how the idea for 7-Eleven came about, to reach straight to the consumers?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, it was . Mostly retailers had a similar challenge to us. It's always a risk to put a new product on shelf.

    We're not sure if thank you at the time our water is going to work, if it's going to sell. And so it was frustrating. Cause everyone we talked to said, I'd buy it. And everyone was like, this is a great idea. Of course I'd buy it.

    And so, yeah, we put the cart before the horse, we designed a campaign that would call it the, the seven 11 campaign. For those that know it it went like this. We launched a video on YouTube and Facebook and it was super hack. Like just so you know in the video talking, it was so raw. We look back at it and cringe, but we basically said, Hey, thank you supporters.

    Two weeks from today, we booked a meeting with 7-Eleven Australia. We're asking you to jump onto their Facebook wall and say 7-Eleven, if you stock thank you water I buy it. Retailers keep saying, we're not sure if people are going to buy it, [00:24:00] let's just get everyone to pre-commit and let's see what happens.

    And it was so cool because people backed it, you know.

    They sung and they danced and they rapped, they uploaded their support. Videos went on their Facebook page with the media covered the story. It was wild and then seven 11 to their credit, they said, yes. I'm not sure if they really thought it would work long-term or not.

    I don't know, but it did. From day one, we outsold IVR and then another brand and another brand, and went on to be this huge success story as a product, making millions of dollars for our mission to help end extreme poverty. And back then we were funding water projects specifically, but it was awesome.

    This was the kind of moment where we went, thank you. The idea was when you get the product right and then you add a lot of people and unlock humans, you can achieve some pretty remarkable things. And so we've followed that story over and over.

    Ling Yah: I love that you took that same formula with Coles and Woolworths and [00:25:00] PNG.

    Do you feel as though over time that people firstly knew what you were up to and that it was a lot harder for things to catch fire?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. The early days it was harder. There's an interesting quote I think it's Margaret Mead, " a small group of determined and like-minded people can change the course of history."

    There's lots of things we like about that quote. One of them is the small group. It turns out small groups of people can make substantial change. And so thank you never had all of Australia interested or knowing about it. It still doesn't, but there are enough people, a critical mass, the small group who are active enough and vocal enough to spread the word and help launch ideas.

    And so 7-Eleven campaign worked. Coles and Woolworths was the next level. Even if you haven't, We have two supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths and they have 70% market share. And so it's a duopoly. It is very uncommon globally in the kind of retail landscape.

    So in Australia, [00:26:00] if they say yes, then you have a huge business. And if they say, no, you basically don't have one. It's a kind of a make or break market in retail here.

    And so For Five years they said, no. On our fifth year, we launched a campaign called the Coles and Woolworths campaign.

    And it was a petition to them. And we told our supporters jumped out of their Facebook wall, upload a post, and people did it. They sung, they dance, they rapped again. And Then we took it to the next level. We had these legendary helicopter pilots, Peter and Jeff. They flew helicopters for free over the supermarket head offices with these giant signs like "Coles, Woolies, thank you for changing the world. And back this if you say yes.

    The helicopter thing was crazy. It was epic. The whole journey culminated here. This was the big test put thank you into the big league and to our surprise prize Coles said yes. They said yes, within five hours of the meeting.

    That really shook us, the industry, our suppliers, and a month later product was on the shelf. And the hand wash ended up hitting the number one in the category and [00:27:00] held that for five years, they had the highest loyalty in some of our products. And it just took off and we expanded . At the time we were launching not just our water in the supermarkets, but the Coles and Woolworths campaign.

    If you go back and watch a video, you'll see that we explained that we developed a range of body care products and food products, great product all for the end of extreme poverty. And so we launched them and then they went really well and that encouraged us to dream up new categories of new ideas.

    But the model's the same, it's about people, humans and all of us combining together and realizing that when we do that, we can create a whole lot of change.

    Ling Yah: There's a very popular book, a thousand true fans that I think you must have read as well. How did you personally build those fans, that core base so that these people go out and just evangelizing and behalf?

    Daniel Flynn: We're very, very grateful that people have supported thank you in the way they have. Cause thank you genuinely wouldn't be here without it. I don't want to profess to be some expert how you [00:28:00] build a movement. I just think that people love stories. Humans love stories.

    You know, As much as we love hearing a story, we actually all really like being part of a story. And I think thank you is it's an invitation to people. And everyone can add a, word or a sentence or a paragraph or a page or a chapter to this story. And when we launched campaigns, they're basically a very clear invitation to say, Hey, here's where we're at. We're stuck.

    Or here's where we're at, we've got a massive challenge. Here's a way that you could write a word or a paragraph, or you could come on our journey and your contribution will change things. And it's like, we've been building a resume in that you know, each time maybe the ask gets bigger and the challenge is bigger, but last time we proved that we can land it and make it work.

    So I, think people love to be part of a story that's working. If they can see, oh yeah, that was a win. Oh yeah. Well, get on board next time. And we're very careful how many times we're going to ask people for anything. [00:29:00] In the back of my head, there's this little rule if you had a friend that calls you every week to say, Hey, I need help with this.

    Or, Hey, did you know at the supermarket our products on special, can you go buy it? After a few weeks, it'll just be very tiring. But if we call you once a year, maybe once every two and say, Hey, how you doing? Last time you did this, it was a huge, huge impact. And over the last couple of years, here's what's come from that.

    Thank you so much. We've got something else coming up. And if you did this, here's what we think could happen. I feel like that second phone call you'd be up for taking that, even if it didn't only ring every one to two years. And so our hope is that when we ask people to do things, it is meaningful. but I think over time, yeah, People have loved this story and that they're part of building it.

    Ling Yah: And I love that your campaigns, they're so unique and they tend to be like a two, three year gap. And you say that you take a while to plan it all because there's a lot of thought behind it. I wonder if you could share, how do you plan a successful campaign?

    How [00:30:00] do you manage the risks that are in it?

    Daniel Flynn: Actually that last thing you said is the job.

    So you can have the wild idea and the wild plan. And It's so fun, dreaming up a wild plan of like how you're going to change something or create something. But the next job, I don't love the term risk management.

    And if that's the way your mind is wired to me, I think risk management, I think the fun police, you know, I just think, oh great. We're gonna, you know, like the legal team is going to pull all the fun out of this and we've really super value our legal teams and supporters.

    What we do is we think about the risks. If this happened, how would we respond? Or what would stop the successful outcome, this risk, this risk, this risk, okay. How could we manage it? And so then we think that everything, our wording, the momentum we put behind things, the different areas we invest the money in is, all in response to us sitting back wondering.

    And thinking about how could this fail and then trying to find a way for it to not [00:31:00] fail. There'll still be a risk. And that's the thing about the thank you campaigns. They still have an element of risk where they could fundamentally not work, but we have thought through a lot more than people realize and as we went through that process, we were like, ah, this campaign's not right.

    Once you really go through the risk management of it all, there has been actually quite a few ideas and things we wanted to do that we haven't done because we sit back going, it's not in line with the brand or our values. It's too edgy. It is disrespectful. or, you know, There's different layers and filters we put over it.

    Ling Yah: Do you mind giving like a specific example to just peel back the layers and share with us how you thought about certain things, how you decided that risk was too great for you to take on?

    Daniel Flynn: Anytime it's a values decision or our brand concerning feeling off-brand then we don't. We've acknowledged that we're a challenger brand. and I'll give you an example. The Coles of the west campaign was challenging.

    We thought We flew helicopters above the two biggest supermarkets in the [00:32:00] country. So it's disruptive and it was challenging. But imagine if we launched a different campaign, we called it the Coles and Woolworths campaign. We just came out saying these are the two biggest retailers in our country. They have done nothing for anybody in comparison to the profits they make. They're big, bad, ugly, dirty. And when we start to sort of tell some narrative and they're the enemy, and so we're going to ask you all to not shop there. Shop online at thank you.com.

    Now, could there be grains of truth in different things?

    I'm sure. Yeah, but we can do that in a little bit of an edgy kind of disruptive way, but we don't need to try and burn the whole system down.

    And the approach of let's burn everything that just doesn't feel for us as a thank you branded approach, because I think at the core of our brand is a story. And in our minds, it's a story that everyone can play a part in. And because of that, it would be off-brand is a sort of a bit of a marketing term, but it would just be incongruous.

    It wouldn't align with our story to burn [00:33:00] someone like that. Together they could be part of the solution. you know, If they said, no, we're not working with you. And then if we transparently told the story of we invited so-and-so and they won't up for it, I think there's a line in that that might feel okay.

    But again, we talk a lot about honor. So we do want to find ways to honor and not to tear down. And That's an example, and this is the stuff we wrestled with.

    Ling Yah: You've talked about the uncomfortable middle. What is that?

    Daniel Flynn: The middle is this really uncomfortable phase between the idea that you've had and it becoming a true reality.

    And the idea realized the dream realized the middle is the longest bit and the bigger, the dream often the longer the middle, and it is super uncomfortable because. It's full of unknown. It's full of things not working and having to pivot it.

    The part from a to B and you know, We're in the middle of right now and we launched a massive campaign. We set out thinking this will be a hundred meter race but we've been around thank [00:34:00] youl ong enough to know it could take longer. And so in our heads, I personally mentally prepped for being like an 800 meter race, like a full marathon.

    And so our middle quite significant. You have a start, you have an end, everyone's clapping at the start, everyone's cheering. You're running quick that, you know, The gate just opened but in a marathon, there is a very large middle.

    The middle is the job, that's the work. You're gonna have to learn to live and not not even just survive the middle, but thrive.

    But If you thrive in the middle, you'll win the race. You'll win that finishing point. And so we've learned a lot about the middle over the years. And, Even though we talk about, you have to get comfortable in it, it still feels uncomfortable. People ask, how are you going? What's happening? And you're like well, we're not there yet. We can't answer yet. And it's just a, it's a real thing.

    Ling Yah: One of the most difficult things I think before we talk about your whole moonshot article was that you launched your baby line and was entering New Zealand, and you talked about how both of you, your wife, everyone was really, really burnt out.

    You were [00:35:00] almost crushed. I wonder if you could share a bit about that period of time and your reflections?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. So after getting into the supermarkets was super cool, but we entered a whole new game with a lot of new players and a lot of new competitors in every category. We were able to sort of fight the good fight, keep our head above water.

    Then we took on the next campaign called chapter one. really is what I mean, It was the best and the worst all at the same time. But We launched a book where we invited our consumers to buy the book fund the future. We said all the profit from chapter one will fund chapter two. And we explained in our next chapter, we were moving into the baby category and then to New Zealand. The civil ones who raised 1.2 million to do both.

    And In that campaign, we launched this book and books don't sell a lot anymore. I mean, a bestseller in Australia is 5,000 copies. In New York, it's 5,000 copies a week for three weeks. That's a New York times best seller. Shocked me hearing that. We set this goal to raise $1.2 million, which is a lot of books.

    [00:36:00] We asked our community we said, you know, buy the book, fund the future and we launched chapter one with a pay what you want price. No retail price. It was more a question to all of us to say, Hey, what are you willing to contribute to the future of this and it worked.

    When chapter one launched, within 28 days, we raised 1.44million. We've now raised over 2.6 million. People paid a few cents for the book, which is kind of funny and annoying, but some people pay thousands. The most paid is $50,000 for one copy. The book sold for like 140,000 copies. It traveled around the world.

    Like It was this huge success story. In fact, In the airport bookstores, it was second only to the Harry Potter launch week. So that launch was amazing. Now we've got the money, we launched the baby category and then following that New Zealand. And if you could imagine a graph right now, both of those launches were almost identical. They took longer than we wanted them to, actually get off the ground, just to get to the launch day.

    Things were harder, a bit more complex. Both the launches got delayed. Then we launched. Both [00:37:00] of them were very successful in the early days. In the baby category, we've got 10% of the market share in the first, few months. Best launch we'd ever done. Huge. like really Doubled the business overnight.

    It was a massive deal, but it was as if we'd hit some kind of level that big business really noticed Thank you. as a threat. We've actually heard from people in the industry, in the FMCG CPG industry that, you know, when you get to 10% market share, you're basically indicating you are not just a small player.

    You are a threat and so people will handle it differently. And so in the baby category, we went into like a two year kind of price war. And that's what it felt like. Big brands did huge promotions lots of different tactics. The same thing happened in New Zealand. Everyone were competing with us and it was, so hard.

    It felt like a thousand ton of brick came on us you know, just like falling down and we just couldn't believe it. Thank you had all of this momentum and it was like, we just got crushed. If thank you can't even make New Zealand a huge [00:38:00] success and can't work in the baby category. What is the future of the brand?

    And while we're fighting those two fights, all our other categories were getting hit by heaps of other competitors. And so we were like, this is literally crushing on every front and every side. And yeah, that led to some pretty tough moments. Justine referenced, you know, went through burnout and you know, I was wrecked.

    I mean, We both were emotionally spent, but we had some time off a couple of months, two, three months. And it was a deep time and we reconsidered everything: ourselves, leadership, thank you. And we came back with a fire in our belly and it was ready. And it was a realization that thank you is not finished yet.

    We are going to find a way forward and we're going to reshape how we do what we do, but we're not going to change why we do it. And we're not going to change the size of the vision either. there's this book we read that really made a huge impact actually. Justine had already read it, but re-read it again on this break.

    [00:39:00] And the leader had gone through burnout and he was a spiritual leader. He had like a hundred thousand people in his kind of movement. And He talked about burnout is hard for anyone. He said in his role, super hard because everyone expects him to even be more perfect because of the spiritual element.

    And so I kind of felt for him. He had to go to hospital in burnout at six months coverage. It's a shocking story. He shared some wisdom, which I think is profound. He said, as a leader 85% of what you do, someone else could do. Most don't wanna admit to it.

    10% of what you do someone who you highly trained an apprentice, they could do that, which leaves 5% that only you can do. This is the bit you're born for. He references the 5% that he could do as like his faith, his relationship with his wife and his kids.

    but Then we thought about, thank you. And we're like, hang on a second. Every 5% of what we do at thank you, there are other companies that do that. 10% of what we do there are other groups that do that bit too really well. There is like a bit that only we can do. And

    So we sat [00:40:00] back and we reimagined thank you.

    For those who haven't followed the story, we watched a video in 20 20 off the back of the, the pandemic and off the back of actually a huge year of sanitizer sales. We sold so much hand sanitizer that in 2020, we were able to give a further $10 million profit to our impact partners around the world.

    If you're not familiar with thank you, in our 12 year history, we'd given 7 million. So 7 million in 12 years, 10 million in like a few months. So it was huge. And so we put the challenge out to the biggest companies on the planet and it was in part because of Covid, but in deeper part was because we had reimagined thank you. We asked ourselves the question, imagine going back into the nappy category, getting 10% market share, but then growing and becoming a major player. What's stopping us? The competition.

    Okay. There's only two massive nappy companies in the world or diaper companies, depending on which part of the world you're from.

    And we're like, Imagine if one of the two had the exclusive rights to make and distribute [00:41:00] that product. So instead of us doing it independently, we just get them to do it. And under that agreement that are unthinking that are run. Thank you. They just make it in the factory. And therefore that benefit helps secure our position.

    So now it's thank you plus one of the biggest kind of nappy diaper companies in the world, turning up to that category. Whoa, that changes everything.

    What if we had a partner in personal care and then one in food and one in beverage. And as we mapped out the plan we're like, oh, this is it. If a company is talking about finding purpose and making a difference, we're like, yeah, yeah, let's do it

    Let's do it. But then also a whole bunch of other companies who we didn't approach who said, Hey, we can't do the world, but we could do Europe or Asia or Australia.

    And we'll have retailers which has in Malaysia retailers all around the world coming forward, saying, we want to stock your products. And so We're now in the process of building the global launch plan for thank you personal care. And it's super exciting, but it all came from being broken.

    There's an old African proverb that says something like, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.

    And so Thank You is really [00:42:00] inviting partners to go far together to help end extreme poverty and invite other big manufacturers and other players to help take this idea to the world and not just in personal care, but one day, many other categories too.

    So from that dark kind of few years in our story has come a great. realization and a new way forward.

    Ling Yah: I think it's important to clarify as well that focus some personal care is because you also have left the water bottle industry. You actually published this very open article, moonshot article.

    And I was just wondering what the background story to that was. How long did it take you to reach that decision and share everything so publicly?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, I mean, we've always wanted to have an open and transparent approach. That's what leads to a lot of our communications like that, but we wrestled the water decision for years.

    So it was the beginning was the Genesis. It also made a lot of money. But from a sustainability perspective, it didn't represent the brand. It didn't represent who we wanted to be at all. It was a real disconnect. So we were like this innovative social [00:43:00] business, but we had bottled water, which in 2008 was bad, but not as bad as it is today.

    The solutions we saw. Wow. They were a whole lot better.. They were kind of greenwashed. and yeah, some people would clap and say good job, but really doesn't knew what was going on. We're like, you're not doing better. And So we made the bold call to pull out of order.

    When we did that, we left millions of dollars of revenue on the table. And that's why it took so long to wrestle, but we should have made the decision earlier. When we went to New Zealand, we trial it out at Justine co-founder she was like, we're not taking water to New Zealand.

    She was adamant. And it's hard because for me, I'm like I get it, but it's been such a big part of our history and it's very profitable. But we launched thank you in New Zealand without it and it worked. People bought into thank you. They campaigned. One guy jumped out of a helicopter at the highest skydive point in the world.

    Francis Glacier 22,000 feet. holding I think a Thank You handwash. And say, you know, and he made this video and he uploaded, it was the coolest thing ever, but in my head, you'd have to have a bottle of water [00:44:00] to do that, but he just did it with a hand wash. I shouldn't. So we're like, cool, thank you works without that bottle.

    And one day soon we will have some announcements of that particular category and what we think the future of it is, which we're excited about. But yeah, we, made the decision to pull out until one day we could be better and then come back.

    Ling Yah: There was one interview I heard where you said the chairman of an investment bank asked you, how do you celebrate your wins? When was the last time you celebrate it? And at the time you said that you hadn't even thought about this question. I wonder if it's changed since.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. It's funny. Cause when he asked that question, I think I, I said, yeah.

    And then he said, tell me the win. What day did you celebrate and how did you celebrate it. He caught me red-handed I had nothing. And I realized that so much of the journey I was so focused on the next thing. So focus on trying to further this vision, that I would never stop and celebrate, and we never would. So we have learned to stop and celebrate.

    So now we do a lot of celebrating at thank you. And we celebrate big wins. We celebrate small wins every week on a [00:45:00] Friday, we have team thank you, which is a half an hour we all gather, and we celebrate not the big wins. They get celebrated, you know, when you land a big deal like that, of course, but these are like the weekly little wins and we get to celebrate each other.

    Thank each other for different things that have happened. And then we have moments throughout the journey where we celebrate it. And it's been a cool culture too. It makes it a lot more fun and a lot more chill or super intense and definitely, yeah, it was a great call-out by him.

    Ling Yah: Is there are any big idea that you've changed your mind on recently?

    Daniel Flynn: biggest idea we've changed our mind on recently is this idea that we must do everything in house for it to be thank you. So we were building a very big team, 60 people in the house, big level, multi level office, everything was kind of in-house and we had a few agency partners, but I think we've realized no, we can build thank you together through partnership. Not by having an all in-house, but actually by curating the right partners and partnerships, that's a huge thing.

    It's a [00:46:00] huge shift of culture because it means we're not trying to build the next Facebook a hundred, couple hundred thousand staff inside.

    We're actually willing to build a thank you network of partners that may still be hundreds of thousands of people, but just not all like working for the same company in the same building or buildings.

    And that is a huge shift on building. In the early days, I wouldn't have thought you could deliver thank you in that way, but that's a big change in mind and we're very happy with it. We've already seen exponential results in it.

    Ling Yah: You have had such a long journey, so many pivots, challenges. Do you feel amidst all of that, that you have found your why?

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. I think so. I mean I think it's worth us all spending a whole life questioning that and mining and thinking more about it. But I do feel like I have found purpose and why I do what I do, but I think I'm open to that flexing and changing, and it's less about a brand and a business model and it's more about following a [00:47:00] path that's for others and not for me.

    Although we feel super blessed in the process and we're incredible to be part of it.

    Ling Yah: During my research, I came across this incident in 2013, there was this Fairfax article, that questioned what you were doing at thank you. And I really felt for you because it was such a huge thing.

    And you came up with this response to it. And I just wonder what it was like to go through that whole thing, where people were questioning what you were doing and also bringing your faith in as well. How you dealt with that.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah. The article was kind of a personal attack. Attacked Thank you.

    And it happens all the time. It's sort of the dark side of humanity. We sort of love to tear down and pull down and look for holes and make up holes. It sucks.

    But there's a quote that I finished my response back to the article. And then we kind of, We cleared the air on all these different facts. and, I finished the article with a quote and the quote is from mother Teresa.

    She said something like if people are accusing you of ulterior motives while doing good, do good [00:48:00] anyway.

    If people accuse you of doing the wrong thing, and our intention was to do good, We think you do good anyway. And so That's our approach. We're still keep doing good. Also, my dad said to me was a boy as a Daniel, a person of integrity expects to be believed. And when they are not to let time prove them right.

    And so for me, I'm like, we've got time. We're not going anywhere. You can write one article, you can read a thousand articles, but we'll still be here. We'll come in anyway. We have a mission and we're on it and we're going to complete it. And if you want to drag ourselves or our faith into it.

    Whatever you need to do to sell papers, I suppose we can't stop you doing that, but we're not going to stop doing what we do and, you know, I just hope in time, enough people understand that this is genuine and t hey help us write the story that we cannot write on our own.

    Ling Yah: So I'm looking at the post that you wrote and that quote from Mother Theresa is, if you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

    Daniel Flynn: You've nailed that, thank you for that.

    Ling Yah: So speaking of mission, what kind of [00:49:00] legacy do you want to leave behind?

    Daniel Flynn: Probably Just a couple of thoughts around you can make the ideas and dreams you have a reality.

    There's gotta be a legacy of like, you can change stuff. And you should in the pursuit of helping others and benefiting the world.

    And so I hope that the legacy is that like, oh, you can change stuff and for people versus for self that'd be cool.

    Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Daniel Flynn: I think that you've got to be a problem solver. A really relentless problem solver. I think you have to be humble to learn, humble to be wrong. But then you need a boldness and a boldness to put yourself out there and fail and come up short, but go again. And so that mixture of problem solving and humility to learn and to seek and to get wisdom, but then the boldness to get back. Yeah I think that's an incredibly important combination and also probably just the wisdom to not do it [00:50:00] alone and walk with others.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you? Find out more, what about what you're doing and the current campaign?

    Daniel Flynn: Visit our website: thankyou.co if you wanna learn more. For our channels, at thankyouaus and if you want to follow along and be part of future campaigns and learn more, you know, watch this space because there's a lot of story left to wrap.

    Ling Yah: There's chapter two, I notice.

    And there's a 2 0 2 question mark.

    Daniel Flynn: Yeah, there is. There's a lot to come.

    Ling Yah: And anything else you'd like to share that we haven't covered so far?

    Daniel Flynn: No, it's just I wish everyone the best is you know, as you wrestle with ideas and reality and the middle. and just Don't think that the person on the end of the podcast, they figured out the middle and it's easy for them and hard for you.

    It's actually hard for all of us. It's really hard. But um, it's worth sticking out and working through because once ideas become a reality, it's special for the world and for you too.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 67. The show notes and transcript can [00:51:00] be found at sothisismywhy.com/67 If you've enjoyed this episode and would like to support what I'm doing, this podcast also has a patron page and the link can be found in the description.

    And stay tuned for next Sunday, where we will be meeting the managing editor and employee number four of one of the hottest business tech newsletters, which now has over 3.3 million subscribers.

    To learn more about what it takes to work in the newsletter startup that's now pivoting into becoming a digital media company, the creation and monetization of different content verticals and staff retention in a time where superstar creator employees who are leaving to launch the personal brand. You don't want to miss this episode, so don't forget to subscribe and see you next Sunday.

    Do you want exclusive, weekly updates on new STIMY episodes & a chance to submit your questions for upcoming guests? Sign up now!

      Leave a Comment

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

      Share via
      Copy link
      Powered by Social Snap