Over a decade ago Daniel Flynn, who was 19 years old at the time, saw a consumable product he thought was a bit stupid. Bottled water. Daniel was like, why the heck are humans paying for something we have access to for free? And honestly, it does seem pretty dumb.
Around the same time, Flynn also came across a story, highlighting areas of our modern world where people struggle and are dying, because of massive shortages of clean, fresh, accessible water. Yup, the stuff some of us got for free––yet still paid for. Daniel Flynn quotes two numbers regularly when speaking about his journey into adulthood, business owner, and altruist.
1) 900, 000, 000 ––the amount of people without access to clean drinking water, and
2) $50billion spent globally on bottled water in 2008.
The irony of those figures isn’t lost on many, but the question is, how many would actually do something about it?
At least one, Daniel Flynn. In 2008, like a true Millennial, he saw potential to do something good and he took it. Through the eyes of this Millennial-entrepreneur people were basically buying a label when they bought bottled water, which opens up an opportunity to create a label that really says something, and really means it.
And the idea for not-for-profit success story, Thank You Water, was born.
The Thank You Water idea was to take something consumers were already happy paying for, that incidentally they already get for free, and take money from the sales to give to people who can’t afford or have access to that very same thing. H2O. With 100 percent profits going into global water projects. It’s like a perfect storm. It was the bottled water “stupid tax” Daniel saw as a chance to make some real change.
But it wasn’t all in where the profit went that would appeal to the unique Thank You Water consumers. Because Flynn’s gift to his consumer wasn’t only in feeling good and learning more about the state of the world, but he opened up his customers to their consumer powers. (A very Millennial concept).
Heart-warming and ingenious.
So how exactly did those ingenious ‘consumer powers’ pay off for Thank You Water?
To view Flynn’s as a business journey might be to see a mess. From its inception in 2008, it took five years for Thank You Water to get into the hands of any major retailers. Sure, things got off to a good start. From the initial idea, Dan and his business partners––also teenagers at the time––were all over the design and marketing and shopping the concept. They nailed a factory deal and a $20,000 donation from VISY recycling based on this very thing. But they came across all sorts of problems with the product itself. Manufacturing glitches lead to product recalls which lead to losing 350 retailers they spent months securing. And it was perhaps their age and inexperience that slowed them down in these areas.
But that didn’t dampen spirits. They had a lot to learn, so they did. Daniel once admitting that they even once Googled “how to start a not for profit business”––exposing weaknesses, the sign of a great leader. But they also worked to their strengths. The thing about Millennials is, their own inexperience doesn’t thwart their visions or ambitions. Daniel and his business partners, his now wife Justine and best mate Jarryd, decided to use their strength to pull the white whale. Their strength––that consumer power they built on.
Social media was growing steadily in Australia by 2008 and Flynn knew from the beginning of Thank You Water this was going to be their edge. So, while they’d tapped into the café market using old fashioned door-knocking, and had quite a following already, they really needed a major retailer to see any sort of impact. Social media was going to be their secret weapon.
Enter, the “consumer movement”–– a term Flynn fondly took ownership of.
“We launched a video on YouTube, saying we booked a meeting with 7Eleven in Australia in two weeks-time and we are asking you to jump onto their Facebook wall and say: ‘7Eleven, if you stock Thankyou Water, I’d buy it.'”
Daniel told Mashable back in 2016. It worked. In just over a week Thank You Water was in 711. It didn’t end there. Viral marketing became their thing and Flynn’s “consumer movement” model gained traction. The company decided to wage a similar friendly social media attack on the big guns––Coles and Woolworths. A similar campaign, but this time with helicopters, and it wasn’t long before Thank You products were now firmly on the shelves of the two supermarket giants.
Cut to 2019, and Thank You is an almost global brand––hitting the shores of New Zealand as we speak, and sights set on the US and UK very soon––Daniel was even invited to sit with Barrack Obama to discuss his enterprise. The kernel of an idea Daniel had when he was an inexperienced kid with a vision has now become a successful not-for-profit company and has raised millions of dollars and helped thousands of people access fresh water. Thank You has extended its product portfolio into food and healthcare products, and you can find Thank You product in over 5000 retailers across the country.
Since they started Flynn would be the first to admit there have been major hiccups on the way up. Namely, due to their inexperience, and perhaps their naïve eagerness, the company didn’t have the business model in a comfy position for upscaling, which put a hold on their global market. But again, that didn’t stop them. Honestly, I think that’s the biggest thing we can learn from Flynn and the Thank You company––don’t give up. If you have a vision, don’t you ever give up on it, it will happen.
And no matter how bad things feel, the not doing anything about the thing you feel passionate about, will hurt you more than the little lessons you learn through adversity.
I’ll leave you with something Daniel told the crowd at Sydney’s “Purpose Conference” back in 2016,
“I saw something, and I couldn’t unsee it.”
And thanks to you, Daniel, none of us can unsee the success of Thank You Water and following your dreams..