Co-Founder & CEO, Who Gives a Crap (WGAG)
[TLSE] Toilet humour aside, you’ve turned a necessity that most of us don’t give a second thought about, into the foundation of a successful social business. How did the a-ha moment come to develop between you and your two co-founders, to give back in such a powerful way through such a common household product?
[ SIMON ] While studying at uni, I spent time in Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa looking at different development organisations to gain an understanding of what ‘good development’ looked like. I became really taken by the idea of turning a product that everyone could buy into a scalable social business.
One day I had that classic business idea epiphany – I walked into the bathroom, saw a 6-pack of toilet paper and thought, why don’t we sell toilet paper, use the profits to build toilets and call it ‘Who Gives A Crap?’
I immediately called three friends and they all said I had to do it...and Who Gives A Crap was born!
[TLSE] Who gives a crap exists to give back; what are some of the more memorable ways in which WGAC has changed the lives of those with whom you work with?
[SIMON] It’s amazing to see the benefits of sanitation in different communities. When people don’t have access to a toilet, it can cause some pretty serious disease. But more than that, it means people can’t go to school or go to work, making it harder for them to lift themselves out of the poverty cycle. This is something that I think most people don’t necessarily think about – the long term effects of not having a toilet can be devastating.
Danny (one of the other co-founders) and I have both spent time with various sanitation impact organisations in Africa and Asia which have greatly inspired us with their innovative approaches (and also prompted us to donate to them!). Last year, our team went to Timor-Leste and visited a number of villages who have had their lives changed by having access to toilets and clean water. And this month we’re taking the whole company to see WaterAid’s work in Cambodia, so we can better connect everyone to the purpose of our business – seeing the impact we’re having in the field is a truly incredible experience!
[TLSE] With potential to keep growing and positively impact millions - or billions as you’ve been quoted - of people through toilet installation and sanitary health, what do you see as WGAC’s biggest challenge for the next few years in innovating and accelerating your scale of growth - and ultimately your reach?
[SIMON] In order to reach our mission of getting toilets to the 2.3 billion who don’t have access to one, we’re going to have to get our product into the bathrooms of a huge number of houses. It’s going to be a challenge to convince everyone that environmentally friendly toilet paper isn’t as scary as they think. Some people have a lot of hang ups; they think it’s scratchy, it’s not strong, that their husbands won’t like it (it’s always fussy partners!) which isn’t true. It’s also a matter of encouraging people to change their habits of shopping for toilet paper in the supermarket and switching them to buying online (which is actually much easier – no more lugging TP home from the supermarket!).
Lastly, we need to branch out into new countries so we can expand our reach, which is what we’re working on in the US and UK now!
[ TLSE ] On the 3 biggest learning curves experienced in starting a social enterprise... And on starting one with friends!
[SIMON] 1. Learn by selling
We’ve found that the best feedback comes once we’re selling our product in real life, instead of surveying or asking questions to a focus group.
2. Everything is marketing
Even our packaging! It’s a mini billboard that’s displayed in bathrooms at home, on social media, in cafes, on door steps, and sometimes even used as wrapping paper for presents!
3. It’s ok to start a social enterprise with friends
Just make sure you have a strong enough relationship that you can be totally honest with each other. You have to be comfortable pushing each other to improve - and knowing what your own strengths and shortcomings are. It’s also worth defining who ultimately gets to make decisions for each part of the business. Laying that out at the start will help with faster decision making down the track. But it’s great, seriously!
[ TLSE ] And….What’s next for WGAC
[ SIMON ] We’ve recently launched in the UK and US. Combined, these two countries give us the potential to reach nearly 400 million customers, versus 24 million in Australia. Our goal is to build as many toilets as possible, so the bigger the market size, the more we can donate. Both countries also offer us some unique opportunities to start testing markets beyond the UK and USA fairly easily – we can ship to most of Europe from the UK which opens up hundreds of millions of more potential new bathrooms!
@WHOGIVESACRAPTP | AU.WHOGIVESACRAP.ORG