Supermarket giant Coles has agreed to stock products by social enterprise Thankyou after a social media campaign to demonstrate demand. The Thankyou group asked its social media followers and the general public to post comments and upload videos to the Coles and Woolworths Facebook pages and get in touch through Twitter. Founder Daniel Flynn told StartupSmart this morning that while he was surprised by how rapidly Coles agreed, it was a delayed dream come true. “When we first launched five years ago, we thought we’d be everywhere straight away. So that’s certainly not the case at all, and it was definitely a reality check. But that’s part of building any brand and business – it takes time,” he says. Flynn told StartupSmart on the campaign’s launch morning earlier this month that even he was surprised by the thousands of comments and likes appearing on the pages. The launch video has been watched over 70,000 times. Flynn met with executives at Coles last Friday and found out within hours Coles would stock muesli, oats, muesli bars and water from Thankyou. The Thankyou group goes into further meetings today about timelines and first orders. Flynn says they’re meeting with Woolworths tomorrow. “It’s all eyes on them now. It’s a win-win for everyone, and Coles saw that. We have the same opportunity for them, so we’re looking forward to seeing their response,” Flynn says. “It would be surprising if Woolies don’t listen to their customers as well.” Flynn says he’s aware he’s negotiating outside of the supermarket’s usual period for selecting its range. “It is out of normal ranging time. Everyone we spoke to in this industry said to get something on the shelves this side of Christmas is literally a dream,” Flynn says, adding that Coles mostly asked about the development projects rather than the product. The team is also in discussions for a new range of products with existing partners including 7-Eleven and South Australian supermarket chain Foodland. Flynn says while they’re not clear yet on exactly what level of growth will be, they’re ready. “It’s still anyone’s guess before we see the sales data. We’re focused on making sure we’ve got our supply side nailed. We need to hone the distribution model to make sure there is no breakdown,” Flynn says, adding all of its suppliers work with Coles and Woolworths for other clients, so have the understanding and capacity.
The start-up social enterprise behind Thankyou Water has launched a major social media campaign to get its products stocked at Coles and Woolworths. Founder Daniel Flynn told StartupSmart the campaign’s success has even taken Thankyou’s team of 12 by surprise. “It’s really nerve-wracking when you launch something like this because it’s up to the people,” Flynn says. “We were watching it in the first few minutes, we couldn’t believe it. The support has been amazing.” Thankyou products, including a water range, food range and body care range, directly fund projects in developing countries. The team behind the brand called for supporters to upload videos and post comments to Coles and Woolworths Facebook pages to show they’d buy the products if stocked. Their launch video has received over 22,000 views and hundreds of people have got in touch. A post by Coles on their Facebook page saying they’re overwhelmed by the support and looking forward to meeting with the Thankyou team has received over 2,500 likes and almost 1,000 comments. A similar post on the Woolworths page saying they’re looking forward to a meeting has received over 1,800 likes and almost 1,000 comments. Flynn told StartupSmart they had already locked in meetings with Coles and Woolworth, but they had to demonstrate demand. “The meetings were locked in prior to the campaign to present, but the key to this presentation and really what underpins this is we didn’t want to present just an idea. Because in the past we’ve presented ideas to retailers, they’ve said ‘that’s nice’ but we’ve struggled to get traction. We needed to present an opportunity, and even we didn’t realise how big it was,” Flynn says. He says they’ve been working on the campaign for a few months, and the products for 15 months. “A lot of our time has gone into development and making great products. We knew we had to nail the product to make sure people keep buying it. People will buy something once because it’s a good cause but go back to other brands,” Flynn says. Flynn says an appearance on the Sunrise TV program yesterday morning, and their call-to-action-laden launch video have been the most important elements in campaign taking off. They ran a similar but much smaller campaign last year to get their products stocked in 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country. “We were aiming for those numbers but we’ve smashed the metrics of that whole campaign in first day,” Flynn says, adding showing the opportunity is just the first step in their plans. “This campaign is a long one. While we want to get the products on the shelves, we also need to get them off. We need to raise awareness to get our products sold as well. We don’t have the millions to advertise, so we put the cart before the horse to make the product move by raising awareness,” Flynn says. Consumers can track the impact of their purchase on Thankyou Water’s website. Projects funded include clean drinking water, food and nutrition, as well as health and hygiene training. “I’m now even more confident there is a big opportunity to make a massive impact. It’s my open dream Coles and Woollies will take this on board, because the figures of what could happen are crazy and a lot of people are keen to get behind us,” Flynn says.
Entrepreneurs with a social mission are the target of a new crowdfunding platform called Dreamstarter, created by a partnership between ING Direct and StartSomeGood. StartSomeGood, launched last year by Tom Dawkins, is a crowdfunding platform for social innovation. Dawkins has described it as “Kickstarter but for social change”. And it seems the platform is living up to its name, launching a new initiative called Dreamstarter in partnership with financial services firm ING Direct in a bid to boost Australia’s social enterprise sector. Much like StartSomeGood, Dreamstarter enables Australian entrepreneurs to raise funds for social change projects, chosen by the Dreamstarter panel. The panel, which will review submissions once a month, is made up of representatives from StartSomeGood, ING Direct and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Each project will only receive support funding if it reaches its “tipping point”, and it’s up to the panel to decide the funding amount. The first projects received an average of $2000. The tipping point is the minimum amount needed for the project to kick off. The initial round of applicants were all graduates of SSE, which runs learning programs for entrepreneurs who have an idea or start-up venture with a social or environmental benefit. A total of 10 ventures led by SSE graduates will launch in the initial round of fundraising through the Dreamstarter program. These ventures include connecting remote Aboriginal entrepreneurs to new markets via an online store, and an initiative to help rural communities in Malawi achieve greater self-sufficiency. According to Dawkins, the partnership breaks new ground in the “corporate social responsibility sector”. “Crowdfunding is a participatory model that democratises corporate philanthropy. The projects that will succeed are those that have a genuine mandate from the community,” Dawkins says. Similarly, SSE chief executive Celia Hodson said in a statement initiatives like Dreamstarter are breaking down the barriers social entrepreneurs face when attracting support for their ventures. “The Dreamstarter campaign is a fantastic way for start-up social ventures to raise their profile, attract critical seed funding and inspire others to create change in their communities,” she said. The news comes on the back of an announcement Thankyou Water founder Daniel Flynn has been named Victorian Young Achiever of the Year. Thankyou Water is a Melbourne-based social enterprise that sells bottled water in Australia in order to fund water projects in developing nations. Flynn founded the business when he was 19. All profits go towards funding safe water projects, with each bottle of water sold providing at least one month’s worth of safe water for someone in need. The business has seen strong growth over the past 12 months, almost quadrupling its turnover from the previous year. To date, it has funded 52 safe water projects in Cambodia, Myanmar, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Timor-Leste, assisting more than 33,000 people. “The whole reason behind what I do is to change lives through the provision of safe water,” Flynn said in a statement. “By constantly improving how we do things in our organisation, especially through innovation in the digital and technological space, we can spread the word to more people about our cause.”