THE COMPANY THAT DECIDED IT WAS GOING TO GIVE A CRAP THANKS TO CROWD FUNDING
Written on the 23 May 2017 by David Simmons
SIMON Griffiths is using toilet paper to save the world.
In 2012, on the back of an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, Griffiths sat on a toilet in a warehouse and refused to move until Who Gives A Crap raised enough pre-orders of environmentally friendly toilet paper to start production.
In 50 hours, the team reached its target by raising $50,000, so they went to work to create their business.
Who Gives A Crap is a unique profit-for-purpose business and 50 per cent of its profits will go toward helping the 2.4 billion people across the world who don't have access to a toilet.
It was built thanks to dedicated crowdfunding investors and has so far donated over $400,000 and the team is pushing for $1 million next year.
The beating heart of Who Gives A Crap is their dedication to a cause, whether that be the many charities they donate to including WaterAid and Sanergy, or the completely biodegradable packaging each and every roll of toilet paper is delivered in.
We spoke to Griffiths about how Who Gives A Crap got off the ground, the future for the company, and the importance of Giving A Crap.
Why do you think more entrepreneurs are turning to crowd funding over traditional forms of capital raising?I think there are three main reasons why crowdfunding has become so popular. You get to:
1. Test demand and generate the capital you need. If there's lots of demand, you raise the capital you need to get the business off the ground and will have several months to firm up your supply chain. If there's no demand, you can go back to the drawing board and will be thankful that
you don't have an investor to answer to! With a successful crowdfunding campaign under your belt, raising investment capital (if you still need it) becomes much easier as you've already got a successful proof of concept.
2. Sell product. A common investor question is 'where will your first five sales come from?'. Crowdfunding gives you your early sales, allowing you to gather and use invaluable feedback from early adopters to help shape the next iteration of your product. If you have a great product, your crowdfunding supporters will be likely to tell other people about what you're doing because they're excited by it and they've been there since day one - they become brand advocates, helping to build up your customer base as you grow over time.
3. Build your brand. Crowdfunding is marketing. Capital raises can have some tech and possibly mainstream PR attached to it, but a great crowdfunding campaign puts your product and brand in front of tens or hundreds of thousands (or millions) of eyeballs. As well as giving you access to individual customers, good crowdfunding campaigns can capture the attention of a large distributor, investors, or possibly even someone who wants to buy your business.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in starting up the company?Our entire business has been bootstrapped from our crowdfunding campaign, meaning no outside equity, no venture capital and no cash pile to sit on.
This way of operating and growing has certainly been difficult at times but has also been incredibly rewarding. It has forced us to constantly think lean and carefully consider every dollar spent, to the point that it has become embedded in our company's DNA.
What's important about the product you sell?We sell forest friendly toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissues with 50 per cent of the profits from every sale helping to fund hygiene and sanitation projects. All of our products are beautifully packaged so that they look stylish in a bathroom or kitchen. They're soft to touch and don't contain any inks, dyes or scents, so they're good for your body and hypoallergenic.
Lastly, our range is great value and comes with very speedy free delivery to most Australian households - no more lugging toilet paper home from the supermarket!
How's the product been received by the market?First and foremost, our customers love our brand and our mission.
The fact that we donate 50 per cent of our profits to help build toilets is the number one reason they shop with us.
On top of that, we make great products, offer a convenient home delivery service and offer bang for buck. We're price competitive or cheaper per sheet than our supermarket competitors' RRPs. We also have 1200 per cent more puns than any other toilet paper company. (see headline above)
What are your plans for the future? More products? Expansion?One of our main focuses for FY18 is expanding into the US and UK. I'm heading over to LA July-to-December to help oversee our international roll out, which is going to be incredibly exciting!
Why is it important for the company to be environmentally friendly? Do you think other businesses place much of an importance on it?Doing 'good' is at the core of our everything we do and we take a very holistic view of the 'good' we want to achieve. We don't think it's enough for us to donate half of our profits, we also want to sell a product that's a necessity, constantly be striving to lower our environmental footprint, and run a company that cares deeply about its employees, stakeholders, the community and customers.
We think it's crazy that well over 90 per cent of the toilet paper sold in Australia is made from freshly cut trees rather than the more sustainable options like bamboo and recycled fibres. All of our products are forest friendly - no trees are cut down to make anything in our range. We use either 100 per cent recycled, bamboo, or a blend of bamboo and upcycled sugarcane fibres depending on the product.
I think there are lots of companies that truly regard environmental impact as something that is important. However, there are also a lot of companies that simply pay lip service to the idea without being willing to make the hard choices necessary to actually make a difference.
It's encouraging that the trend seems to be towards greater responsibility, but there's still a very long way to go. Ultimately, we'd like to prove that it is possible to be commercially successful while helping to make the world a better place.
If we can achieve that goal, I hope we will be able to encourage more sustainable and socially impactful businesses to emerge, and more investors to help them get started - that's ultimately how we can make the greatest amount of impact.
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Author: David Simmons