Popular Thank You campaign is coming to New Zealand

Thank You co-founder and managing director Daniel Flynn hopes to eradicate global poverty by 2030.
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Thank You co-founder and managing director Daniel Flynn hopes to eradicate global poverty by 2030.

Social entrepeneur Daniel Flynn took a punt when he asked consumers to "pay what they want" for copies of a book about his inspiring social enterprise, Thank You.

Stocked in airport book shops here and in Australia, store owners flinched. They had never sold a book without a price on the cover before.

But the 28-year-old managing director thinks that people are innately good and generous. His belief in the power of the human spirit has been realised as the book about the highs and lows of the social enterprise he co-founded in 2008 has sold more than 96,000 copies and generated $1,763,417.82 in profit, all of which is helping fund the next chapter of Thank You, including its launch in New Zealand.

Thank You water bottles have funded water projects in Tanzania.
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Thank You water bottles have funded water projects in Tanzania.

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Two New Zealanders have paid the most for the crowdfunded book so far, at $5000 a pop. The least someone has paid for the book, Chapter One, has been five cents, while Melbourne-based Flynn loves stories like the one he heard recently about an 11-year-old boy saving his pocket money to buy it.

"It's proof to me that we're more good than we are bad. There's a part of all of us who want to change the world," he says.

Thank You water will be stocked here next year, as the social enterprise plans to spread to New Zealand.

Thank You water will be stocked here next year, as the social enterprise plans to spread to New Zealand.

And with $600,000 of Chapter One sales going towards establishing Thank You in New Zealand from next year, Flynn says: "It's pretty cool to think that Thank You New Zealand is funded and supported by hundreds of thousands of social investors from around the world."

Flynn plans to sell about 20 of Thank You's 50 products in New Zealand, including its iconic water bottles, popular body washes and body products, nappies and baby products. So far, 2000 New Zealanders have signed up for the launch team, either helping with the launch or talking with retailers, schools and universities, in a bid to get Thank You products here.

Thank You began over a bottle of water. Back in 2008, Flynn and two fellow university students – his now wife, Justine Flynn, and Jarryd Burns – were aged 19 or 20, with $1000 of capital between them. They were concerned that children in some countries were walking up to half a day to reach water wells, and alarmed that one billion people live in poverty.

"I thought, 'Nine hundred million people do not have access to clean water and yet we are spending over $100 million globally on bottled water. What difference can one person make?'"

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The first delivery of Thank You water bottles was shipped to Flynn's parents' garage, and the brand began popping up in trendy cafes and restaurants in Australia. Operating under a shareholder-free model, Thank You has now delivered approximately $5.8 million to people in need in 20 countries, operating under a partnership model and funding projects recommended by charities such as Oxfam and World Vision.

Flynn writes in Chapter One: "Many years ago, I had an idea. What if there was a brand, a collection of consumer goods, that could empower consumers and give them a choice between the big multinationals, who exist to profit shareholders, and a brand that existed 100 per cent to fund life-changing aid and development programs for people living in extreme poverty? I had never heard of a social enterprise that existed 100 per cent for impact (no shareholder interest) that had achieved a market-leading position."

He and the co-founders are paid a standard salary. So far, Thank You water bottles have helped 545,360 people access better water and sanitation, profits from Thank You food products have aided 132,664 people in developing countries, and Thank You's recently launched baby range has funded maternal and child health projects helping 77,314 people.

Each product is fitted with a digital ID so consumers can track their global impact. A digital code on a bottle of water can be plugged into the Thank You website, showing an image via google earth of a water well in East Timor that the purchase will help pay for.

"It's an important part of closing the loop. There's a natural cynicism about where charity money goes to, and we're working pretty hard to close the gap."

While millenials love Thank You products, Flynn says a broader demographic is among its fans, and he expects that New Zealanders with "a millenial mindset" will like it. "It's anyone who supports the idea, 'Let's embrace change and challenge the system'.

"We want to make life more fair."

Across the Tasman, Thank You has run disruptive marketing campaigns through social media, including its controversial "Coles and Woolworths campaign" that asked consumers to put pressure on retailers to stock its products. Two helicopter pilots voluntarily flew a banner "Say Yes" above the supermarkets head offices. Five hours later, Coles surrendered, followed by Woolworths.

"That speaks volumes about how you can challenge the system and force change,'' says Flynn, who has a vision to eradicate global poverty by 2030.

"We believe in making great products, so people will buy them for their quality as much as the cause. Our position is that we don't want your money but we want your choice. Just asking people to buy a product to make a difference is not enough, and we also make sure the product is the best too."

 - Stuff

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