Pivot Connoisseur Thankyou Shows the World Why Social Enterprises Need ‘Better Before Bigger’



Welcome to our next method profile on the social enterprise Thankyou! Our previous entry focused on using culture format in social enterprise. In operating any venture, everything flows from your approach, and identifying a proper method helps you effectively fulfill your team’s initiative.

Together, we’ll be profiling interesting social enterprises to discuss an anchor method in their strive for social good. The term “anchor method” is to express the intentional and grounded nature of the approaches propelling a social enterprise forward.

This post is an outside observation of a company for inspiration in social enterprise initiative improvements.

In today’s post, we’ll look into social enterprise product line Thankyou leveraging impact priority. The product lines range from personal care to baby care.

Knowing the Company: Thankyou.

Thankyou, based in Australia, started in 2008 with the passion of founders Daniel Flynn, his best friend Jarryd, and his then-girlfriend-now-wife Justine. Originally, the first product pushed by the company was a ThankYou water bottle line. To address the water crisis, Thankyou created a water bottle line that raises funds for water projects in developing nations. The main idea inspiring the company revolves around using the power of consumption towards actual good.

Interestingly, this company is great at attracting natural enthusiasm. When starting out, Thankyou posted content encouraging people to share their interest in Thankyou with supermarkets. Their water bottle line was able to invade supermarkets at record time thanks to numerous supporters contacting the supermarkets directly.

Two customers went as far as flying their own helicopters over supermarket headquarters with banners about Thankyou. Daniel Flynn accounts the enthusiasm of the customers to being linked with the passion of the founders and caring about the cause.

Water is not the only cause this social enterprise supports. As the company grew, Thankyou added products reflecting the social issues they decided to invest their funds towards. On the “Who is Thankyou?” question of their help section, it says:

“Our three product ranges – water, personal care and baby care – each exist to get safe water, sanitation and child and maternal health to people in need around the world. To date, we’ve given over $6.9 million to projects in 20 countries.”

Another notable aspect of Thankyou is their 100% model. With no private shareholders, Thankyou commits 100% of their profits to funding social issue projects. Thankyou is completely owned by a registered charitable entity called Thankyou Charitable Trust. Distributions made to this entity are redirected to their project partners. This is the company’s way of working towards the end of poverty.

Recognizing a Shift 

While following Thankyou, their creative commitment to impact cannot go unnoticed. Creativity is how they cultivated major enthusiasm for their water bottle line. The team also flexed their creativity in launching their book “Chapter One”, which gives the behind-the-scenes takes on their origin story. The project grossed over $2 million under a pay-what-you-want model. All proceeds for this specific project contribute to scaling Thankyou.

Thankyou moves their efforts in relation to the amount of impact they hope to bring. This creates an idea of impact priority. The team is ready to shift based on the most effective driver of impact. You can accomplish an impact shift by adding, such as adding new care lines or adding the Chapter One project. Or you can accomplish this by subtracting.

Thankyou releases a “Year in Review” report to discuss the changes and developments within the company. In this particular report, Thankyou balances giving themselves a pat on the back and listing lessons on what did not go as planned. The company gives transparency in discussing how they waited too long to do something, which products are declining, how internal systems and structures did not adapt quickly enough for the growth the company did experience, and more. Such candid reflection is a great example of “Better Before Bigger”.

In the report, Thankyou states “In every meeting, on every project and every day, we’ll continue to dream for ‘bigger’, and to get there, right now we’re learning the importance of being ‘better’.” This is later followed by “We’re focusing on doing less better, not just being busy with lots of stuff.”

Letting Go & Redefining

Now here comes a shift that may shock you (despite possibly only discovering Thankyou through this post). The company put an end to a staple product.

Thankyou announced the end of their water bottle line, which was their first product line ever. According to the team, they no longer could ignore the “elephant in the room” of the company formed to help the world selling single-use plastic bottled water.

True to the Thankyou vibe, they are not simply letting water bottles go, but are working to redefine their relation to water through a different water product (note: this is mentioned in their announcement, and also hinted at in the linked Year in Review report written years earlier). The announcement conveys hope, gratitude, and honesty. After an eloquent Nelson Mandela quote on a great generation overcoming poverty, Thankyou wrote:

“The best is yet to come, and we believe that together we can be that great generation. To get to where we are headed, we know that sometimes we must take action and challenge (even our very own!) systems, structures, and ways of doing stuff. This is not the end, it is just the beginning, so thanks for coming on the journey with us!”

You know what’s the best part about ending the water bottle product? The supporters shared that they would continue supporting Thankyou as they respect and appreciate the value of the overall mission, which is impact. Thankyou got immediate feedback that prioritizing impact is a smart move.

If you think this is simply a coincidence or anomaly, think again. Thankyou also does an initiative called Track Your Impact, where customers can see exactly how their purchase develops into social change metrics. (Note, this is on hold with an announcement explaining Thankyou’s stance).

Perhaps another line from the Year in Review report mentioned earlier sums everything up:

“Our challenge at Thankyou is to continually and profitably grow so we can make the most positive impact on ending global poverty.”

Applicable Takeaway 

An anchor based on impact priority can guide you through a pivot. As an exercise, really look through your structures, even the parts you feel are attached to your core identity and imagine what redefining these aspects could look like.

Thankyou’s flexible impact priority completes this profile.

People Helping People Podcast is seeking methods clearly supporting an effective impact. Observations and discussions on happenings in the social enterprise community is a significant part of our contribution to social good. Continue to check-in for more conversation-starting content.

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