At just 19 years of age, Dan Flynn abandoned his five-year plan to start up a social enterprise called Thankyou Water with the launch of a bottled water that would exist with the sole purpose to fund safe water projects in developing nations.
Five years on and Thankyou Water has been rebranded as simply Thankyou with two extension brands, Dan both won the Young Victorian of the Year award and was nominated for the Young Australian of the Year award, and the company has helped over 56,000 people gain access to safe water.
We spoke to Dan about his vision, achievements, career regrets, and advise for start ups….
RESCU: You started Thankyou Water in 2008, what were you doing before then?
Dan Flynn: Studying a construction management degree at RMIT University.
RESCU: And what gave you the idea to launch Thankyou Water?
Dan Flynn: When I was 19 years old, I came across the World Water Crisis. At the time, I was completing my uni degree and working towards what I thought was a great five-year plan. But as I read the stories of individual people my age who struggled each day due to lack of safe water access, something changed inside of me and I wanted to do something about this big global issue.
When I discovered the fact that Australians spend approximately $600 million on bottled water each year, while 900 million don’t have access to safe water, I thought up the idea to start a bottled water company that would exist to fund safe water projects.
In August 2008, a group of us launched Thankyou Water.
RESCU: Was there an ‘aha’ moment that made you certain your idea could really work?
Dan Flynn: There was probably a series of moments. The first was when we got our very first order of 50,000 bottles. After that, it was when I started seeing our product out in public; people holding our bottle of water as they walked down the street. The final moment was when we finally landed our very first big retail deal.
RESCU: Tell us a little about what you’ve achieved since that first bottle of water hit shelves in 2008.
Dan Flynn: In five years, we’ve secured 4,000 stockists, launched two new ranges (Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care) and seen our products ranged by Coles and Woolworths. But I’d say the biggest achievement for our team is the amount of people we’ve been able to help.
To date, we’ve been able to assist 67,896 people with safe water access and 60,388 people with health and hygiene training. We’ve also raised enough to fund 62,888 people with short-term food aid. It’s an awesome feeling to know that we’re part of improving people’s lives through what we’re doing, and through the support of Australians who buy our products.
RESCU: And, as you mentioned, you launched Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care. Can you tell us a little about these expansions?
Dan Flynn: We launched Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care back in July of 2013. Essentially, the reason behind launching these two new ranges was because during our overseas trips to nations such as Cambodia and Kenya, we’d seen that there were other global issues that needed addressing, other than water. And to be honest, from day one, we’d never seen Thankyou Water as just a bottled water company – we knew we’d eventually branch out into other products.
So Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body Care were the result of that. Our food range includes premium muesli, muesli bar and oats products with each box sold providing one week’s worth of access to short-term food aid for someone in need, plus funding for a long-term sustainable project.
Our body care range includes hand wash and hand lotion products, with each bottle contributing to providing health and hygiene training for someone in need. For more info on our products and the projects we fund, you can check out our website at thankyou.co.
RESCU: Can you share three career highlights to date?
Dan Flynn: The first one would definitely be getting our first ever order of 50,000 bottles. It was a crazy moment when we all realised that we’d actually launched a brand of bottled water!
The second was getting our products into Coles and Woolworths in a record two-week period, which was an incredible feeling.
The most recent highlight was in October of last year when I headed to Burundi in Africa to see some of the water projects we’d funded. I’d been on a few trips before, but this one impacted me like no other. I met a 15 year-old boy named Vianney, and his story of how safe water access had improved his life really affected me. I realised, as I listened to his story, that we were really impacting individual lives through what we were doing. It motivated me to keep driving the success of Thankyou so we’re in a position to help more and more people in need – people just like Vianney.
RESCU: Any career regrets? Be honest!
Dan Flynn: One of the regrets I have is not enjoying the journey along the way enough, and forgetting to properly celebrate all of the little wins along the way. Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on the bigger picture that you forget the importance of enjoying the here and now.
RESCU: What piece of advice would you tell yourself if you could go back to when you started Thankyou Water?
Dan Flynn: Stop to enjoy the journey and don’t get stressed out!
Watch Thankyou’s latest campaign below