Don’t Apologise for Profit: The Thankyou Story | #130

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Daniel shares the Thankyou journey and how he personally overcame the unique challenges of building a company at the age of 19.

EP 130
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


In 2008, Daniel led a group of people who launched Thankyou and have seen it grow from a small start-up to become one of Australia’s leading mainstream social enterprises. 12 years on, Thankyou’s products are stocked by major retailers in Australia, with every product contributing to helping end global poverty. To date, Thankyou has raised over $17 million to impact the lives of people across 22 countries. In 2015 Daniel had the privilege of writing a best-selling book, Chapter One, a story that generated $1.4 million in sales in its first month using an unorthodox ‘pay-what-you-want’ model. Daniel is passionate about disruptive marketing and is honoured to have led his team to execute some truly unconventional and highly successful campaigns that led to Thankyou products being stocked by some of Australia’s biggest retailers. As part of Daniel’s role, he loves to speak to audiences around the world, telling stories and motivating people to realise that they too can make their own ideas a reality.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Daniel Flynn.  Daniel is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Thankyou. They burst onto the scene with bottled water that was doing good and now 12 years later Thankyou has raised over $17 million to impact the lives of people across 22 countries… and no longer do bottled water. Many of you will be familiar with Thankyou and its mission to redistribute wealth from consumer spending. We are living in a time where extreme poverty and extreme consumerism live side by side – Daniel and his team are looking to rebalance that equation.  Thankyou is stocked in major retailers including Coles, Woolworths and Chemist Warehouse, and a whole bunch of eCommerce stores including Amazon, Catch, Nourished Life and BaoBag. On their own site – they only sell one product – Chapter One, the first part of the Thankyou story. And it’s not a bad product – so far raising more than $2.6m to supercharge their impact.  In this episode, Daniel tells us why Thankyou started with wholesale and how he got into stocked in large retailers early on and the impact that had on his business. We discuss why understanding profitability is key to retail – even more so in businesses that have an impact. And in perhaps the ten minutes of this show that could change people’s lives, Daniel opens up about his journey with a psychologist and why he recommends therapy as an essential tool for everyone – even psychologists. Oh, and we also have a chat about the time he met President Obama. 

When I booked my first session, I was ducking behind bushes, I didn’t want anyone to see me”

Daniel Flynn

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How did you go about getting the attention of the big retail giants around the globe?
  • What was it like meeting President Obama?
  • You were 19 years old when you started Thankyou.  What advice would you give that teenager now?

Unpacking the hard stuff

“If I could go back and tell my younger 19-year-old self something, it would be like, “You have to detach from this idea of trying to please people,” because I spent years trying to make everyone, everyone, everyone happy, and it ends up being like a jail cell.  And I had some great help with some great people, including a very, very skilled psychologist who helped me unpack some stuff.

When I booked my first session, I was ducking behind bushes as I went in, and I was like, “I don’t want anyone to see me.” And honestly, I thought I’d do one session and then I would never go back and in fact, he spotted it because he said to me, “I don’t think Daniel, that you think you have a fear of failing. I don’t think you do. I think you have this fear of rejection.”

As he said it, between you, me, and anyone on this podcast, I start crying and I’m like, “Why am I crying?” It just got me. I don’t know. And as I drove it back to the office, I’m all teared up. I get back into meetings, my assistant who knew, because she knew everything, she was like, “Your eyes.” And I’m like, “They’re red.” And so, we learned never to book that meeting during work hours!”

Meeting Obama

“We had an invitation to attend the Obama Summit as an audience member. So, not speaking, nothing, just an audience member. And I was like, wow, that’s an honor, but it’s also a long way to go.  Anyway, I did the trip and then I was over there thinking, “Have I made the right call?” And then in the registration queue, the organizers came up and were like, “Are you Daniel Flynn?” I’m like, “Yeah, I am. They said, “You didn’t get back to my email. President Obama’s requested an interview with you tomorrow morning. Are you up for it?” I’m like, “What?” I don’t think my heart rate dropped from that moment until weeks later because he’d only chosen three young people.”

The campaign that changed everything

“The short story is that for five years, the biggest supermarkets said no. We launched a very unconventional campaign which was really like a pull strategy. How do we pull this product out of the retailers using consumer power? And so, we launched a video online called the Coles and Woolworth Campaign. If anyone’s international and listening and is not familiar, Coles and Woolies are the two biggest supermarkets and they have a 70% market share. So, some would describe them as a duopoly. Others would say they would never ever bow to a small brand’s request. 

But this campaign was a big shift because we launched the video. We said, “Two weeks from today, we’re presenting to Coles and Woolies but we’re asking you, our supporters, to come with us to the meeting,” And we asked people to upload a post, a video, or even just a post onto their Facebook wall. So, this is back in the day, when the Facebook wall, you could post on it for a retailer or a brand and it would come up on their feed.  So, it was very disruptive because they’d try and promote their message, but then it would get lost in like thousands of messages. So, it was a very good time to launch this.       

And people started singing, dancing, rapping, uploading their posts. A lot of media covered this, and then we had two helicopter pilots fly for free some giant signs we’d made titled ‘Dear Coles, Dear Woolworths, thank you for changing the world (if you say yes)’ and we flew this over Melbourne and Sydney and then around their head offices for half an hour.  And gosh, it worked. So, to our shock, the industry’s shock, and as far as we know, this has never happened before or after, five hours after the meeting at Coles and three hours after Woolworths, we had national ranging in both retailers.”

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