Social Enterprises and the Power of Profit

Not long ago, the Tailored Man team was invited to the Thankyou Gala, an event organised by the Thankyou Group.

You may be familiar with this remarkable company, as you’ve probably got a bottle of Thankyou water sitting on your desk or in your car right now.

However, many people who purchase Thankyou water aren’t aware that Thankyou is actually a social enterprise, and with every bottle sold dedicate themselves to creating clean water projects in developing nations around the world.

The Thankyou Gala was an amazing celebration that both commemorated Thankyou Group’s achievements to date, and allowed co-founder Daniel Flynn to announce a bold expansion into the baby care industry.

The big companies are already worried, as Thankyou take their approach of creating great, sustainable products that stand out from the crowd into the heavily monopolised industry. Flynn also announced that Thankyou will begin to tackle preventable maternal mortality in developing nations and increase access to antenatal and postnatal care. They’re going to achieve this by first releasing Flynn’s new tell all book, using the proceeds to fund the bold new push into baby care.

As Thankyou changed the game as to how charities operate in a competitive business landscape, we at The Tailored Man became interested in this brave new approach to socially responsible business.

To better understand this new business model, we engaged business model consultant Isaac Jeffries from The Difference Incubator (TDi).

“There no longer needs to be a choice between a good product or social impact.”

Jeffries’ role at TDi is to build socially conscious businesses and help them unlock their potential on the emerging platform. Every day he is exposed to organisations that have a good cause but haven’t fully developed their product or service to maximise return.

“These days, businesses can’t afford to be exploitative and irresponsible. However, customers are often more motivated by their own pressing needs than solving social problems, so the challenge is to do both at the same time. Thankyou is successful because it positions itself as a cheap water to buy, as well as helping countries without clean water.”

He explains that while people do want to help good causes, they won’t return to buy your product if it isn’t better than its competition.

And that’s where Thankyou changed the game; they made their product cheaper and better looking than its competition.

“What’s impressive about Thankyou is their relentless focus on quality and beautiful design. They know that they need to make the best muesli bars, the best hand soap, and now the best nappies.”

“Great products and an inspiring story create a loyal following”.

This got us thinking; how many other local brands are tackling global and local issues using a similar model? We began to find out that Thankyou aren’t the only business to combine an innovative structure with a great product. We’re seeing the impact of socially responsible business models in hospitality too.

“A great example is STREAT, a café chain who give hospitality training to homeless young people across Melbourne. However, they have to compete on the frightening stage that is the Melbourne coffee scene. STREAT don’t rely on their customers to come back because of their mission, they get repeat business because they make good coffee. It’s as simple as that. And by creating a great product, you actually help your mission much more by guaranteeing return customers”.

We began to find more inspiring businesses that we recognised for their outstanding product. Feast of Merit was one of them, a beautifully crafted Melbourne based restaurant with produce that is locally sourced and sustainable. From here, the profits of their product go on to support YGAP, a social enterprise whose work has greatly helped the lives of people living in poverty.

Design also plays a big role in successful social enterprises. Jeffries turned our attention to Keep Cup, who place total importance on the design and presentation of their packaging and also encourage people to think about the waste their take-away coffee cups create each day.

“Coffee lovers throw away a frightening number of cups, most of which go into landfill. Instead of trying to induce guilt, Keep Cup offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative, the glass cup makes the coffee taste better, and many cafes even give you a discount for using one.”

There’s a big shift currently happening in the world. In the past using the classic model of philanthropy, we made money doing harmful things and then donated a small amount of that to a good cause. Now, we’re combining our mission with amazing products and we’re able to generate a much bigger return in both a social impact setting and on a balance sheet. This innovative way of maximising return is the new power of profit, and by identifying these bold new companies we can start to make better decisions by supporting them.

To purchase Chapter One and help out Thankyou’s expansion, go to thankyou.co.

Isaac Jeffries is a business model consultant at TDi and runs a blog about business and entrepreneurship ideas. Check out his work here.

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