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How 3 Teenagers Made a Global Difference in Social Enterprise with No Money

Imagine you’re the ripe age of 19 (or maybe this is you now). You decide you want to do something about the world water crisis. How can you make a mark with limited resources? With the belief that anything is possible, three teenagers launched a social enterprise water bottle company. Within 8 years, this vision led to over $5.5 million charitable dollars and have impacted more than 755,000 people. How did these young adults do it?

Thankyou social enterprise

Daniel Flynn, Justine Flynn, and Jarryd Burns started the Australian social enterprise company Thankyou in 2008. I sat down with Daniel Flynn to discuss how young people can make their mark through social enterprise with limited resources. Daniel attributes their success to vision, time, great mentors, and a lot of learning.

Vision

Larger than life vision turned Thankyou into a multi product social enterprise. They went from producing water bottles to rebranding the company to include over 55 products. Each product provides a specific impact for social good. According to thankyou.co, 100% of profits go towards “safe water, food and hygiene and sanitation services around the world.”

When Thankyou began expanding its product line, they needed to get into major retail outlets. But every door seemed to be shut. The Thankyou team thought big. They came up with an audacious idea to fly helicopters around retail headquarters with signs. When they pitched the idea to a few pilots, they agreed to do it for free. Daniel says, “Vision and ideas change everything if you have the courage to get out there and make it happen.”

The helicopter publicity stunt gained attention and opened the door for them to be in the largest retail stores in Australia.

Time

We’ve discussed Kairos time¬†before. For Daniel, a couple of moments in time greatly changed his life. The first moment came when he saw a documentary of children in third world countries walking for miles for water, but the water was unsanitary. The second moment came when he was sitting in church. He prayed and asked, “God, this water thing seems impossible…if I’m meant to do this will you give me a sign?” He reached down to open a Bible and it opened up to Isaiah 41:17 NIV:

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”

This Kairos moment provided the endurance Daniel needed for the years to come.

Great Mentors

Great advice with a bit of creativity can go far. Daniel and his team sought mentors and combined their advice with the power of social media. When Thankyou began producing water bottles, they needed to get into retail space. Before their meeting with 7-Eleven, they asked Facebook fans to upload creative videos saying they would buy Thankyou water if it were made available. This eventually won over 7-Eleven and they gained their first major distribution.

Lots of Learning

When the three teenagers decided they were going to make water bottles, they had no idea where to start. So they googled “how to start a water bottle company.” From there, they took meetings and opportunities as learning experiences.

Finally Daniel shared his definition of a good guy: “Someone who knows their self and why they are here…their purpose.”

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