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Insights into Launching & Managing a Social Enterprise | Simon Griffiths | Business Speaker - 29 January 2019

Insights into Launching & Managing a Social Enterprise | Simon Griffiths | Business Speaker

Simon Griffiths is the Co-Founder and CEO of Who Gives A Crap, a profit-for-purpose toilet paper company that uses 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world. He is an outstanding entrepreneur and philanthropist who has built two social enterprises, generating donations of more than $1.9 million. His work has been covered by countless media outlets around the world, including The Huffington Post, MTV and The Stanford Social Innovation Review.

How did you come up with the idea for 'Who Gives A Crap'?

I had that classic business idea epiphany – one day I walked into the bathroom, saw a 6-pack of toilet paper and thought ‘why don’t we sell toilet paper, use the profits to build toilets and call it Who Gives A Crap?’ I immediately called three friends and they all said I had to do it...and Who Gives A Crap was born!

The company launched in July 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign. I sat on a toilet in our draughty warehouse on a live web-feed and pledged not to get up until we had raised enough pre-orders to start production. 50-hours and one sore bum later, we'd raised over $50,000. See the video below. Our first product was delivered in March 2013 and we have been growing rapidly ever since. In five years, we’ve donated more than $1.9 million.

 

 

What inspired you to set up a social enterprise rather than a standard for-profit business?

Who Gives A Crap is all about impact - we’re on a mission to show that businesses (and consumers, entrepreneurs and investors - more on that below!) can have a huge positive impact on the world by making smarter decisions.

Who Gives A Crap exists because 2.3 billion people across the world don't have access to a toilet. That's roughly 40% of the global population and means that diarrhoea-related diseases fill over half of sub-Saharan African hospital beds and kill 700 children under 5 every day. I thought that was pretty crap. So I wanted to start a forest-friendly toilet paper company that donates 50% of its profits to help to improve access to basic sanitation, hygiene and clean water in the developing world.

What has been your toughest challenge with running a social enterprise?

The toughest business challenge has been to understand the importance of focus. We’ve learnt that being focused often means saying no. In the early days, we pretty much said yes to everything because we were desperate not to miss an opportunity. In hindsight, this meant we ended up spending a lot of time on high involvement, low return activities that were a distraction from what we were really good at. We’ve gotten a lot better at saying no since then!

What is your definition of a disruptive business and do you think there is more to come or has big business caught on now?

I think of a disruptive business as any business that finds a new way to take significant market share away from incumbents. Right now, that usually means using technology to sell products that are better and/or cheaper, or using technology to invent a product category that previously hasn’t existed. Our digital direct-to-consumer model and our impact is what makes us disruptive - we’re the same price or less than what’s on the shelf at the supermarket, delivered to your home for free, plus we help to improve lives.

Has big business caught on? No way. Disruption is happening faster than ever before, and it’s only getting faster. Big businesses will never move fast enough to avoid disruption - to remain relevant, big businesses need to innovate to try and avoid or slow down disruption, but they will also need to be ready to acquire the disruptors that eventually break through.

What does the future hold for you and 'Who Gives A Crap'?

Who Gives A Crap is about more than just sanitation. My personal mission is to show that doing good can be good for any business - if I can prove that it’s possible to earn significant financial returns whilst generating large scale social impact, then I know I can help to attract more entrepreneurs and investors into the social enterprise space. And that’s ultimately how I think I can help solve huge global problems beyond sanitation alone.

Learn more about Simon here.

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