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INNOVATION INSIGHTS: How a bottle of water and a book changed the world for the better

This post is part of the Innovation Insights series, sponsored by CommBank. At CommBank we believe innovation starts by asking questions. Discover new ways to keep your business moving. Start today at
Thankyou. co-founder Daniel Flynn. Photo: Facebook.

Selling bottled water isn’t an easy feat.

The $690 million Australian market is flush with competition, including beverage giants Asahi Holdings and Coca Cola Amatil.

That makes Thankyou, a social enterprise, a remarkable success story having built a philanthropic business based on bottled water that also attracted the attention of big wig investors with serious cash.

While hard work and perseverance has been critical, the creativity and innovation of founders Jarryd Burns, Daniel Flynn and Justine Flynn and their growing team is the key to Thankyou’s success.

Since launching in 2008, in response to the world water crisis, the brand has expanded into the food and body care markets.

It has given over $3.7 million to people in need. That’s provided 192,367 people with safe drinking water, 89,751 with food to eat, and 302,814 with better hygiene and sanitation services.

And now Thankyou has its focus on baby products.

But its near-future expansion goals don’t stop there.

The Australian startup is also preparing the spread it wings and set up digs in New Zealand.

But like every “big idea” business plan, funding was the challenge. The expansion is budgeted to cost $1.2 million.

So how do you raise money in an already competitive, and relatively small market known for having low-risk early investors?

You come up with new ways to get people’s attention.

Thankyou is already known for its bold, adventurous marketing campaigns, so the next fundraising round had to be bigger and better.

And Daniel Flynn, that meant taking a massive risk. He decided to write a book.

“Chapter One” covers the business’s journey and its challenges, and offers advice based on the lessons he, and his co-founders have learned to date.

The catch? He’s selling it via a “pay what you want” model, which means people can pay $2.50 or $25,000.

And he’s betting big on it. Prior to the launch of the campaign, Thankyou pre-ordered 80,000 copies – a “successful” book in Australia sells 10,000 copies, anything above 25,000 is a massive hit – in the hope that would meet its fundraising target.

“You have to be willing to take a risk,” Flynn told Business Insider recently while joining his co-founders and volunteers packing books to dispatch to buyers.

“This campaign is about Thankyou. but it’s also about waking up the dreamer, and the social part in every person,” Flynn says.

Chapter One. Photo: supplied.

Just one month after the campaign launched on February 26, Thankyou surpassed its $1.2 million target last Thursday when Stuart Zadel from Zadel Property bought 1,500 books for $50,000.

The books are averaging out at $40-$50 per sale — they only cost $3.50 to produce — and one person even paid a record $1,300 for a single book.

Along with individual sales, big businesses have been buying the book in bulk and using it as a leadership tool for empowering their employees. bought 300 books for $33,000, Optus bought 1100 books for $22,000, and Domino’s Pizza bought 1000 books for $20,000.

The book is designed to challenge the reader and is filled with compelling details.

“In the book space it’s completely unconventional, and I suppose there’s a risk in that, but everything we wanted to do with this book was about challenging conventions,” says Flynn.

“We definitely haven’t learned everything yet but anything we have, we want to give to others for their own journey.

“This book, we think, is a tool to help others challenge their thinking within their own story, whether that be business, or as a teacher or doctor, or student, and the book has multiple challenges to the reader.”

Steve McKnight, CEO of, who bought copies for his team says its “much more than a good story”.

“Often getting staff to think as well as do is a challenge,” he said.

“Chapter One gives leverage to begin discussions around vision, and about the constraints and restraints that might be inhibiting progress. From those discussions comes new fruit that can be the source of ideas and innovation.”

Similarly Don Meij, CEO of Domino’s Pizza says reading it propelled him into a new paradigm of thinking.

“Flynn challenges the status quo of reading books literally and metaphorically and shines the light on the issue of extreme poverty but not in the conventional approach,” he said.

“After reading the first chapter you can’t help but feel compelled to want to be part of the solution and learn more about this inspiring social enterprise.”

He said if anything it challenges you to push the boundaries you put on yourself: “if you always do things the way you’ve done them you’ll always get the same result”.

“We need change and more importantly we need agents of change.”

It’s this feeling that Flynn had aimed to achieve.

“You have to be comfortable to get uncomfortable,” he said. “And you’ve also got to be willing to challenge your thinking regularly which this book will every time you pick it up – literally because it’s not what you’re used to.

“That in itself lies the greatest thing we’ve ever learned at Thankyou: that you’ve got to be willing to take that risk to do something that people haven’t done before.

“I suppose we risk the fact that you will never read our story but we know that this is the most important thing we have ever learned and so we’ll take the risk again.”

Thankyou celebrating hitting their $1.2 million goal. Photo: Facebook.

But has it all been worth it?

“The risk has 100% paid off,” Flynn said.

“The pay what you want model puts the power in the consumer’s hands to make the call. It makes people stop and think and I think that’s important.”

In fact, with the help of a generous donor who approached Thankyou and offered to match every dollar raised by the public, up to the value of $250,000, last Thursday Thankyou surpassed its $1.2 million fundraising goal.

In four weeks, the social enterprise sold 43,640 copies of its book raising $1.4 million to fund the launch of a baby range, with the proceeds from sales going to infant and maternal health programs and Thankyou’s expansion into New Zealand.

All profits from the sale of the book will go towards funding the third milestone, to be announced once Thankyou baby and Thankyou New Zealand have been launched.

“At Thankyou we choose to have no shareholders and no investors so we can give 100% of profits to our projects, which is awesome for impact, but makes it hard to scale the business – the Chapter One campaign is our way of tackling that problem,” said Flynn.

“We’re blown away by everyone’s support and generosity. Massive thanks to all of you who bought a book, shared a post and told a friend or family member about Chapter One…YOU made this possible.

“Thankyou baby and NZ, here we come!”

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