Who Gives A Crap wins during loo paper panic
“Well, that was unexpected!”
These words were tweeted by mission-driven company Who Gives A Crap at the height of Australia’s toilet paper panic-buying frenzy at the start the coronavirus outbreak.
The company — which makes toilet paper, tissues and paper towels from bamboo and which donates half its profits to charities that tackle diarrhoea-related disease — inadvertently became Australia's number one toilet paper supplier, as major supermarkets sold out. Then, soon afterwards, they did too.
For CEO and founder Simon Griffiths there was a certain irony when he compared the buying frenzy with the challenge he faced when starting out back in 2012. “We were selling the most boring product in the world,” he said. Trying to market another toilet paper in a saturated market would be a challenge and a half. They began with a humble crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. “We wanted a new model of capitalism, leveraging individual purchasing decisions to help a non-profit cause,” he said.
To get eyeballs on the campaign, Simon sat on an actual warehouse toilet and refused to budge until their goal of their first bulk order — $50,000 — was reached. “I’m sitting down for what I believe in,” Griffiths quipped, sharing his “passion for humanitarian aid and toilet humour.” Which is, incidentally, reflected in the company's slogan: Good for your bum, great for the world!
He live-streamed the toilet stunt but “every four hours we’d get reported for pornographic material and the live stream was taken down.” Ever dogged, Griffiths, who founded several social-good companies before this one, simply found a new live stream to host him each time.
It’s worlds away from the first week of March 2020, when his company was selling 27 toilet paper rolls per second — 40 times higher than regular sales.
“We signed up more new customers in one day than we would a month,” Griffiths told Executive Style. “And there's a really important silver lining to that.” Half of all profits go to five charity partners, the main one being Water Aid.
For the first time, the company expects to crack the $1 million mark in donations this year. “We’ll help more of the world’s 2.3 billion people who don’t have access to a toilet, and drive down diarrhoea-related disease, the second biggest killer of under-5s in Africa,” he noted. So far, it has raised $2.6 million in donations.
The company, which has tripled in size annually for the past six years, takes its 74 staff on trips to see the work it does in countries such as Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Kenya. But, due to the coronavirus, they had to cancel the planned impact trip to India in early March. He cites a trip to East Timor, where he was shown a village with clean running water, and one without, as a ‘stand-out’ moment. “I got really emotional,” he said, on seeing the differing energy levels between the villagers.
Donated money specifically helps sanitation projects. “Anyone who has spent time in the developing world, as I did before starting this company, knows the challenges with sanitation,” Griffiths says. “Toilet paper was the perfect conversation starter for an icky and disgusting subject.”
Griffiths — who spends three months a year in Los Angeles, now the company sells in the US and UK as well as Australia — expects to be selling loo paper again and helping the world's poorest again. But, even for an entrepreneur with his swift professional impatience, recent times have been dizzying. “I’m still shocked by the pace with which things have shifted,” he added.
ABOVE Simon Griffiths