So soon that KK’s Blog #3 is released. This time, KK would share with us a moving and inspirational story.
Lean Startup for Social Impact
Strategies for New and Established Businesses to Change the World
Co-authors: Karen Lee, Wander Meijer, Catus Lee, Ivy Lau
You might not have expected to receive Blog #3 so soon – barely two days after the release of Blog #2. But I have something so exciting to share with you that I do not want to wait.
It concerns a young social entrepreneur and his startup in Australia. His name is Daniel Flynn and his company is called Thankyou. After eight years of hard work, he is sharing his experience in a book entitled Chapter One, implying more chapters to be followed. It is a ‘Reality Show’ in a sense, albeit not as ‘live’ as my proposed one.
In any case, it is a moving and inspirational story that I am sure you will be delighted to learn about. I am reproducing an article written below which contains a 7-minute video which I strongly recommend you to watch.
Here, let me recap why it is relevant and important for my book:
- Daniel has launched his startup in a way very similar to the Lean Startup approach. Although he is not explicitly employing the Lean Startup methodology, his journey demonstrates all the key elements of this approach.
- Daniel is young; he started his business at the age of 19, with hardly any business experience, not to say track record. But he is bold and visionary, as well as passionate about eradicating poverty in this world.
- The preceding two points underline the critical combination of both passion and methodology. Lean Startup is a powerful methodology, but it is just a methodology. What is even more important is personal vision and passion. We often hear people say entrepreneurs should ‘think big, start small’. ‘Think big’ is the vision; the Lean Startup methodology is your ideal tool to start small. I would just like to add that if you don’t ‘think big’, there’s no point in starting small.
From my experience training and coaching aspiring social entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and China, what is lacking is usually the ability and passion to ‘think big’. If you do not think big, you may not have the urgency to master any tools or methodology. But if you have a bold vision and are totally committed to realizing it, you will have strong motivation to learn how to start small.
So let’s hear Daniel’s story:
Thankyou founder Daniel Flynn shares career success tips with Chapter One book launch
Sophie Aubrey, News Corp Australia Network
March 1, 2016
Daniel is one of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs under 30, motivated by a dream to eradicate poverty, and he’s sharing his secrets to career success.
In eight years, Daniel Flynn and his team at Thankyou have grown their social enterprise which started out stocking bottled water at cafes into a flourishing brand selling food and body products across Australian supermarkets, each fitted with a digital ID allowing buyers to track their global impact.
Operating under a shareholder-free model that sees 100 per cent of its profits given to water, food and health charity projects, Thankyou has raised more than $3.7 million for some of the world’s neediest people.
In what reads as a motivational guidebook for young professionals, Flynn details the Thankyou journey so far and what it took to break into the competitive consumer market dominated by multinationals in a classic David-and-Goliath battle.
“I want to encourage people to be brave and to just start, because we all have ideas but we get so afraid to start,” Flynn said.
Flynn admitted it was unusual to write a book about such a young venture, but he said he wanted to document Thankyou’s life progressively to avoid glossing over the tough moments.
“When you look back in hindsight it can be easy to skip over the hard times,” he said.
And just like its author, the book is breaking conventions: Chapter One is published in a bemusing landscape style and comes with a ‘pay-what-you-want’ price tag — whether you pay $10 or $1000, your investment will help ‘crowdfund’ the $1.2 million needed to launch a new baby range and to establish Thankyou in New Zealand.
Flynn has shared with News Corp eight morsels of wisdom that can be found — in much greater detail — in Chapter One.
- DON’T GET WRAPPED UP IN YOUR FIVE YEAR PLAN
“I think planning is important. You have to start with a plan as a starting point, but with that said, don’t get locked into it. At university I was studying project management to go into construction but then I had the idea wanting to help change the world with bottled water which didn’t even compute in my five-year plan,” Flynn said.
“It’s a fine line because you do need to commit to something (but) you’ve got to be flexible. If you even ask Thankyou what the five-year plan is, there are dreams and plans but you won’t find a document in our office. We’ve got to be open to change and new ideas.”
Flynn is also opposed to having a ‘plan B’ because then you are just setting yourself up for failure. “You’ve got to back yourself,” he said.
- THE MOST POWERFUL FOUR WORDS YOU CAN ASK YOURSELF — ‘WHAT IF IT WORKS?’
It goes almost without saying that Flynn is a big believer in being bold enough to take risks with your ideas, even if people pooh-pooh your ability to innovate — or if it makes lawyers feel uncomfortable.
“The freshest example is the new campaign video we shot that went for seven minutes, 30 seconds. We had anticipated three takes and we had so many babies around, we didn’t know how we were going to control it all,” Flynn said, before explaining he decided to just aim to finish shooting in one take. And it worked.
“It’s just a small example, but the first response we all often have is ‘what if this doesn’t work?’,” he said, urging people to look past negative bias.
“Ask yourself ‘what if it works’ instead and it gets exciting, belief kicks in and that’s when you pull off remarkable stuff.”
- DON’T FEAR FAILURE, ADAPT WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
“Fear of failure is a big one and it happens in most days,” Flynn said. “Fear of failure has killed more dreams than failure itself.”
“At Thankyou we’ve failed hard for years, but failure isn’t a bad thing, it’s where you learn.”
Among their many hiccoughs, Flynn recalled when before rolling out their first body care products, major issues emerged with the fragrance company working with the range. They had to cut their ties and the range was almost pulled. Emergency meetings were held during their hectic 2013 two-week campaign for Coles and Woolworths to stock the products. But with an urgent solutions focus, they managed to secure a new leader in fragrance to help out.
“You can’t lose your confidence over fear of failure,” he said.
- FIND OUTSTANDING MENTORS
Flynn likened mentoring to time travel. “When you sit down for coffee, a mentor can drop a sentence that took them a lifetime to learn,” he said.
“That’s why mentoring is so powerful because you get a chance to learn someone’s life lesson in a moment. It takes maturity to realise that.”
- BE PASSIONATE BUT DON’T GET TOO EMOTIONAL
Flynn warned that negative and even positive feedback could send you on dangerous highs and lows. In short? Stay cool.
“We’re all human and we need to celebrate the wins and it’s okay to be sad when something doesn’t go well, but in the early years especially, you will swing heavily,” he said.
And the higher you yoyo upwards, the harder the fall when challenges unfold, he said.
“Some days I am just in shock at the epic highs and epic lows and you simply can’t handle it, it tires you out. To be sustainable you can’t ride on either extreme.”
- IT’S YOUR JOB TO PROVE YOUR IDEA
Flynn said he used to walk away annoyed at people, asking himself ‘what’s their problem?’ when people didn’t see what he saw in his plan.
“I’d put it on them for not catching my idea instead of putting it on me, but it was actually up to me to solve that,” he said.
“I see it all the time, people get disgruntled that others don’t believe in them so they hit a brick wall and give up.
“But you need to take responsibility that it’s your job to prove your vision,” he said, so find a way to execute it.
- IF AN IDEA IS GOOD ENOUGH, THE MONEY WILL COME
Don’t hamstring yourself trying to accumulate enough cash, Flynn stressed.
“There are a lot of times the money didn’t come right away … but money is attracted to momentum,” he said.
“The money comes for the idea that has momentum, not just to a great idea itself.”
He described how he presented the original Thankyou water concept to many businesses to try to snag funding and they were swiftly rejected due to the “crazy idea”, their inexperience and — ironically — their lack of funds. But undaunted, he said they went out and teamed with a distributor and a factory.
And all of a sudden, the cash started coming in — going to market without all the needed funds appeared to impress people enough to then back them financially.
“Money can never be a reason to stop pursuing something if you’ve got the buzz behind you.”
- CONSTANTLY CHALLENGE YOUR THINKING
While seemingly a natural at it, Flynn admitted that thinking outside the box could be easier said than done. But the easiest way to achieve it was simply to surround yourself with a team that could regularly challenge your way of thinking.
“The book (Chapter One) in itself is a metaphor for that because every time you pick it up, it challenges your thinking as a reader because of its landscape format,” he said.
“Every idea needs refinement, our latest campaign has had so many refinements and has been challenged so many times by different people.”
No idea was perfect right away, he said, so don’t get stuck in your ways.
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