If you don't already own a handful of Thankyou's iconic hand washes and personal care items, chances are you definitely will in the near future...
If the chic and statement-making packaging doesn’t draw you in immediately, the brand’s ethos and the story behind its inception surely will. Justine Flynn is one of the faces behind the brand, and to put simply, her road to entrepreneurship and running a social enterprise is nothing short of inspirational.
“I was 19 and at uni when my boyfriend (now husband) Daniel came to me and his best friend Jarryd with an idea – what if the $600 million Australians were spending every year on bottled water could be used to get water to people in need around the world? He’d been doing research for an assignment when he came across the figure that 900 million (now 780 million) people didn’t have access to clean water. It really affected him and the more we talked about it, the more mind-boggling it seemed that so many people have to walk for hours just to get water, when all we had to do was turn on a tap — and yet we were still buying bottled water. We knew there was a really amazing opportunity there. It was a crazy, hectic, stressful, wonderful and rewarding first few years…”
With a simple but powerful desire to “make things right with the world”, Justine together with her husband Daniel and friend Jarryd created Thankyou, a socially-minded company which now boasts a range of over 55 products including water, personal care items and baby essentials that commits 100% of their profits to end global poverty. This is a staggeringly impressive business built with heart and compassion at the forefront of everything they do.
We caught up with Justine to get a little more insight into her foray into business, how she got involved with charity work and what her involvement looks like now as a mother, how having baby Jed has impacted her approach to her career, and what’s coming up next for a brand that is, quite literally, changing the world for the better…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. Where did you grow up and what type of childhood did you have?
I grew up in Mackay in North Queensland. The humidity was real and I was never far from the beach. I grew up with my younger sister and brother, and my parents were amazing.
One story that sticks out from my childhood was the time we had literally nothing but a roof over our heads. We had medical appointments in Brisbane so mum and dad decided to make a holiday out of it. We were away for six weeks and in that time, all of our possessions were stolen. It was quite tough when we got home because spending six weeks on holiday and paying for our medical appointments meant we were broke! But my parents managed to turn an awful situation into a joyous one. We received bags and bags of op-shop clothes from our community and learned firsthand that it’s really not stuff that makes you enjoy life. It’s the people.
Have you always been focused on charity and philanthropy? How did this develop?
I remember being as young as 12 sitting on the carpet at school listening to my teacher, Miss Morrison, share her adventures of visiting communities in South-East Asia and Africa. She had such passion and really urged us to think and care about more than just the world we live in. I remember being deeply moved and deciding I wanted to be part of making a difference. When I was 14, I had the opportunity to visit Miss Morrision in Indonesia where she had moved. I visited and worked in remote communities and stayed at a children’s home.
Seeing poverty at such a young age had a massive impact on me. I remember making a decision that whatever I chose to do ‘when I grew up,’ I wanted to use the opportunities I had to help those who didn’t.
Then at age 16, I was in business class and got nominated to enter a state-wide competition. My team won the comp and I went on to represent Queensland nationally. This passion for business was something I could see aligning with my skills and I knew in my heart I’d found my ‘when I grow up’ dream. I knew it was going to be working in a business that was dedicated to making things right.
How do you encourage your son to look outward to see the reality of the world, while balancing that with the fierce protection we all feel toward our children?
We talk often about some of the realities. Yes, I need to dilute it a bit for a three year old to comprehend (especially since even a 32 year old like me can barely comprehend the injustice), but I can already see he has great empathy and compassion. One night I was talking to him about how there are many children who don’t have mums and dads, or food or houses. He responded with, “I know! Let’s help them! They can all come to our house and you and dad can be their mum and dad” I responded cheekily with “Well, they would have to share your toys…” but he was surprisingly totally thrilled at the idea. Another night I said, “Jed, one day when you grow up, you are going to change the world”. He responded emotionally and said, “No mummy, I don’t want to change the world when I grow up”. I was a bit concerned, thinking maybe I’d gone too hard on this particular topic and was thinking what to say next when he added, “I want to change the world while I’m still little”. I nearly died. Something that Daniel and I preach all the time — that you’re never too young to make a difference — was being said back to us by our three year old.
I would love to get Jed to the field as soon as he’s at an appropriate age, so he can be familiar with the realities that some children his age face. I’d love to see the barrier of ‘us and them’ be removed for this next generation. I am convinced that, just like I did as a 14 year old, children these days are able to connect and engage with each other, despite language barriers. Of course, Daniel and I always make sure we are in-tune with how Jed is processing emotionally as he goes on the journey.
What tips do you have for parents hoping to encourage a worldly, empathetic view of the world with their children?
Each child is different and has different levels of sensitivities so it’s important for the parents of young children to be in-tune with your child’s emotional awareness and journey with them to the level they’re at. It’s all about ‘baby steps’— literally and metaphorically! I’ve been focused on drip-feeding information to Jed until I feel he’s at a point we can openly have conversations. He is still only three, so usually those conversations are quite brief but I know it is sinking in and he is processing. I would also say speak to them at a level they can understand and answer questions as honestly as you can.
Give them attainable goals and something they can do. I tell Jedediah that our first step in making a difference in the world is as simple as showing love and care to people around us. He takes that very seriously and just LOVES people so much. We have also just started having moments of gratitude where we reflect on the things we are most grateful for.
In saying all that, I am only three years into the parenting journey! So just as every new parent, I am no pro. I am still just ‘winging it’ at this stage and hope it all works out in the end!