Toilet paper for the holidays? Some people think it’s a great gift idea, and this company keeps its promises.
“Instead of smut, expect toilet paper in your stocking,” was the subject line in my inbox that stopped me in my tracks. It comes from SAP
“Believe it or not, some people see toilet paper as a viable holiday gift option in 2020,” Sean Thompson, executive vice president of SAP’s business network and ecosystem, told me. “In fact, a recent survey found that 16% of consumers plan to offer toilet paper or hand sanitizer this year.”
True, hand sanitizer, as a full member of the beauty and personal care category, is a very gift. But toilet paper? It’s shocking that a researcher even thinks of including it in a survey of what articles people will donate.
Well, that might be the case in the past, but not this one, because at the start of the pandemic toilet paper became a most valuable commodity as grocery store shelves were emptied by nervous shoppers who were piling up supplies.
So what kind of toilet paper can we offer in the right way? Certainly not mainstream brands. A gift toilet paper has to be something special, dare I say it has a certain quality of luxury. But luxury toilet paper? Who ever heard of such a thing?
This company has it and has been producing it since 2012. Who gives a shit (yes, that’s the name of the company) makes 3-ply, double-roll toilet paper made from sustainable sources – one line from bamboo and another from recycled toilet paper – the wrap in distinctive avant-garde packaging, sells it exclusively online and ships in boxes to consumers in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Sweden and Australia.
“It’s like wiping with clouds,” the company promises, adding, “Our 3-ply is as sweet as unicorn kisses and as strong as 1,000 ponies. “
While it’s not cheap, Simon Griffiths, the company’s co-founder, tells me its rolls are at least twice as long as mainstream brands, so the cost per sheet is comparable.
Plus, since the inception of the company, around half of its customers – who are approaching one million today – have donated Who Gives A Crap. And every year the company offers a special limited edition gift box. This year, it’s the 48-reel A-Z edition, allowing people to play Scrabble with the reels in their bathroom.
“We saw the opportunity to work with products that we all need on a daily basis and have a little fun with that, which could grab attention and be confusing,” he shares. “We think of products differently from the usual toilet paper makers, with their teddy bears and puppies that are in no way related to the product. We’re thinking about the customer experience and how we can turn that boring, mundane product into something that brings joy to everyone.
The results of Who Gives A Crap have been impressive, growing from a workforce – Griffiths – to 100 people spread around the world. Until this year, sales have steadily doubled or tripled year over year, but in March, sales exploded.
The company began to receive one month of orders every day. For a business that started out with a fairly predictable sales cycle, this could have put a strain on the business.
“We realized this was our time to train for the past six years. We put our heads down, working early in the morning until late at night, trying to find a way to distribute toilet paper to as many people as possible, ”he says. “But the icing on the cake was being able to donate $ 4 million for the pretty big and unexpected sales we had through June.”
And that’s when our discussion shifted from the fun and eccentric to the really serious Who Gives A Crap business: donating 50% of the company’s profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.
Serious and deadly affairs
While studying for a double degree in engineering and economics, with a special interest in development economics, at the University of Melbourne, Griffiths spent time in Asia and Africa and saw and experienced the problem. sanitation there.
“About 2.4 billion people around the world do not have access to a toilet. The health consequences are devastating, ”Griffiths shares. “All of these bad things end up in the water that is used for cooking, cleaning and washing. Diarrhea-related illnesses are the second leading killer of children under five, killing an average of 700 children under five every day. We realized that this was one of the most offbeat development goals in existence.
Griffiths hired two of his friends and started the business with the primary purpose of donating as much money as possible to the sanitation cause, in this case 50% of the profit, not the usual 5-10% like many other companies do.
The funds are donated to the three areas so essential to sanitation: drinking water, toilets and personal hygiene of hand washing.
“If you do just one, they’re about 10% more effective than when you do all three together,” he says. “So we fund organizations that do work in all three areas for the most impact. “
While a lot of attention is paid to getting clean water to these places, no one is talking about the other end of the problem. “It’s a disgusting, crass conversation that’s been left behind,” he says.
To bring the toilet discussion into the open, Griffiths sat on the toilet for 50 straight hours and broadcast it on a live web stream as part of a crowdfunding campaign to collect the first $ 50,000 to get his 1,000 initial orders.
Sustainable products create a sustainable business
Driven by the cause of remediation, Griffiths and his team want – must – keep the business growing. Word of mouth has been her primary method of attracting new customers, who are generally drawn to the lasting message of the company.
“Our customers often come to us first to make a more lasting change in the bathroom,” he says. “Most people don’t realize that toilet paper companies cut about 27,000 trees every day to make their toilet paper that is flushed down the toilet,” he shares.
In addition to producing with recycled paper, bamboo is the most innovative and sustainable material used. “Bamboo is actually a fast growing grass. You prune it rather than removing it from the soil, so that you don’t have soil erosion like in other styles of farming. And that puts less pressure on productive land, unlike forestry, ”says Griffiths.
Attracted by sustainability first, customers buy again because of product quality, and then as they learn more about the importance of the company’s work in improving sanitation around the world, they stay hooked.
“What keeps people coming back is knowing the impact of the business. It becomes a very powerful part of the customer journey, ”he concludes. “Without the sanitation problem, our business would never be here. This is the whole reason we exist.