How It Took Grit to Stand Out And Save More Lives by@bmoskwa

How It Took Grit to Stand Out And Save More Lives

David Simnick Co-founded a vegan personal care company in 2010 with the mission of improving hygiene for the children of developing countries. He called his new venture Soapbox and they quickly became available at a significant number of Whole Food stores across the nation - but when it came time for expansion into Target, consumers simply weren't buying. The company went back to the drawing board and decided a significant rebranding effort was required. They decided that getting their product noticed by shoppers in stores was key to solving both issues. Grit is defined as courage and resolve; strength of character.
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More than one million children in the developing world die each year from diseases that are largely preventable with proper hand washing. For this reason, David Simnick Co-founded a vegan personal care company back in 2010 with the mission of improving hygiene for the children of developing countries. He called his new venture Soapbox and they quickly became available at a significant number of Whole Food stores across the nation - but when it came time for expansion into Target, consumers simply weren't buying.


As Simnick put it, “If you ever want to just light a bunch of cash on fire, launch a personal care company that looks like an automotive cleaner”.


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The reality is that without sales a company can't keep growing. There were two major problems Soapbox faced: The first was how to stand out on store shelves in a crowded marketplace. The second was how to increase sales so they could increase its support to children in developing nations. They decided that getting their product noticed by shoppers in stores was key to solving both issues. This in itself however created a significant challenge. This is their story:


It takes grit to succeed

To get customers to notice their products, the company had to make a significant change. So, they went back to the drawing board and decided a significant rebranding effort was required. It was the first time Soapbox invested significant funds into understanding what its consumers wanted. They realized that in order to fulfill the mission of the brand they needed to solve the buyer's needs.


They found the natural balance within the business and as such have realized significant momentum towards the success of its mission. So why did this take such grit and determination, simply put it was a big move, if it had failed they would have been out of money. Grit is defined as courage and resolve; strength of character; Soapbox made bold moves that only grit could have gotten them through.


“You just have to have that grit, and that wellspring of energy to fuel. That doesn't come from wanting to make a ton of money, that can be a part of it, but you really have to believe that your product needs to exist in the marketplace and why.”



This reminded me of a documentary called, “The Food That Built America - Season 3 Episode 8” about a super successful company that came from humble beginnings. The same gritty approach was taken by these two founders, investing everything they had to undertake a significant rebranding. It's a rather amazing parallel, the significant difference here was the mission.


One man's mission was to save the lives of children with a single bar of soap, the other was a 40-year obsession over the perfect popcorn kernel. Both tales of sheer grit, and probably a bit of stubbornness (at least on the part of Orville Redenbacher).


Yes, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn used to be called ‘RedBow’ and until its rebranding, nobody wanted their gourmet popcorn. Imagine how many developers or moviegoers would be sitting at home with broken teeth if it were not for Orville’s perfect kernel. Okay, it's more than a stretch to compare the two companies' missions, but it speaks to the importance of grit.


Too much focus on making a difference can make things hard!

With so many companies and products focused on making a difference, it can be hard to stand out in the crowd. You have to ensure you are working the balance between your mission and that of the business itself, which does add a layer of complexity to mission-driven brands.

Thanks in part to eye-catching packaging, Soapbox has built a thriving business that sells its products in more than 7,000 stores and donates soap bars to children in need all over the world. In fact, they plan on donating over 30 million bars this year alone—surpassing their previous donation record of 22 million!


In an age when most consumers want to do good, the number of organizations and products focused on such is no longer a competitive advantage as much as a requirement of the business. To succeed, you have to be willing to take risks and try new things. The team at Soapbox is proof that if you're gritty and believe in what you do, there are no limits to how far you can go!


Featured Photo by Anh Henry Nguyen on Unsplash


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