[quote style=”boxed”]Ideas that are so brilliant yet so simple you can’t believe you didn’t think of them yourself. That and being told that I can’t do something.[/quote]

In 2007 Simon Griffiths graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Commerce and set up Ripple.org, his first social enterprise.

Ripple is a click-to-give and search-to-give website that donates 100% of its revenue to development aid organizations. Ripple was named #23 in BRW’s Top 100 web 2.0 sites of 2008 and has received over 6 million visitors to date.

With Ripple off the ground, Simon relocated to South Africa to work on the ground in development aid. His time in Africa allowed him to visit development organizations in eight Sub-Saharan nations. In each organization he saw the same problem: insufficient funding. Realizing the need for a fundamental shift in the world’s approach to philanthropy, Simon returned to Australia determined to change the global philanthropy market.

With this goal in mind, Simon began to explore the concept of consumer driven philanthropy: using the power of aggregate consumption to increase philanthropic funding. This led him to his next venture, a non-profit bar called Shebeen. Shebeen sells exotic beer and wine from the developing world. The profit from each drink sale will support a development project in that drink’s country of origin. Shebeen is about to launch its first venue in Melbourne.

With Shebeen nearing execution, Simon Griffiths began work on a third venture, a toilet paper company that uses 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world. It’s called Who Gives A Crap. Simon is expecting Who Gives A Crap will make its first sales in the second half of 2011.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m negotiating real estate and drawing up the final term sheets for Shebeen. With Who Gives A Crap I’m piecing together a kick arse advisory team, searching for a pro-bono ad firm, meeting with toilet paper producers (I’m writing this interview whilst on sourcing trip to China) and talking to Australian retailers.

What does your typical day look like?

Both my girlfriend, Mel, and I prefer to work late and start slowly in the mornings. Provided I don’t have early morning calls with colleagues or investors in the US, we’ll normally hang out and have a breakfast together, then I’ll get into the studio around 10am.

From there the day is typically non-stop with emails, coffee meetings and calls with anyone and everyone: partners, staff, suppliers, retailers, advisors, investors or just people who are interested in what I’m doing. I’m not big on forced exercise – I don’t like running or going to the gym – so I ride to all of my meetings. I’m normally on my bike for 30-60 minutes a day.

Three nights a week I teach economics at Melbourne University from 4 or 5pm until 9.30pm. At 9.30pm I usually have one last meeting/call for the day (that’s the best time for calls to the UK and Europe), or send off a couple of urgent emails just before everyone in the US wakes up. Then I’ll crash into bed and watch an episode of something to clear my head.

Mel runs her own art gallery, so nights off are usually spent at openings and launches, or at a friend’s house cooking something nice – all our friends are big on cooking. I also try to work a little on Saturday afternoon. I love Saturdays because no one replies to emails – it’s much easier to be productive! I also play hockey, so somewhere in the week there’s normally training and a game.

Work feels more like a hobby – it’s always pretty fun – so I don’t mind working quite a bit.

3 trends that excite you?

1.    Consumer driven philanthropy. This is what Shebeen and Who Gives A Crap are all about.

2.    Collaborative consumption. For example Airbnb, Zipcar, Freecycle, p2p lending platforms, etc (see book recommendation below!).

3.    Relationship based transactions. Relationship based transactions are where people are buying goods for the consumption value of the good plus the value due to the relationship that comes with the transaction. A relationship based transaction can be as simple as shopping at your local farmers market or green grocer, or buying a coffee from your favorite barista, but big companies are starting to play in this space as well.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Step 1 is talking to my friends about my ideas. Their reactions and feedback help to determine if the idea is worth exploring further. Step 2 is getting educated: finding experts who can get up the learning curve quickly. Step 3 is beta testing / prototyping the concept.

Somewhere between 2 and 3 is finding teammates and money. Money can be tricky. We normally bank roll the first part of an idea ourselves, then look for grants and investors, or think about crowdsouring, product partnerships or fund raising.

What inspires you?

Ideas that are so brilliant yet so simple you can’t believe you didn’t think of them yourself. That and being told that I can’t do something.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Starting a new business is all about managing relationships – you need to look after your staff, suppliers, customers, advisors and investors like they’re your family. I learnt this the hard way. I neglected relationships which meant they soured up pretty fast. I really regretted it afterwards.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I was going to say peer-to-peer car sharing – think Airbnb for cars – but I just Googled it and there’s lots of people doing this already (NB this interview took place just before Getaround.com won TechCrunch Disrupt). Then I thought about peer-to-peer currency exchange…but it looks like that exists too.

What do you read every day, and why?

I am really terrible at reading on a regular basis – to be honest, I often feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of information the internet has put at our finger tips! Knowing that regular reading isn’t a strong point, I make a conscious effort to read articles and books that are recommended to me by friends and colleagues. For me this has two benefits 1) receiving a recommendation reminds me that it’s time to read something, and 2) someone else has already sifted through a huge amount of information to find something that they know I’ll enjoy – it’s a pretty good filter.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption is a must. See the three trends that excite me, above.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

I love gadgets. Possibly my favorite is my Zip Zip Lego style USB drive – www.myzipzip.com. It’s awesome. I have two in my bag right now.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Eric Ryan or Adam Lowry, the Co-founders of Method. Marc Mathieu, Unilever’s new Senior VP of Marketing, Founder of BeDo and former Head of Global Brand Marketing for Coca-Cola, would be great too.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about working in social enterprise?

When people ask me for advice I always tell them to (1) find their passion, (2) follow it, then (3) work out how to make a living from it. I’m probably at 2.5 of the 3 step process.


Shebeen Bar on Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/shebeenbar
Who Gives A Crap on Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/whogivesacrapTP
Simon Griffiths on Linkedin – http://au.linkedin.com/pub/simon-griffiths/21/157/96

Also, be sure to check out Simon’s talk at TEDx Melbourne.

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