At The Urban List, we love things that make the world a better place, not just for ourselves at Melbourne HQ, but for other people around the world who mightn’t have even heard of our list-loving ways. Melbourne is a hotbed for awesome initiatives—just look at our recent article about Many Hands, an art gallery that gives to charity—and one of the trailblazers of this is Simon Griffiths, founder of water charity-supporting toilet paper Who Gives A Crap.
We sat down with Simon (who also co-founded Melbourne bar Shebeen) to ask him a few questions about his loo roll empire and its recent collaboration with Melbourne artist Beci Orpin…
Simon, you founded Who Gives A Crap via crowd-funding a year or two ago. How did the idea come about?
I started Who Gives A Crap with two friends because we knew that 2.5 billion people didn't have access to a clean toilet. That’s roughly 40% of the global population and means that diarrhoea-related diseases fill over half of sub-Saharan African hospital beds and kill 1,400 children under five every day—it's the second biggest killer of children under five.
We wanted to find a smart way to fund sanitation projects and also create a fun way for people to start talking and raising awareness about the sanitation problem.
Who came up with the catchy name, and what other names did you try out?
The name came from one of those business idea epiphanies—I walked into the bathroom, saw a six-pack of toilet paper sitting there and thought 'That's it! We start a toilet paper company, use our profits to build toilets and call it Who Gives A Crap'. I called three friends and they all said I had to do it.
Before we launched, we had lots of people tell us that the name would never work, but we thought it was too good not to give it a try—worst case, we knew we could change the name later. Who Gives A Crap has been an absolute hit—there's no way that we would change it now!
You're all about doing business that does good. Why is this so important?
The size of the philanthropy market will always be relatively capped because it's a tough ask to get those who are already donating to donate twice or three times as much as they currently are, but that is the level of impact required to make real change. Therefore, in order to drastically increase the amount of money that can be used to create social change (and let's face it, we've got some fairly huge social issues on our hands!) we need to enable new funding channels and mechanisms.
I think that's where businesses that do good can play a big role. We can use these businesses to direct some of the trillions of dollars that change hands in our economy towards socially impactful projects instead of simply making the rich even richer.
Your latest (and only?) Who Gives A Crap collaboration is with Beci Orpin. Where did you get the idea of putting art on toilet rolls, and how did you and Beci come to work together?
Before we launched, we thought it would be amazing to invite different artists and designers to do limited-edition packaging, but it's taken us two years to get to the point where that can be a reality! The whole Who Gives A Crap team loves Beci's aesthetic, and we're very big on looking at the afterlife of our product. Environmentally it's much better for something to be re-used before it's eventually recycled, and Beci has an amazing ability to turn paper and cardboard into fun craft projects. We knew that she was one of our customers, so we approached her with the idea for the collaboration. Fortunately, she loved it and the rest is history.
Where are we most likely to find you having a weekend breakfast in Melbourne?
At home! I live in Fitzroy with my wife Mel, so there's lots of cafes around, but they're often so busy on the weekends that it's become a bit of a Saturday tradition for us to cook breakfast together at home. That usually means a trip to Casa Iberica (the Spanish / Latin American deli) for arepas or to Babka for fresh sourdough, then we'll either have scrambled eggs on fried arepas (the ones filled with cheese are the best!), or soft boiled eggs with toasted Babka fingers, and usually some avocado on the side.
And what about your fave lunch meeting cafe?
Okay, it's been a long week and you've sold a lot of toilet rolls. Where do you go for a few drinks/to treat yourself?
My second business is a non-profit cafe and bar in the CBD called Shebeen. Shebeen sells exotic beer and wine from the developing world and the profit from each sale is donated to a project in that drink's country of origin. I'm often there at the end of the week winding down with friends, or making sure that all of our cocktails are 'up to scratch', ha!
Cumulus is probably my go-to restaurant for a treat. For something a little bit more laidback, Aka Siro in Collingwood is a new favourite.
There's heaps of amazing businesses in Melbourne that seem to be doing good. Who are your favourites, or the ones we should watch out for?
I'm a big fan of Your Grocer who have figured out how to help support local small businesses by home delivering their produce for them. Australia's got a long way to go when it comes to the convenience of home deliveries, and Your Grocer are making some globally relevant progress whilst simultaneously supporting local businesses.
On the more 'classic' social enterprise front, Tsuno make sanitary products that support women in the developing world. I love Tsuno's Instagram. I think Roz, who founded Tsuno, and I have a fairly similar sense of humour, and it's really exciting watching someone build their social business from the ground up, like I did!
Lastly, how many squares do you use?!
I don't actually know. I think it's four, but it could be six!
Thanks, Simon! To pick up Beci Orpin’s collaborative toilet paper, visit Who Gives A Crap, where you can order it as well as the regular rolls and have them delivered to your home.
Image credit: Who Gives A Crap