Save the World by Stepping Into Your Shower

It’s something we rarely think about when stepping into the shower, but from where does that little bar of soap come? Sure every bar essentially looks the same, but is all soap actually created equal? Not if you compare your drab old bar to the soap at SoapBox. Built on the model of “You Buy, Together We Give,” SoapBox empowers customers with the chance to make the world a better place through a simple, everyday purchase. When you buy a bar of their premium, all-natural and sustainably-made soap, they donate one to a child in need.

When we first spoke with SoapBox back in 2013, they were just getting started. To date, they’ve donated more than 200,000 bars of soap and almost 70,000 months of clean water to those in need. They’ve expanded nationwide too, with a shampoo and conditioner line in Target, a lotion line in 1,700 CVS stores and body wash and hand soap in grocery stores across the country. With each purchase, they continue to give a bar of soap or month of clean water. That’s a lot of do-gooding.

And the SoapBox folks are aware that not all good deeds are created equal either. They aim to solve problems, not prolong them, by avoiding aid dependency models and hurting local manufacturers. What more good could this company possibly do? I caught up with CEO and co-founder David Simnick to dive deeper into SoapBox’s incredible mission and what’s next for this do-gooding brand.

This is a short question for what is no doubt a complex answer, but why soap?
Three thousand children’s lives could be saved every day through something as simple as a bar of soap and clean water. I used to intern for a sub-contractor for USAID and worked on international development projects. It lead me to discover a hygiene crisis that could be easily solved, and this was the inspiration for starting SoapBox.

To be more specific, 95% of the world’s houses have access to soap, so it is not a lack of availability that causes these problems. Instead, the problem lies in the actual use of soap on an regular basis.

img_7525.jpgWhen you initially had the idea for SoapBox, you wanted to help change the world by empowering customers to think more carefully about everyday purchases. Do you think the positive reaction stems from people buying a product and giving back automatically out of true convenience? Or is it possible that in a not-so-stellar economy, the best way for people to contribute is through this “buy one, give one” business model?
I think it might be a mix of both. We started SoapBox first because we recognized the need for soap and hygiene education around the world – we had no idea what we were doing when it came to building a consumer products company. Through failing fast and then with the guidance of great mentors, we started getting the hang of how to to do this and poured our hearts and souls into building it from the ground up.

Our research shows people buy our products the first time because they value the social good. The second purchase is because of the high quality of our products. Some social-mission companies believe their products will sell because of charity alone. Unfortunately, this is not true. You need to have an amazing product that can sell on its own merits.

Not only is your business model charitable, SoapBox Soaps are sustainably made in America and packaged in 100% recycled fibers. Why were these factors important when developing your product?
We always wanted to do the most good with our company. Making our products in America ensures better quality and allows us to employ our friends and neighbors. Our team always tries our best to take care of the world, and we wanted to guarantee our products reflect this effort.

What made you choose the countries to which you donate soap? Were they statistically the most in need?
We work with different charity partners around the world because they understand what’s happening on the ground more than we do. For example, one of our favorite charity partners is Urban Light in Thailand. They rescue kids from the sex trade and help them get back on their feet through childhood education and room/board. SoapBox provides the soap at all their centers.

Domestically, we donate to homeless shelters, food pantries and women/children abuse centers around the country. One of the most requested items at homeless shelters is soap.

SoapBox was recently featured on the Today Show during a segment about 1-for-1 products, companies that give a product to charity every time someone buys. These types of consumer programs have become somewhat of a trend in the last few years. Do you think the hype around this business model will die down in time, or is it here to stay?
I think it is too soon to tell, but that’s also a reason why we’re in this market space. I think if handled poorly, many 1-for-1 companies could become fads and fade away if their charity missions are not administered correctly or they don’t make products people want to continually buy. But having a social mission at the core should be the ideal business model for every company, and we want to ensure this movement is here to stay.

I believe a majority of people are good and when given the chance to make a difference through buying products that make the world a better place, without having to sacrifice on quality, most people will choose to support the social mission product.

What’s next for SoapBox? Any new projects or initiatives you are working on this year?
SoapBox is rolling out liquid hand soap, lotions and body wash lines in late spring and early summer of this year. We’re still finalizing the formulations, but I can say everything is going to be 100% natural.

They each have a different charity component to them. Case in point, for every bottle of liquid hand soap someone buys, we’ll donate a month of clean water to a child in need through our charity partners. For every bottle of body wash sold, we’ll donate a year of free essential vitamins to children all over the world through Vitamin Angels. We wanted to keep the 1-for-1 mission the same but desired to expand our reach to assist with different health needs.

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