The making of… The Dirt Company
Welcome to The making of… blog series. Can you start off by telling us your name and the name of the company you founded.
Hello. I’m Frankie, co-founder of The Dirt Company.
Awesome. Frankie, can you give us a bit of a background about where you’ve come from and why you decided to start your own company?
I started my career in Advertising. It was a really fun place to work. But it was one that put me at the forefront of consumerism. The job was literally 'sell, or else'.
I didn't love all the products I was trying to sell, and over time, it started to eat away at me. I could see opportunities for brands and businesses to be better global citizens, but for various real or imagined reasons, they often didn't take that path.
The household cleaning category was a particular standout. They seemed to offer to 'clean' the inside of your home, using packaging and ingredients that would actually pollute the planet. Or, if they weren't in that category, they would be so 'eco' their performance was compromised. So at some point a couple of years ago, I decided to have a crack at creating a company that fixed some of these problems that had frustrated me over the years, and so I wound down my work hours, and started working on what is now The Dirt Company.
So knowing you wanted to do good, how did you come up with the idea?
The Dirt Company’s mission from the get-go was to turn the perception of laundry products on its head, with the idea that our laundry products can clean up the world from the inside-out - to help people do less harm, without compromising on the things they’d expect from their laundry products; performance, price and convenience.
We set out to use cleaner ingredients with integrity. Using 99% natural ingredients, we created the most genuinely sustainable detergents.
We didn’t stop with the ingredients. Our designs are cleaner because less is more. Our packaging, made from recycled and renewable materials, is smart and minimal. We wanted people to be able to put the days of plastic jugs, sticky lids and overdosing behind them so we researched numerous sustainable solutions to fix the problem.
We also wanted to have cleaner processes. Our system is circular. Any new material that goes into our products, can be returned and reused by us. You’ll receive your return packaging every third order to make it easy for you to partake.
But we didn’t want to stop there. We also wanted the business to make more of an impact, righting the wrongs. Which is why we dedicate 50% of our profits to cleaning up the ocean. Through various initiatives, we work out how to pull waste from the environment and make it useful again.
What research did you do to arrive at what you've got now? How did you test your product-market fit?
I kept trying to answer the question "Why is my product better than yours?", and I didn't stop re-concepting and researching until I knew we could launch the very best product out there.
What a great question to constantly ask yourself. Having asked that, what were the first iterations of your product like?
We had to beg, steal and borrow to get the first products produced, because we only wanted to do a 500 unit run. The first product design was great. But working with different materials (other than plastic), presented a whole new set of challenges in terms of how long they would be able to hold product for, how well they travelled, how well they endured heat etc.
We moved from Aluminium to glass after two years, because we recognised that after two years, in some circumstances, Aluminium could degrade. We switched our dispenser bottles to glass, and had four iterations before we were comfortable that we'd landed on a design durable enough to last a lifetime.
Having to beg, steal and borrow seems like the foundation of many startups. Which leads us to our next question. How did you fund your business?
We're bootstrapped. The first two years were very scary as a result.
Knowing that you’ve come from the advertising industry, can you tell us about the branding process and how you arrived at where you are today?
The branding was the super-fun part. We wanted to let the world know that we are no ordinary cleaning product company, it's how we came up with Dirt. We also loved the fact that 'Dirt' rallies against the conventional products, which sterilise your house on the inside, while polluting the planet on the outside. The design elements have evolved over time. We have never had a designer in the business, so we engage freelancers to help us with the big jobs.
What about brand building? How are you getting the word out there and how are you going to scale the brand?
We use conventional digital media: facebook, instagram, Pinterest, google etc. We're also playing with OOH at the moment too.
We know that launching a brand is one thing, but getting it to the next level is something entirely different. With that in mind, what's the biggest challenge or challenges you think you'll face moving forward?
The space is becoming crowded, whilst at the same time our ability to market across digital platforms is becoming more restricted. Eventually, a few winners will emerge, and our challenge will be making sure we're one of them!