Student saw aid projects weren’t tackling hygiene, so he got up on his SoapBox

According to UNICEF, diarrhea is the leading cause of death among children under age 5 worldwide. Unsafe drinking water, lack of sanitation, and poor hygiene cause roughly 60 percent of these deaths.
June 15, 2018 4:04 pm Last Updated: June 30, 2018 10:30 am

Sometimes even with the best intentions, other worthy causes can get forgotten or overlooked. This man was working on international aid projects when he recognized a need that wasn’t being adequately addressed. Now, he’s making a big impact and quite literally cleaning up.

In 2009, Dave Simnick began subcontracting for Carana, a company that designs and directs economic growth strategies. His job was to contact the leaders of USAID  (United States Agency for International Development) projects and put together proposals for new projects.

As a result, Simnick learned more and more about the inner workings of USAID regarding its programming and funding.

He began to notice projects that went well, and others that didn’t.

(Courtesy of Ali Krueger)

Simnick was privy to the reports from USAID’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene department (WASH), and noticed an issue that wasn’t being addressed.

There wasn’t a focus on the H: hygiene.

“The more that I looked at all the different research, I was just like, huh? I don’t think there’s really that big of a focus on hygiene, and that’s where I wanted to change that,” Simnick explained to The Epoch Times.

Simnick realized that access to clean water and sanitation was critical, but without a focus on hygiene, clean water and sanitation wouldn’t be as effective as they could be.

According to UNICEF, diarrhea is the leading cause of death among children under age 5 worldwide.

Unsafe drinking water, lack of sanitation, and poor hygiene cause roughly 60 percent of these deaths.

(Courtesy of Ali Krueger)

Hand washing with soap can reduce the chance of having diarrhea by 40 percent.

Simnick became aware of these statistics while working for Carana, and realized something as simple as soap could have a monumental impact on world health.

He and friends considered starting a non-profit to address the issue of hygiene, but they encountered the usual problems when trying to set up a non-profit organization.

They would have to raise money non-stop, hold galas, and ultimately depend on donations.

That’s when Simnick called his childhood friend Eric Vong, and they came up with an idea.

(Courtesy of Ali Krueger)

Simnick and Vong thought why not start a for-profit business that could sustain the goal of providing soap and hygiene education to underserved populations?

Sometimes a large change can come from humble beginnings.

Simnick made his first bar of soap in his own apartment. He searched the internet for ingredients, equipment, and instructions for making soap, and went for it.

“I think a lot of my roommates thought I was crazy,” Simnick recalled.

Simnick was alumni auditing a class on entrepreneurship at American University in Washington, D.C., and met a friend named Dan Doll.

Doll became interested in the mission, and they worked on a business plan for a soap company as a class project. 

Once he had perfected his homemade soap, he began distributing it to small local retailers. Simnick’s soap business, SoapBox, was born in 2010.

The team’s first big break was when they convinced a series of Whole Foods stores to buy their soap.

(Courtesy of Ali Krueger)

Simnick and his team were working other full-time jobs when their soap business began to take off.

In 2014, the team had a meeting with Target, and that’s when the business exploded. The company had expanded from soap to other hygiene products such as shampoo as well, all produced in Indiana.

Throughout the creation of SoapBox, it was the mission to provide soap and better hygiene education worldwide that sustained their efforts.

SoapBox’s latest partnership with Marriott has led to the donation of 1.4 million bars of soap.

(Courtesy of Ali Krueger)

For every SoapBox product that’s purchased, a bar of soap is donated to someone in need domestically or across the globe. Over half of their donations go to homeless shelters in the U.S.

Furthermore, all of the soap that is donated is made from recycled soap from hotels, making the mission even more self sustaining.

They also work with local soapmakers in the countries they support, and are mindful not to cause more harm than good in the communities they serve.

“Giving away thousands of bars of soap hurts local soap makers, and could put them out of business. Our model supports local economies while providing soap and hygiene education,” the SoapBox website states.

With almost 3 million bars of soap donated, and counting, Simnick has to be proud of how far they’ve come—and they’re still growing.

“I think it’s so cool. Yeah, it’s fun to build a business, but it’s a whole other thing to see the impact that you do in the world and through our partners,” Simnick said.

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Posted by SoapBox Soaps on Thursday, April 27, 2017