From launching a charity based on “pinching” hotel toiletries to growing an “army’’ of 2,500 volunteers, Pinchapoo CEO Kate Austin knows a thing or two about persistence – as well as the power of marketing.
Kate is our guest on this month’s blog – the first in a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and small business owners – and reveals her thoughts on everything from branding to social media and “old-school” marketing techniques.
What is Pinchapoo?
Pinchapoo’s mission is to support Australians experiencing “hygiene poverty”.
In the space of just 12 years Kate and her team have helped millions of Australians in desperate need of products such as toiletries – including the homeless, refugees, domestic abuse victims as well as people in crisis and reeling from disasters such as floods and fires.
Pinchapoo today works with more than 700 organisations, community groups and government agencies throughout the country, rescuing and repurposing more than 500 tonnes of toiletries destined for landfill each year.
Don’t be afraid to create a brand in your own language
While many organisations get bogged down in the business of branding and corporate tone, Kate has never been afraid to inject her own personality front and centre.
“Pinchapoo” – short for Pinch a Shampoo – is “cheeky, bold, a bit out of the box and 100 per cent me”, according to Kate.
“I was in the shower and the name just hit me. It’s a door opener and a conversation starter – even to this day people will pull up beside me at the traffic lights and want to know what it means,’’ she says.
“Initially I was told I couldn’t use a name like that – which made it even more right.”
Know your ‘why’ and think big
Before Pinchapoo was born, Kate’s initial idea was to gather enough products through friends and family “pinching” hotel toiletries provided to them on holiday getaways and donating these to a local women’s shelter.
The initial idea sprang from a deeply personal experience.
Kate was forced to leave home suddenly as a teenager and the only thing she grabbed was her toothbrush – all that she felt she truly needed to make her “feel human”.
Over the years, the experience has proved a powerful driving motive and a “why” for setting up the organisation.
“We gathered together what I thought was a great donation, but when I excitedly rang the shelter to tell them about what I had, they turned me away,’’ says Kate.
“It was in that moment I realised I had no pitch. I realised I had to go back to the drawing board, work out what my offer was and create a brand.
“The first few years were an incredibly hard slog. I thought about giving it all up a million times over.”
“I knew however that I had to change my small-minded vision and shift up on our goals.”
Fast forward to today, and Pinchapoo now distributes around 10,000 packs of hygiene products each week.
Right now, the team is planning its biggest ever fundraising and awareness event.
A bold example of old-school activation, they’re organising a world record for the largest word (#HYGIENEPOVERTY) made out of tables at a special event at Caulfield Racecourse on 5 December 2021.
Sponsors are being urged to engage their customer and supplier networks to purchase a letter for $5,000 each and support the cause.
“Although one in six Australian families have to choose between being able to afford food or basic hygiene products each week, it’s still not a talk that people want to take about.
“That’s why we are planning this event. While we could have aimed smaller, we knew a world record event would help attract attention and get the discussion going.’’
Connections – not shiny, new objects – are what counts in marketing
“Pinchapoo was founded in the days before social media was a thing,’’ says Kate.
“Although we have a number of wonderful tools now to help get our message out, much of our early traction relied heavily on word of mouth.
“About six years in, it all started to come together and we suddenly went from being a toiletry pinching movement to bringing major partners on board to help us with supply of products.”
“It was almost as if we’d reached a certain tipping point and it was ready to take off.”
Underlying it all is a commitment to working collaboratively.
“This extends from our wonderful Poo Army of volunteers to our partners,” says Kate. “While we have almost 10,000 followers on Facebook, I still believe it is important to connect with people face to face.”
“I believe that this sense of connection is what makes all these people want to be involved and work with you.”
To get involved with Pinchapoo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest Author: Darren Grant
Founder of Smart Arty Content
An experienced media and PR specialist – and professional cartoonist – Darren is also most notably a self-professed lifelong cycling tragic. By day, he works on a wide array of interesting projects. By evening, he’s most often on the garage bike trainer in the vain hope of resurrecting the glory days of youth.