Purpose Incorporated: A primer for brands in APAC
This article is part of a special series on how brands in APAC can go beyond profit to do good and do better for themselves and others. Read more.
Non-WARC subscribers can read this series in its entirety by accessing the articles via the landing page.
Why it matters
Selling eco-friendly products means participating in habits that are intrinsically better for the environment and SimplyGood provides cost-friendly sustainable practices that consumers can easily adopt without even realising they are supporting sustainable living through these products.
- SimplyGood aims to promote the circular economy, where customers can create cleaning solutions from dehydrated tablets with reusable bottles and tap water.
- Being purpose-driven has helped the startup to stay innovative and break industry norms.
- One big challenge is fighting negative consumer perception around the effectiveness of natural, bio-based products.
Having sold over 15,000 cleaning tablets in Singapore within the first year, Jeremy Lee believes he’s on the right track and is exactly at the place he envisioned for his brand. The founder and CEO of SimplyGood, a sustainable cleaning solutions startup that boasts “superior cleaning power”, “non-toxic ingredients” and “eco-friendly packaging” is part of the sustainability fight through the company’s mission: Reduction of single-use plastic and carbon pollution from the home.
For now, SimplyGood has an all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and a window and glass cleaner with tablets that become sprayable solutions when dissolved in water. With this, the brand contributes to the circular economy wherein customers recycle their glass water bottles, reduce plastic waste and use tap water.
Speaking to WARC, Lee explains the mechanics of running a startup whose purpose is deeply embedded in its raison d'être.
“It’s very important to know ‘why’ you want to exist first before you do business. For us, the ‘why’ is very clear in terms of being an environmental impact-driven company,” he says.
This is also why the brand can challenge industry norms, move big boundaries and innovate. Lee claims SimplyGood’s products are 300x lighter and 200x smaller than industry norms, allowing sizeable savings in logistics costs. Consumers can also save on storage space.
He also believes that having a purpose-first brand “communicates our capacity in effecting real change than having it the other way around”.
“You cannot leave toxic waste in the environment when you’re trying to be good.”
Selling more eco-friendly products also means participating in habits intrinsically better for the environment. Lee feels the entire process is systemic. He tells WARC what sustainability means for SimplyGood and what is the brand’s ultimate mission.
WARC: Tell us about SimplyGood's genesis. How was the company born, what is its purpose and how has it evolved?
SimplyGood is a year-old sustainable home care brand. We dehydrate cleaning tablets and ship them to your doorstep, thereby reducing single-use plastic and carbon emissions from the home care industry. So we are an e-commerce B2C brand that sells eco-friendly cleaning products. How we started is actually a pretty funny story.
I have been a serial sustainability-driven entrepreneur all my life. The company was a spinoff from my previous startup – UglyGood – where I was the co-founder for four years. We took fruit waste – orange peels, rinds, etc – and created natural cleaning agents. Although we did well in terms of fruit-based recycling, we generated single-use plastic waste at the same time.
Being in the cleaning industry meant we know that up to 96% of our formulation contained water. There was a point where we thought, “How can we make our products better?” We had to make our supply chain more efficient too. In all of this, we realised that the problem was really with the liquid-based solution. That’s how we arrived at a dehydrated formula and SimplyGood was born.
WARC: What goes into the product now?
SimplyGood tablets consist of a purely powder-based dehydrated formula comprising citric acid and sodium bicarbonate, carbonate, and also some plant-based ingredients that are pressed into a tablet format. We try to solve the plastic problem with this. We encourage consumers and the circular economy where they reuse their plastic bottles at home and use the water at home to make the final cleaning solution.
It is a spinoff company from UglyGood because it is made for a different purpose – looking to address plastic wastage, reducing carbon emissions, and made from a different process and manufacturing formula as well.
WARC: Can you explain how you weave “doing good” into your business model?
What’s different with companies like SimplyGood is that we maintained the purpose in our business right from day one. Take the cleaning tablets, for instance – they are natural and used to promote a circular economy; they help consumers recycle their bottles. It’s a product we innovated with by keeping the environment in mind.
Herein, there’s also a systemic angle of reducing carbon emissions. We design products with this concept first on a product level, then at a system level and finally at a business level.
WARC: What do your revenue targets look like?
We’ve currently sold about 15,000 tablets so far and we are on track to do about six figures. It’s a good start. Hereon, we are looking in the APAC region to bring our products into countries like Australia, Japan, Taiwan and closer to home, in the Southeast Asian region. We set our goals in front, allowing us to reduce single-use plastics. We are looking to bring down the use of single-use plastic bottles by at least a million.
Outside of the environment, we are looking at SGD$2 million to SGD$3 million in two years on the revenue front. We are looking at this more from an e-commerce scalable approach than a regional reach basis.
WARC: What kind of consumer are you targeting?
Currently, our consumer base mostly consists of women aged 30-55. They make up 75% of our consumers. This base also has a lot of young mothers who care for their kids’ safety. Our products are 100% natural and plant-based, so they are extremely safe for children.
WARC: What is your pricing strategy? This is important because sustainability or veganism-led products are perceived to be more costly.
The pricing strategy was on our minds from day one. First, we looked at the market we wanted to address. The cleaning market in Singapore has several players – chemical-based options by Unilever and P&G, then there are Dettol and Mr Muscle, etc across this space. They cost about SGD$4.99 for 500 ml in plastic bottles. The cost goes up by 2x or 3x when you look at natural, plant-based products. So in Singapore, you probably have brands that promote natural cleaning which will cost you about SGD$7 to SGD$15 per 500 ml.
At SimplyGood, we have priced our products at SGD$4.99 for 500 ml. This way, we have provided consumers with natural, safe options at the same price as the chemical-based cleaners.
WARC: What kind of holistic, long-term impact do you ultimately wish to have on the world?
We are trying to spread sustainable living from home to the rest of the world. We want to enable people to easily adopt sustainable practices. The common man who is interested in this topic also needs the adoption to be easy and cost-friendly. At SimplyGood, we want to make this a consumer’s choice to participate in sustainable living. It would be amazing if consumers didn’t even realise they are supporting sustainable living through our products. Our mission is to really be synonymous with day-to-day living.
To translate that into actionable terms, we first need to spread into the market more aggressively and to the rest of the world. We also need to expand our product ranges, which isn’t possible in the current three-product range that we have.
WARC: What kind of marketing strategies do you employ? How do customers learn about you?
We had a very digital-first approach in the first year. We also invest a lot in digital marketing and you will find us on Facebook and Instagram, and the usual channels. These are the basics that help us in our competency and in building a community. Our customers are joining us through email and engagements. This is how we acquire new customers and also retain customers.
We also realised that on the digital front for some of us, it can get really expensive but the customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the name of the game when you want to do an e-commerce-based business. And we’ve been trying to find how can we lower this. For starters, we’ve been thinking of a B2B and B2C approach, currently working with proper partners to go through the right channels to reach consumers.
WARC: What are the challenges you have faced in marketing your product?
Challenges are something we are still experiencing. When you tell someone that you know you are an eco-friendly brand that’s looking to achieve sustainability, people somehow assume that the product won’t be very good. They believe it might not be as effective as the mainstream products because they contain bio-based natural options. The general perception is that chemicals make the products stronger.
I don’t blame consumers because we are taught this as a society. We’ve learned that cost and effectiveness are important if you want to sell cleaning products, maybe even overstating their eco-friendliness. As a business, you have to help consumers understand your concept first.