I’ll never forget the feeling we had walking into the doors of 7-Eleven Australia back in 2011 after running a smaller but similar campaign to the one we’re running now. We’d had national media coverage and thousands had showed their support on the 7-Eleven Australia Facebook page. The reason we ran the campaign was because most retailers wouldn’t put a product in unless they knew there was millions of dollars to go into advertising to raise awareness.
We didn’t have that, so we had to get a bit creative in how we’d prove there was awareness behind the products. I’ll be honest, prior to this meeting beginning, we were pretty nervous.
When you’ve seen poverty firsthand, it changes you in a profound way. We knew that this decision by 7-Eleven Australia could go on to change thousands of families’ lives forever, but at the same time, if they didn’t say yes, we would in a sense have failed. When I say that, I don’t mean we’d have failed ourselves, but instead we’d have failed the families who would still have to live each day without safe water. You might be thinking that we put too much pressure on ourselves back then, but the truth is when you meet a family stuck in poverty it changes everything. To us, at the end of the day it hadn’t been about a ‘deal’ or a ‘product’, it had always been about people.
We walked in the door and I’ll never forget the look on the faces of the two people we met with (who have now become friends). If I were to sum the look up in a sentence it would be something like, ‘Who do you young punks think you are?’ (that’s just my opinion). I don’t blame them. If I were in their position I’d have been thinking exactly the same thing.
However, then something remarkable happened. After the one-hour presentation, they sat there looking genuinely impressed. We’d presented a proper commercial offer just like any other supplier would have, but I believe they saw something they’d never seen before. While 7-Eleven Australia already supported many great Australia charities, they saw an opportunity to make a global impact by doing something that was core to their business – selling drinks. We left that meeting all smiles. Over the coming weeks we answered all the tough questions they threw our way.
Then on 7/7/11 (an uncanny date) at 3:34pm, I received a one-line email from 7-Eleven Australia to ‘please call’. The reason I mention the time is because at 3pm that day I began my shift at Vodafone, my second job. For the first three years we weren’t paid so we had to work second jobs at nights and on the weekends. I asked my boss if I could use the bathroom quickly (I honestly did need to go, which was probably nerves) and I called 7-Eleven back in one of the shopping center service hallways. It was a quick phone call but one of the most memorable ones of my life.
They went on to roll the product out in record-breaking time and over the coming months we saw them not just sell our product, but partner with the vision. They even took out their own home brand to give us more fridge space and a lower price point so we could sell more water and help more people!
If you look at the petrol convenience world you’ll see 7-Eleven Australia have a couple of big competitors. They all have one thing in common; since 2011 they have all sold bottled water. But 7-Eleven, in that short time, have gone on to do something truly remarkable, which is that they have helped over 40,000 people get access to safe water. That number continues to grow daily. The numbers are powerful because every number represents a person and if that person was you, you’d be grateful.
Now for the big question. What’s going to happen in the coming days as we present to Coles and Woolworths?
I don’t know the outcome but I do know this – thousands of Australians have shown their support and national media have backed the idea. There’s a fair chance myself and the team will be pretty nervous. There may even be a chance that the look on their faces as we walk in will be, ‘Who do you young punks think you are?’. We’ll present for an hour. It will be followed with a lot of tough questions and after that there will be two phone calls.
Two phone calls that could empower Australians to live every day, give every day.
Two phone calls that could literally change the course of history.