Eight years ago, Justine Flynn was one of a passionate group of young students who launched a social enterprise known as Thankyou.
Initially their idea was to address the global water crisis by tapping into Australia’s bottled water industry – worth an estimated annual $600 million despite the nation having clean, accessible water in almost every household.
Fast forward to 2016 and Thankyou now has water, food and body care products stocked in over 4000 outlets across Australia. As a social enterprise, 100% of its profits are used to distribute funds to life-changing food, water and hygiene and sanitation programs around the world.
And the really impressive figures? Thankyou has given over $4 million to projects across 17 different countries, and funded safe water access for nearly 200,000 people, provided hygiene and sanitation programs for over 300,000 and access to over 19 million days’ worth of short-term food aid plus funding for long-term sustainable food projects.
With Daniel Flynn (her husband) and his best mate Jarryd Burns, Justine is the co-founder and director of Thankyou and their aim is to tackle poverty with a broad-focused, holistic approach.
She says she initially chose Deakin’s Bachelor of Management because of her keen interest in business and human resources.
‘However when I began Thankyou I realised my passion for marketing, so I quickly changed it to a double major. Deakin had a great reputation and its off-campus program made my study very do-able while we worked hard to launch Thankyou.’
Justine says the program’s flexibility contributed to her ability to grow Thankyou while successfully completing her degree.
‘Without the amazing online program and flexibility, I’d either have had to choose whether to continue with Thankyou or to do my degree. However I could have the best of both worlds. It gave me real-life skills and an in-depth understanding of business and marketing. As part of the degree’s internship program I also organised Thankyou’s first Gala – it was a great learning experience.’
Balancing her study load between on and off-campus units, Justine says the support of Deakin’s academics was invaluable.
‘The lecturers were phenomenal. They really take care of the students as individuals. I still keep in touch with some of them,’ she recalls.
Justine now oversees Thankyou’s ‘Brand and People’ team, which incorporates the organisation’s people and culture (their word for human resources), marketing, communications and creative functions.
Also passionate about establishing positive workplace cultures and driving social change, Justine has a growing list of accolades.
She was a finalist in the 2014 Telstra Women’s Business Awards, has been listed as one of Marie Claire’s 30 Women Changing the World (2015) and her work in establishing Thankyou’s people and culture environment was recognised at the 2015 Food Magazine awards where the organisation took out Employer of the Year.
While now also balancing her work responsibilities with parenthood, Justine is continuing to focus on the growth of Thankyou with the new Thankyou baby range launching later this year, followed by the launch of Thankyou New Zealand.
Her advice to those considering a similar study pathway is to make the most of Deakin’s industry-experience opportunities.
‘It's not easy to juggle work and study, but Deakin supports it students so well and balancing responsibilities is great preparation for the future. Working whilst studying helps you gain a much better understanding of what you’re learning at the time and how to apply it directly. Find internships or volunteer – do whatever you can do to get this opportunity.’