The Dirt Company · Frankie Layton

Some people create businesses to make an impact on the planet. Frankie's business is one of those.

August 9, 2022
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  • The Dirt Company
  • Founders - Frankie Layton
  • Based in Sydney
  • Started in 2017
  • 1 founder & 5 -10 employees

Frankie, what's your backstory?

I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. When I was 18, I left Melbourne to work on the SuperYachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. There I developed a deep love of the ocean and a passion for sustainability. We were living in the most beautiful environments I have ever seen and - as an industry, treating these environments worse than I ever knew possible.

I returned to Australia to finish a university degree with a strong resolve to do something about the way we treat our planet.

Tell us what your company does?

We're on a mission to make laundry products that do less harm the best choice for everyone. 

We use smart design and smart formulations to bring customers a product that they can unexpectedly fall in love with because; 

  • Our bottles are beautiful. They are a point of pride in your laundry. 
  • Our formulations are pure, safe and powerful. 
  • We reuse all our packaging and create no waste. 
  • We deliver great value (to your door) 
  • We spend our profits on impact initiatives that are designed to keep waste out of the ocean. 

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came to me in the laundry aisle in 2016. I was standing there thinking how much I didn't want to figure out what to purchase. It was confusing and underwhelming; I just wanted something that worked, that was cost-effective, but maybe also paid attention to the modern purchase desire to cast a vote for something good with my money.

I decided the cleaning aisle and, more specifically, the laundry section might just be my opportunity. I created a spreadsheet titled "Why my product is better than yours" and continued to workshop my idea until I was satisfied I had a winner.

How did you go about building and launching the business?

The challenge was finding the experts we needed. Then to motivate them without a large capital investment. Our website was developed by my co-founder Josh, who worked for equity in the business initially. Our first packaging run was delivered as a favour for a friend who did a lot of business with this particular company. My Dad's garage was our first workspace.

Our primary investment was in our formula. It was the only thing I wasn't prepared to 'hustle' on. It had to be good.

How have you grown the business?

I launched the business while I was still at work. Here's how it went. 

  • In 2017, I was juggling a job and the business. It was hectic. 
  • Early 2018, I burnt out. Decided to officially quit working and gave myself 6 months to turn over $20,000 per month. We achieved it in 4. 
  • 2019, I nearly gave the business up. I couldn't figure out why we kept getting bigger and bigger, but we still couldn't cover our costs. We hired financial help, who let us know we would be able to cover our costs within 1 month. He was right.
  • 2019 our first employee.   
  • 2020 business has more than doubled. I started paying myself $50 per day initially.
  • 2021 business has doubled again. 
  • 2022 we employ about 9 people in various capacities and are starting to find firepower for new growth ideas. It's exciting. 

What's your biggest selling product/service?

iOur laundry detergent starter pack, although our newer advanced wash, is starting to shine very brightly too.

What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?

Oh gosh, too many to count. From misprints on packaging to trying to launch products too quickly and having them fall short, to falling for scams, to using the wrong materials to carry laundry detergent through the post. I think the best lesson is to expect to get it wrong. You are not an expert in that thing you have never done, so budget for the mistake.

What's next for you and your business?

We're really excited about a new product we've got launching in September, I think it'll be the best in class, and it's been in development for two years. We're also exploring new market launches, but that feels like it might be a while away.

What digital tools do you use regularly?

Google suite, Shopify, Recharge, Klaviyo, Slack, Meta, and come to mind.

What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?

'Let my people go surfing and 'A beautiful constraint' are two of my business bibles.

Any podcast/websites that help you run your business?

Not really, I'm a business book nerd, and I listen to one a month through Audible.

What quotes do you live by?

"Put one dumb foot in front of the other and course-correct as you go."

That's by a guy called Barry Diller. Although I know very little about him, I cannot tell you how humbling this mantra has been for me on the journey of business success and failure.

What do you love and hate about being a founder?

I can be lonely. I think there is a void between perception and reality, and anxiety lives there. The launch process goes; have an idea, convince yourself it will work, convince others it will work and don't falter. It's how you get the idea of 'buy in'.

Most founders are ideological people who prefer; 'I've got this wild idea, and I'm not sure if it's going to go, but jeez, I hope it does". That's not really a rallying point, though, is it?!

What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?

Find my people (generally other business owners), and overshare everything. I'm not sure how healthy it is for my business, but it's how I keep my head straight.

What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?

You've got to get yourself in so deep that it will cost you more to fail.
While every job has its challenges, being a founder makes those challenges quite personal. One common way to mitigate this is to keep one foot out the door when you're launching. It keeps you sheltered from the business (ahem, personal) blows. But it'll also make it quite challenging to succeed.

Where can people find out more about your business?

Facebook: @thedirtycompany

Instagram: @thedirtcompany

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