The reason The Dirt Company is so important to me.
I’m Frankie, founder of The Dirt Company.
I decided to create a laundry detergent because I saw an opportunity to deliver a better product and experience, in a more sustainable way.
It was an opportunity that I’d been seeking for a better part of a decade: to do good business, resulting in less environmental harm.
I first developed an itch to create a business focussed on sustainability when I was 18. At the time I was working overseas as a stewardess on a boat and loving it. I'm an ocean baby through and through.
One day, I walked to the back of the boat and saw our deckhand throwing bags of rubbish overboard. Shocked, I asked him what he was doing. Shocked back, he responded, where do you think our trash goes? This was 2007.
I pondered and researched and learnt that when we were at sea, it was perfectly legal, and normal to dump whatever you wanted so long as you were 12 nautical miles offshore. (This law was amended in 2013, it’s now illegal to dump certain types of waste, including plastic).
It got me thinking very hard about trash. Until then, in my mind trash had always just "gone away". I didn’t realise ‘away’ meant landfill and often, the ocean - it’s still with us.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But at that time I couldn’t stop thinking about a lot of things. I needed a job to pay rent. I needed money to eat. I wanted a degree. And I wanted to work in another country, so I needed a job that would get me a visa.
I ended up in advertising, surrounded by people whose company I thoroughly enjoyed, but doing work where I often felt a job well done, was a poor result for the things that made me happy. Lifestyle-wise, advertising was giving me everything I needed, but I’d lost the connection to who I was.
I had no idea how to find my way back. I cared about the ocean. I was plagued by consumerism.
Standing in the supermarket aisle one day I was stumped looking at what laundry detergent to buy. I’d moved in with my best friend who was easily irritated by detergent. I wanted a product that worked but was sensitive to her skin and the environment - the impossible brief.
I started to notice other things about the category too. Heaps of excess packaging. Very well disguised cost per wash. Very well hidden ingredients. The list went on. It was like the concept of sustainability had not yet hit the laundry aisle. I could do better. I just knew it.
From development, to getting the first product to our customers, it took two years to create Dirt. To get it off the ground, I brought on three co-founders and enlisted the help of anyone who had hands (or paws).
Clockwise from left: Our first big mix. The product evolution (took two years). The first packing station (our second bedroom (we've thankfully graduated to an office now)). Dad's garage and Dad (our first production house).
There was a lot of hot debate about what was the most sustainable option throughout our inception. It was hard to accept that there is no truly sustainable option - the decisions we made about packaging and product are well documented in our blog.
We believe we create less harm because we’ve made tweaks to the way laundry detergent is created, packaged, and sold. We aim to always do better than everyone else, a challenge that really excites me.
There are things that drive me crazy, things I still can’t wait to improve, and things that I still need to learn. But that’s business.
What matters is we’ve got great products, and an amazing community (each and every single customer is responsible for at least one happy shuffle around the office), and together we’re growing on the first chapter of the Dirt journey.
We’ve made laundry detergent something worth talking about.
I feel so proud of the company we’ve created. And I’m feeling more connected than ever before. I have endless enthusiasm ready to be directed toward the personal mission I share with our company:
To make less harmful products the better choice for everyone.
Thanks for being here for the ride.