David Simnick of Georgetown-based Soapbox is making an impact in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
By the time news of the coronavirus spread, the world was bombarded with clean hands messaging. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes sold out everywhere almost instantly. Being in the business of soap and hand hygiene, David Simnick’s company, Soapbox, got to work. Within 24 hours they were churning out orders for major retailers including Starbucks, Walgreens and Wegmans to produce hand sanitizer—a normal month of production pre-coronavirus that was around 160,000 sold units became seven million practically overnight. Not too shabby a response for an operation that started out of Simnick’s American University dormitory with the Google search “how to make soap” 10 years ago.
The nimble company uses the “buy one, give one” model so that when any Soapbox purchase is made a bar of soap is donated to one of its various humanitarian partners stateside or abroad. Besides an undeniable business savvy, Simnick insists that the social mission begets its profit goals, not the other way around. “We are a mission- driven company that figured out how to sell personal care products in order to fuel a greater impact in the world,” he explains.With the uptick in commercial orders, the company is on target to donate 20 millions bars by year’s end.
Washington Life: Give us the rundown of your journey into the world of soap.
David Simnick: It all started back in 2010. I worked as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.While there I saw the need for better hygiene around the world and here at home. I never thought I was going to be in the soap business, but it was the mission that drove the team and [me] into creating natural, sustainable, beautifully designed products that for every one sold meant being able to donate to someone truly in need.
WL: Soapbox is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. how has your business model evolved over the last decade?
DS: Surprisingly, the mission has not evolved at all.We’ve always been driven by the impact that we’re able to make with our partners. The business side has changed drastically! Our first couple of designs were awful. Creating exciting packaging has changed everything for the business and our growth.
WL: As Soapbox Grows, how do you ensure sustainability?
DS: We’ve been on the cutting edge with trying to remove plastic from our products as well as using recycled plastic in our packaging. Our shampoo bars are some of the highest rated products in the market and they remove 98 percent of plastic that would have been used if you were to buy a regular bottle of shampoo.
WL: Washing hands has suddenly become a hot topic with the spread of Covid-19. how has soapbox become a part of the conversation?
DS: We’ve been telling people to wash their hands for over 20 seconds using the World Health Organization method for 10 years.We will continue to tell people to use this method long after this crisis has passed. Health and hygiene are so important in our daily lives and we’re proud to play our small role in educating and furthering the right type of hygiene practices to ensure that we stop COVID.
WL: Can you share a story or moment that affirmed your socially-driven mission?
DS: There have been multiple stories and moments in my personal life where I’ve been working with our aid partners in a homeless shelter or around the globe where I get to see the joy that comes with providing access to healthy hygiene.Those moments of seeing children laugh and play while washing their hands will remain with me for my whole life. Each of our customers make this possible and it is because of them that we will be able to do so much more.
Advice to Budding Entrepreneurs:
“Resilience and grit are what define the most successful entrepreneurs I know. If you decide to become an entrepreneur because you want to make a lot of money very fast, this probably will not work out. Building something from scratch often takes incredible dedication and sacrifice … and too often it does not happen overnight.”
This article appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Washington Life magazine.