You may have heard the phrase, “the reluctant entrepreneur,” but how about “the reluctant humanitarian?” It wasn’t that Shawn Seipler and his founding partner at Clean the World, Paul Till, didn’t care about people; of course they did. They just weren’t planning to start a charity that would address one of the leading causes of infant death in the world – namely, a simple lack of hygiene. A staggering two million children a year never reach the age of five, because they succumb to diarrheal and respiratory diseases. Amazingly, many experts estimate that 50 percent of those deaths could be prevented with the use of soap and water.
Before Clean the World, Seipler and Till were two aspiring marketers looking to create their own business, which would be “green” or “sustainability” focused. Seipler, at that time, spent about four nights a week in hotels and once asked the question, “What do these places do with the soap and shampoo provided to guests after they are used once?” After making a few calls he had his answer — they are thrown away. It was the opportunity they were looking for. Since there are approximately 50,000 hotels in the country, they discovered that nearly 1 million bars of soap were being tossed out every day!
That is when the entrepreneurial “what if” arose in Seipler’s mind. What if all that soap, shampoo and those plastic containers were recycled? But as they researched the project they came face to face with a problem, or perhaps an opportunity, that neither of them had counted on – the information we mentioned earlier. Call it an “epiphany, a realization, an opportunity, a responsibility,” Seipler and Till knew they had to respond to the call, or perhaps it was a cry, and begin to focus their marketing and business acumen on meeting this incredible need.
Though Clean the World has only been around for a few years, their success wasn’t exactly overnight. Both men practically went bankrupt trying to convince hoteliers to partner with them in their mission. As Seipler recalls, “It was the worse time to approach the hospitality industry; we were in the middle of a recession. But in another sense it was the best time; Clean the World was the perfect union of environmental and humanitarian concerns.” It was a concept that appealed to the industry and the Clean the World brand is quickly becoming a visible symbol of social consciousness.
In their first three years, Clean the World collected, recycled and distributed over 12 million bars of soap to people in over 65 countries and to the homeless here in the U.S., while keeping over 750 tons of material out of landfills. One of the keys to the continued growth and success of their operation is that from a marketing, managerial, logistical and manufacturing perspective they would be the envy of any company.
Clean the World continues to expand into other countries under Seipler’s and Till’s leadership, offering their recycling services, while advancing a global hygiene revolution.