Culture + Style

Clean Living: How 2 Entrepreneurs Create a Global Impact, One Bar of Soap at a Time

Hygiene — that is, personal cleanliness — is probably something you take for granted.

Chances are, if you have access to a laptop or smartphone to read articles like this one, you likely also have access to soap, shampoo and other items that help you clean your body with relative regularity.

And that makes you lucky, considering that data from the World Health Organization suggests that every minute, a newborn dies from an infection caused by lack of safe water or an unclean environment.

It’s a jarring statistic some hope to change.

Daniel Doll and Dave Simnick, the 30-year-old founders of a Washington, D.C.–based soap company named Soapbox, intend to make the world a cleaner place. The duo founded the company in 2014 to improve personal care in needful communities by donating soap and the knowledge of how to use it effectively.

Through a new partnership with Delta Hotels by Marriott, Soapbox will now be able to give more than 2 million bars of soap annually to those in need.

soapbox
(Photo: Sharon Radisch-Eco Soap Bank 2017)

As part of the agreement, Delta Hotels will offer in-room amenity kits by Soapbox. Each kit will correspond to a soap donation that helps an area or organization in need. Kits will also contain a unique code that guests can use online to look up which regions the donations will help.

We're working to improve the lives, health and dignity of those we serve.

Dave Simnick

By plugging in the codes, guests will see exactly where their stay is making an impact. As Simnick explains, the result is an interactive experience that gives guests a chance to support “voluntourism” simply by spending the night.

“What we do is about so much more than just soap,” he says. “We’re working to improve the lives, health and dignity of those we serve. Now all people have to do to support us is stay at a Delta.”

How It Works

Generally speaking, the Soapbox model is simple: For every bar of soap company customers purchase, Soapbox donates one bar of soap to someone in need, either domestically or abroad.

Many of the soaps go to nonprofits helping the poor. Others go to homeless shelters and orphanages.

Donated bars have a special connection to the travel industry: They are made from recycled hotel soaps that have been shaved down, sanitized and reformed to make a new bar. Overseas, in nations such as India, Haiti and Cambodia, Soapbox tries to procure underused or unused soaps from local artisans.

soapbox
(Photo: Sharon Radisch-Eco Soap Bank 2017)

So far, as of press time, Soapbox had donated nearly 3 million bars of soap worldwide. The soaps are paraben-free and contain argan oil.

But the soaps themselves are only part of the Soapbox mission. In addition, the company works with nonprofits that teach the importance of hand-washing etiquette and general personal cleanliness through the nonprofits’ hygiene ambassador programs. Doll says nonprofit-backed social workers have taught more than 100 lessons so far.

“When it comes to international disasters, washing is the first line of defense,” he says. “It’s not enough to give people soap; it’s also important to teach them how to use it the right way and how to incorporate it into their everyday lives.”

The Delta Hotels partnership alone will result in an additional 2 million bars of donated soap annually.

Importance of Partnerships

While Soapbox currently has products sold in big-box stores across the country, the partnership with Delta Hotels enables the company to break into an entirely different market: travel.

Doll and Simnick estimate the Delta Hotels partnership alone will result in an additional 2 million bars of donated soap annually, and they expect to top 4 million bars donated before the end of the year. What’s more, Doll notes that he and Simnick spoke to Delta Hotels about creating noninvasive signage such as in-room television video content to inform guests about the company and its mission.

Delta Hotels officials are certainly excited about the partnership. Greg Durrer, global brand leader for Delta Hotels, says he and his colleagues were drawn to Soapbox because of the company’s straightforward mission and commitment to quality.

soapbox
(Photo: Sharon Radisch-Eco Soap Bank 2017)

“This is an exciting step for our brand and reflects the strong commitment we have to deliver a premium experience to our guests while supporting communities and giving hope to people in need all over the world,” he wrote in a recent email. “We are excited to offer our guests a very high-quality bath amenity and continue to advance the positive impact on communities due to the bars of soap.”

Lessons to Learn

Looking forward, both Doll and Simnick say they hope the Soapbox model (and the partnership with Delta Hotels) inspires travelers to do more to engage with local communities and relief agencies as they travel.

Simnick adds that if Soapbox gets even a small group of travelers to think about sustainable travel and making a difference on the road, the company has succeeded.

“So often people travel without considering the bigger picture,” he says. “If we can tie our mission with great products, we can achieve our goal of helping people partake in leaving the world a better place by doing nothing other than using in-room amenities or buying the product that is six inches to the right of the one they bought last time.”


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