Generation Y business brings some altruism to Botswana

Sylvia Pennington

Set up a successful business or dedicate your energies to helping make the world a better place for others?

They’re not mutually exclusive, says Gen Y entrepreneur Dustin Leonard, who’s having a good crack at both.

Founded in 2012, his startup, Hero Condoms, has pledged to donate one condom to HIV prevention programs in AIDS-stricken Botswana for each one sold.

Botswana has the second highest HIV infection rate in the world, after Swaziland. According to UNAIDS’ 2014 estimates, 390,000 people are living with the disease, out of a population of a little more than two million.

Educating Botswanans about safe sex and encouraging them to use protection is vital to combatting the further spread of HIV.

To date, Hero has donated more than 575,000 condoms to the cause, and, if all goes to plan, the figure will rise to two million next year.

Expanded distribution across the Aussie retail market has resulted in the company experiencing 400 per cent growth in sales over the past six months.

Hero has pushed its products onto the shelves of more than 1500 stores, including supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, IGA convenience stores and a string of pharmacies.

Establishing a sustainable an altruistic enterprise is no mean feat, and Leonard and his team of three continue to negotiate the usual set of startup challenges.

Yes, the main aim is to help others, but you will never be able to do so if you do not nurture and treat your business as a business.

A philosophy of “getting it done – not perfect” has helped the 29 year old stay the course.

“There is only so much planning you can do and not every obstacle can be anticipated,” Leonard says.

“You are better off doing what you can at the time and strive for continuous improvement.”

He’s also cognizant that having a strong commercial focus is vital if Hero is to achieve its charitable ambitions.

“Yes, the main aim is to help others, but you will never be able to do so if you do not nurture and treat your business as a business,” he says.

“Our goal is to help the government of Botswana reach their initiative of zero new HIV infections. To achieve this, we need to increase our sales significantly, and we are now looking at expansion outside Australia.”

In addition to the satisfaction of building a business from scratch, being at the helm of a social enterprise offers enormous personal rewards.

“Being on the ground in Botswana and interacting with the community inspires me to keep going and put all of my energy into ensuring Hero is successful,” Leonard says.

“When I return to Australia, I’m more and more driven. I know that if we keep at it, we can definitely make an impact.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: Hero Condoms Facebook