At just 26 years old in 2013, entrepreneur Dustin Leonard launched his venture HERO Condoms. The business originally spun-off from a university assignment he was completing in 2012, and now it is a company with a humanitarian cause at its core.
HERO Condoms aims to help end the AIDS epidemic by donating one condom to an AIDS organisation in a developing country for each HERO Condom sold in Australia. HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic affecting 34 million people worldwide. 23.5 million of those affected live in sub-Saharan Africa alone—including 91% of the world’s HIV-positive children.
The company has been growing steadily since its inception, which is a massive feat in and of itself – the condom industry is a saturated one, and a tough nut to crack.
However, through the strategic use of social media (namely Linkedin), Leonard has been able to pursue specific individuals he thought would add value to his organisation, which resulted in him forming a relationship with well regarded retail expert and former Metcash COO Silvestro Morabito.
Until this point, most of Leonard’s traction has come from pharmacies that stock his brand. But given that over 75 per cent of condoms are actually sold in grocery stores, in order to really scale the business he needs to gain significant traction within the mainstream Australian grocery space. Up until now, trying to get a meeting has been extremely difficult.
“I contacted every single grocery retailer in Australia, but no one would even meet with me. I could see that this was going to be a tough market to break into and that I would need some expert guidance and advice,” said Leonard in a statement.
However, now with Morabito acting as a guiding hand for the startup, those introductions into the supermarket space are about to become a lot easier. One of the largest projects Morabito completed throughout his career was the conversion of 300 supermarkets trading under five different banners to IGA branding. He also re-engineered the IGA national and state structures to realise synergies of $7 million and also successfully launched a national marketing campaign which resulted in strong improvements in the brand equity score for the group.
“From introductions to top retailers and wholesalers and providing strategic advice on industry best practice, his vast experience and contacts in retail are helping turn HERO from a small start-up into a mature FMCG company,” says Leonard of his new mentor. “I’ve been learning the tricks of the trade under his guidance for six months, and already HERO Condoms has been stocked on shelves in IGA Supermarkets across the country.”
Leonard has also managed to secure meetings with other major grocery chains, which he hopes will result in broadening HERO Condoms’ distribution footprint even further across the country.
When it comes to getting products with a social message into the giant grocery chains like Woolworths and Coles it’s a hard road to trek with lots of hoops to jump through. However it is not impossible.
In 2013 social enterprise Thankyou ran a national campaign via YouTube to attract attention that ended up getting their water, muesli, and hygiene products stocked by the big retailers. With Durex, Ansell, and Four Seasons condoms already dominating shelf space in these stores, if a ‘tester’ period is granted to HERO Condoms, Leonard and his team will have to run some type of mainstream-focused awareness campaign to keep them there.
Like with any product from washing powder to tampons, shoppers form habits buying their ‘usual’ brands week in and week out. It often takes a combination of ‘new brand’ recognition and price point for them to stray from what’s normal and try out something new.