Driven by an unwavering belief that it was possible to create a sustainable washing detergent, Frankie Layton created The Dirt Company.
An all-natural and organic plant based liquid washing detergent delivered in refillable aluminium bottles, Dirt is a game changer. We sat down with Frankie to learn more about her inspirational business..
Tell us about Dirt and how it started.
I created a laundry detergent because I saw an opportunity to deliver a better product and experience, in a more sustainable way. It's an opportunity that I’d been seeking for the better part of a decade: to do good business, resulting in less environmental harm.
I first developed an itch to create a business focussed on sustainability when I was 18. At the time I was working overseas as a stewardess on a boat and loving it. I'm an ocean baby through and through.
One day, I walked to the back of the boat and saw our deckhand throwing bags of rubbish overboard. Shocked, I asked him what he was doing. He responded, where do you think our trash goes? This was 2007.
I researched and learned that when we were at sea, it was perfectly normal to dump whatever you wanted so long as you were 12 nautical miles offshore. (This law was amended in 2013, it’s now illegal to dump certain waste, including plastic).
It got me thinking very hard about trash. Until then, in my mind trash had always just "gone away". I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But at that time I couldn’t stop thinking about a lot of things. I wanted a degree. I needed a job. I needed to eat & pay rent.
I ended up in advertising, surrounded by great people, but doing work where I often felt a job well done, was a poor result for the things that made me happy. I’d lost the connection to work I believed in.
I had no idea how to find my way back. I cared about the ocean. I was plagued by consumerism and trash.
Standing in the supermarket aisle one day I was stumped about which laundry detergent to buy. I’d moved in with my best friend who was easily irritated by detergent. I wanted a product that worked but was sensitive to her skin and the environment - the impossible brief.
I started to notice other things too. Heaps of excess packaging. Very well disguised cost per wash. Hidden ingredients. The list went on. It was like the concept of sustainability had not yet hit the laundry aisle. I could do better.
It took two years to develop Dirt. A laundry detergent with a focus on what matters; a great product that does less harm.
I think the best part about a company firmly rooted in a purpose or mission, is that staying inspired is the easy part. The care factor doesn't switch on and off, its innate in my beliefs, and those of our staff. Motivation to do actual work can ebb and flow, like with any job (I still can't find a way to love the cashflow). But there are always amazing new initiatives and companies popping up all over the world that make you think - we can do this. We can create change. And being a part of that is just so exciting.
Of course! People should buy Dirt first and foremost because they love it. Because it looks great. Because it works. And because they can afford it.
I've always felt that to create a lasting, and sustainable change 'en mass', you can't ask people to start with a compromise.
You have to show people that there's a better, easier, more economical, and interesting way to do things in a way that respects our planet and future better than ever before.
Have you always been the neatest and cleanest in your friendship group?
Quite the opposite. I was and still am the grub. Certainly lights a flame under you when you're looking at performance during product development!
What challenges have you had to overcome within this industry?
The main challenge was starting small. Our industry is comprised of many large players, or new entrants that raised a bunch of money to launch big. I was the girl with no product experience that had to walk into a manufacturer and convince them it would be worth their time, making me 500 of this or that. I believe just as many people gave me a shot because they empathised with me, as did because they believed in the mission, but hey, whatever gets the job done. We're so excited by some changes we're making to our packaging, system and portfolio. We're working with our customers to develop the future of our company and it's proving to be a lot of fun!
We loved your choice of ELK pieces for the photoshoot, which pieces are you favourite?
I couldn't believe what an amazing job you guys had done with the colours. They were strong and bold without being washout fabrics, which I think must be really hard to do. I loved everything, I felt funky and confident with my growing baby bump. If I had to choose, probably the magenta Molger dress with silver Medby sneakers.