Dustin Leonard – Founder of HERO Condoms
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPH Nathan Li
Tackling the seemingly impossible is what a social entrepreneur specialises in. A working day in life of one of these entrepreneurs is never the same. “[It’s] because I’m working with people in different time zones… sometimes I have emails ridiculously early in the morning or at midnight,” says Dustin Leonard, founder of HERO Condoms. The University of Sydney graduate conceptualised the product as a solution to the HIV/AIDS problem in the developing world in his postgraduate marketing project in 2012, and now he’s bringing the concept to reality.
[box_light]About HERO Condoms:
Your pleasure for the benefits of others – For each condom you buy in Australia, HERO will donate another to the developing world to help with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which affects 34 million people worldwide. HERO’s condoms are manufactured in Malaysia using local labour and natural materials with sustainable practices, such as solar energy and other low carbon emission strategies. Available in boxes of 12, its RRP is $7.99 from major pharmacies around Australia.[/box_light]
The process of creating a new business is hectic. Dustin has to travel back and forth interstate for retailer meetings in order to establish a distribution network here in Australia. It also involves constant problem solving and dealing with different people’s expectations. “One day I had a 30-something hour day,” he says. This exceptional day was due to an unexpected business crisis. “I had to stay up all night researching and then had meetings all of the next day – it kept going but we ended up getting it all worked out.”
For Dustin, however, the experience is highly rewarding. “Every week something substantial happens – like something really significant,” says Dustin. “There are so many different things that have happened and we, even though we’ve had a couple of setbacks, we always keep moving forward, and seeing that progress really helps keep me motivated.”
The key to success for any entrepreneurial pursuit is finding a viable business model. It requires understanding people’s wants and needs. In researching the depth of the sexual health problem, Dustin hosted a concert in Botswana, during which he found, through survey, the availability and quality of the local condom supplies was lacking. In association with the Youth Health Organisation, Dustin gave out free samples of condoms and they were greatly appreciated. “It was a whole different experience and reconfirmed everything that we have been doing,” Dustin recalls. Funding is paramount, and Dustin’s tip to sourcing finance: partnering with his old boss from the business consulting firm that he previously worked at.
Dustin finds gratitude in the “rollercoaster” experience of giving back to society. “It’s been a lot of fun, really stressful at times but then you get through,” Dustin explains. “You experience certain challenges but once you overcome those, it’s a really rewarding experience.”
Support Dustin and HERO Condoms with their crowd-funding campaign here.