Jan-Lee Chin is using her creativity to create a positive change in this world. As a creative designer in thankyou.co, one of Australia’s largest social enterprises, Jan-Lee has been part of helping thousands of individuals around the world gain access to clean drinking water, sustainable food and hygiene and sanitation programs. We talk to Jan about her dreams, her role at Thankyou and what gratitude means to her.
V: So tell us a little bit about yourself and your design journey? Where did you study and what were your dreams at the time?
Jan: I guess not many people grow up knowing with certainty what they want to do in the future, but growing up with my father as an architect made choosing a career in design an easy pathway to follow. One of my fondest memories as a child was watching him draw and tell stories with his sketches, so since young I’ve been inspired to transfer my own thoughts and ideas into tangible creativity. I completed a degree in the Bachelor of Communication Design at Swinburne University, where I had the opportunity to explore different crafts, like typography, illustration, animation and photography, and with more practice came the realisation that there were so many practices I wanted to develop my skills in! Throughout my university degree I had the opportunity to work on a lot of freelance jobs, an avenue that allowed me to balance creative freedom and professionalism, and upon graduation I began working with Thankyou as a creative designer.
V: How did you start with Thankyou and how long ago was that?
Jan: It was difficult getting work as a young and relatively inexperienced graduate. Upon graduation, I was just finishing up an internship at a creative agency, and like a lot of people my age, I did not have many plans for the upcoming year other than to work part-time and save up enough to fulfill my second favourite hobby: travelling. I found out about Thankyou (called Thankyou Water at the time) close to the end of 2012 and saw this an opportunity to get involved in a different industry and challenge myself to grow more as a designer. I initially started off as a volunteer and I would have never thought that it would eventuate into a full-time Creative position that I love, but it has and I have enjoyed every moment of it!
V: For those who may not know about Thankyou, can you tell us a little about it?
Jan: Thankyou is different to a non-profit or a for-profit business because we’re a social enterprise. How it works is that we exist 100% to fund life-changing projects through selling our range of water, food and body care products. After all the costs involved in producing great products (including production costs, wages etc), every cent left funds projects. You can find out more about our structure here.
As a bit of background, we were founded back in 2008 by a group of university students and were known as Thankyou Water for the first five years, but then we rebranded to Thankyou in July of 2013 and launched our food and body care ranges. Our products are now available in over 4,000 outlets across the country, including Coles, Woolworths, 7-Eleven, Australia Post and Foodland.
What’s exciting for us is the impact we’ve been able to make to date. So far, we’ve given over $1.8 million to projects and have funded safe water access for 107,903 people, health and hygiene training for 112,532 people and short-term food aid and long-term food solutions for 23,653 people across projects in 14 different countries.
V: What’s your role in Thankyou?
My role is Creative Designer. One of the key responsibilities of this role is to be able to identify and develop the best creative solutions for any project that we have. This means being able to produce required artwork, making sure it’s effective in its visual communication, ensuring that it’s consistent with the Thankyou brand, as well as balancing set budgets and deadlines. Things get pretty fast-paced around here because even though we exist to fund life-changing projects, we also compete in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, which means we often have to work on tight deadlines. It’s challenging having to constantly come up with creative content on the fly, but I’ve learnt that the best part about my role is that I’m not working on projects by myself and I get to collaborate with an incredibly innovative team of people who are ultimately trying to solve the same problems together.
V: A few months ago we were focused on gratitude and how being thankful for things can change our perspective on life and we felt Thankyou is perhaps one of the greatest examples of this. How do you think being thankful and having gratitude change peoples perspective? Do you think it does?
Jan: At Thankyou we definitely uphold thankfulness very highly, and we always make an effort to value people because we believe expressing gratitude goes a long way. I think one way we show gratitude and thankfulness for people at work is through one of our core company values – honour (which can be defined as value and respect). That is, honour for one another, for those we partner with, and for those we serve.
The Thankyou journey has not been easy, and we’re always incredibly grateful for each person who has contributed to the movement, from the people who buy our products week in, week out, our ambassadors who help spread the word and our suppliers and stockists. With every win, we celebrate the people and the impact we’ve made together.
I personally find it really rewarding being able to work in a company that is all for the people. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had growing up and knowing just how fortunate I am to have all these privileges, like an abundance of food, education and good sanitation, changes my perspective on how I approach work every day. Even though my role in Thankyou is only a small part in the scheme of things, my purpose changes because I’m able to use my skills to give back in gratitude for all that I have.
V: Tell us three things you’re thankful for today!
J: I just recently moved everything on my desk into a box except for my computer, keyboard and mouse, and I’m really appreciating how much easier it is to work on a clean and uncluttered desk. I think I might keep everything in a box from now on. How great are boxes? They’re so good at keeping things organised or just hiding mess. On a separate note, it’s been pretty cold and overcast lately and I’m thankful for the Strange Desires album by Bleachers because it gives me that driving-along-the-coast-with-sea-breeze-running-through-my-hair vibe, which makes up for Melbourne’s lack of sunshine this Summer.
A consumer movement that empowers you to fund life-changing projects through simple choices in your everyday life. Thankyou offers a range of high quality products that allow you to live every day, give every day.