I know what you’re thinking... but I just couldn't help myself. Dustin may very well be what the title of this article is implying, but we'll leave that for someone else to write about. The title is actually a play on words about the company he started as an assignment while studying at the University of Sydney, HERO Condoms.
I know sex may be an awkward topic to read about – try writing about it – but it is a natural part of all life and yet also something that is the cause of one of the world’s most dangerous and fatal viruses, HIV. So it certainly deserves some attention and awareness and that's exactly what Dustin had in mind when he started HERO.
"I was just sitting in the library researching different companies that were making a difference and I came across TOMS (TOMS is a shoe company that, for every pair of shoes sold, donates another pair to a child in a poverty stricken area in the world) and thought I could do something similar around reducing the number of people acquiring HIV"
The idea of providing condoms to areas in the world that are most affected with HIV isn't new, charities and government associations have been doing this for some time. It was only after Dustin looked further into the level of success these types of organisations were having that confirmed to him that there was an opportunity to make a greater difference.
"I really wanted to gain an accurate as possible insight into the current state of high affected HIV areas and the level of help they were receiving. We chose Botswana, as it has the second highest HIV prevalence rate behind Swaziland (Dustin says Swaziland was just too politically unstable and corrupt) and found that although the NGO's setup there are doing the best they can, they are often out of stock of condoms for months on end and when they do get stock, the quality of the condoms are terrible. To the point that they'd rather take their chances."
So after leveraging his network at the University of Sydney, Dustin was introduced to a Botswana native, Kobo, who was working as part of the Medical Faculty at the uni and was quite well connected to all the ministries and high-level people back in Botswana.
After a passion-fuelled conversation, they had planned an aid trip to Botswana with 80,000 HERO condoms to be directly distributed to the local ministries (keeping in mind, this was before one single condom was even sold here in Australia!!). The whole trip was filmed and documented which you can see and read further about by clicking on the 'Walk the Talk' link on HERO Condoms home page.
You'd think that donating 80,000 condoms to battle HIV would certainly be enough of a good deed for any business to carry out. However, Dustin's the type of guy who sees that every aspect of a business can be set up to make a positive difference. Take for example the whole manufacturing process for HERO Condoms. He could have settled for the some cheap mass manufactured packaging, sourced cheap materials from all over the world and have the condoms made in a low wage, polluting factory.
Instead, the packaging is made from 100% recycled cardboard, they use natural latex and a process that doesn't harm the tree from which the rubber is taken from, and found a manufacturer that pays fair wages and utilises environmentally friendly practices throughout the production of the condoms including water treatment and water recycling. He's also adopted a similar concept to that of the company that originally inspired him to start HERO Condoms, TOMS Shoes, where for every condom sold, another one is donated. All this and they retail for the same price as any other condom product on the market!!
I'm amazed at the amount of work Dustin has had to put in to get the business to this stage and to be able to offer a product at an extremely competitive price. He humbly reaffirms that it's all been worth it, yet states it certainly hasn't been easy,
"I work on an average of about 70 hours a week, including weekends. But I'm just grateful that what I'm doing is so rewarding... when we were handing out the condoms in Botswana they were so thankful! It was just amazing seeing first hand how we were making a difference.”
Coming back to the 'Walk the Talk' statement, I feel it also sums up perfectly Dustin's personality and approach to life. He's a man of action. One who knows what he wants to achieve and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Maybe Action HERO might have been a better title for the article.