Dream Job | David Simnick

May 2017 View more

Naperville native David Simnick is changing the world one bar of soap at a time. He and best friend Eric Vong have created a business that donates a bar of soap for every one sold. They have distributed more than 1.5 million bars of soap to homeless shelters and food pantries in the US, as well to other parts of the world, including Bolivia, Haiti, Lebanon, Somalia and Myanmar.

How did you start? Why soap?

I was working as a sub-contractor with the US Agency for International Development. I saw how much access to soap and clean water could impact children’s health around the world. Providing clean water to those who don’t have access can greatly improve the lives of those in need, but combining it with basic hygiene essentials, like soap, is what truly makes an impact.

I called my best friend, Eric Vong (fellow Eagle Scout and Naperville North Class of 2006 alumnus), and SoapBox was born. I googled “how to make soap,” started making batches in my college apartment kitchen, and suspended work on my master’s at the University of Pennsylvania.

How did your company grow to products being sold nationwide and having several global partners?

Eric and I started SoapBox back in 2010. Dan Doll joined within a couple of months. For the next two years, we kept our full-time jobs. I was a teacher in Teach for America in Philadelphia, and Eric and Dan worked for IBM.

After begging, pleading and showing up unannounced, we got into our first Whole Foods in March of 2012. From 2012 to 2013, we grew quickly, then got our big break launching a small trial with Target in 2014, which led to a national roll-out of SoapBox shampoo and conditioner. With that success, we gained additional distribution in other retailers. Today, we’re sold nationwide in Target, Meijer, Rite Aid, Giant, Stop & Shop and ShopRite, as well as various Walgreens, Kroger, and Hy-Vee stores and in thousands of other retail locations around the country.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by how our customers are so eager to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Seeing and hearing people not only enjoy our products, but also get excited about making a difference is the reason SoapBox exists. Our company defines itself by six core words: “we are open, honest and professional.” Every member of our team is passionate about our mission. SoapBox has both seasoned executives, as well as young talent right out of college.

Have you always been an entrepreneur?

I won the lottery with the parents I have. Both are incredibly supportive and nurtured my interest in entrepreneurship when I was young, like encouraging my wild ideas to start a candy stand and sell a variety of confections during the Labor Day parades downtown. My mom was my editor when I launched The Brush Hill Times, a neighborhood newspaper I published in fourth and fifth grade for my subdivision. I charged 10¢ a copy or $1 for a subscription.

Where do you live now? Do you get back home a lot?

I live in Alexandria, Virginia, not too far from our office in Georgetown. I come back to Naperville often because a bunch of our customers are in the Chicagoland area. Plus, I want to see my niece and nephew. Naperville’s an amazing place to raise a family, and I was beyond blessed to have those opportunities presented to me while growing up.