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Sean Shannon

National Diabetes Trust (NDT) is the social enterprise arm of Diabetes Canada. In this role, it solicits, collects, and monetizes household donations of gently used clothing, textiles, and small household items. NDT operates coast-to-coast with the exception of the province of Quebec, where a similar service operates. All net proceeds go to the mission work of Diabetes Canada. In addition to dollars generated, the work of NDT also diverts about 100 million pounds annually of household clothes and items from landfill, giving them a second life.

Tell us about yourself?

I joined National Diabetes Trust four years ago as the new President & CEO. Prior to joining NDT, I worked in a number of consumer-facing industries and organizations, including online travel (Expedia and Busbud), beer (Molson), and package goods (P&G). Before moving into general management at Expedia, I “grew up” in the marketing departments of many organizations. I was attracted to National Diabetes Trust because it provided me with an opportunity to make money for a shareholder that is a charity and is working to end diabetes, a disease that affects one in three Canadians.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

That would put me back to before COVID-19 hit the planet. I would tell myself that while I would be dealing with a business situation that was never before encountered, there would be a path to survival and rebirth.

What problem does your business solve?

We solve a few problems. One is how to help end diabetes by the bottom line that this business generates. The second is how we help give clothes and other household items a second life by getting them to thrift stores across Canada and hence help the environment.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

The business of second-hand clothing and household items dates back over 25 years ago, when certain charities discovered that household solicitation and collection were an effective means to generate incremental fundraising.

What is your magic sauce?

When people donate to us, they know they are helping to end diabetes, one of the largest health issues in Canada and around the world. Canada is a known world leader in the fight against Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as evidenced by the discovery of insulin in Canada about 100 years ago. In Canada alone, 11 million Canadians are affected by some form of diabetes.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

To continue to be the market leader/donation service of choice for all Canadians who have lightly used clothing and other household items they no longer require and wish to give them a second life while contributing to an important health charity.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

COVID-19 was a massive unexpected challenge over the past few years, as it effectively shut down or curtailed the consumer’s ability to purchase at thrift stores as they were deemed non-essential retail services to the public. Like many industries, ours has been slowed by the shortage of labour and supply-side logistics since the pandemic restrictions were lifted.

How can people get involved?

Canadians can visit our website to learn more, book a household pickup, or find the location of the nearest Diabetes Canada bin to make their donation.