The majority of us find dentists about as appealing as a sewer-dwelling clown, which is why it’s strange a lot of us are a little too lax when it comes to dental health.
“[My husband and I] were at the dinner table, discussing the state of our children’s toothbrushes,” explains New Zealander Annabel Hurman. “[We] were a little embarrassed by how often we forgot to replace our children’s brushes. James’ background is in innovation and so it didn’t take long for us to put our heads together and turn the idea into a feasible business plan.”
That feasible business plan is Toothcrush: the earth-friendly, subscription-based toothbrush service that sends adorably bright-bristled goodies to your mailbox on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to ensure the health of both your teeth and the environment. (And, thanks to the cute rainbow version, of the same sex marriage plight with all proceeds of the limited-edition brush heading to Australian Marriage Equality.)
Although the dental health research behind Toothcrush was aided by her extensive experience in labs, medical writing and a Masters in Science, Annabel was a little in the dark when it came to creating her very own product.
“Before Toothcrush, I had never worked in e-commerce and so there was a lot of background research,” Annabel explains. “The first step was exploring all the suppliers and partners we would need to make the idea a reality. We ordered countless samples to refine our final product offering and started looking into delivery partners that would create the smooth customer experience we wanted.”
From those suppliers, Annabel had one particular expectation: the toothbrushes they’d produce would be biodegradable. After hunting down suppliers of bamboo toothbrushes and ensuring they came from sustainable plantations, Annabel then went into the timely testing phase.
“Quality control is everything for a product like a toothbrush, so we wanted to personally sample and research different versions to guarantee that it met the highest standards in dental health, structural integrity and aesthetics.”
But the final word on their shortlisted options came down to sustainability and ethics.
“This due diligence is so essential if you want to create an ethical business model. You need to look at the full picture,” Annabel insists.
Toothcrush is so dedicated to this ethos that Annabel even developed completely compostable packaging sensitive to both stringent postal systems and potentially damaging weather conditions. Not only that, but the toothbrushes are also wrapped in 100 per cent plant-derived, compostable wrapping to keep moisture at bay without any unnecessary plastic in the process. Annabel names these considerations as the most challenging of her entrepreneurial career.
“The biggest challenge since creating Toothcrush has been creating an environmentally friendly product, which still meets the highest dental industry standards. We set out to create a brand that offered both and we believe you shouldn’t have to compromise on health and hygiene in order to be kind to the planet.”
Compromises haven’t been made on price, either – an important consideration for the brand – which manages to stay as low as $2.67 per brush for the family pack. As difficult as staying true to her original vision has been, Annabel credits her self-developed resilience for the growing success of her brand, which has also recently expanded to Australia.
“For me, and for a lot of business owners, learning not to take criticism to heart is a slow and steady process,” she confesses. “It’s critical to develop resilience in the face of criticism, if you’re going to keep up momentum and motivation. Sometimes the advice you receive will be valid, sometimes the advice will be way off the mark, but you need to stick true to your vision.”