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Biting Off A Piece of The Pie: How Bite Toothpaste Bits Disrupted a Century-Old Industry

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Lindsay McCormick knows a thing or two about pivoting. After all, she went from planning to live in a van and travel around the country selling her sustainable toothpaste bits to launching a transformative and still-growing company that has taken the internet by storm and has left the big brands shaking in their boots.

Bite Toothpaste Bits was the company Lindsay never meant to start, but a viral video helped launch her full-time into the world of ecommerce after she went from 6,000-lifetime sales to 200,000 in a single week. Needless to say she could no longer manufacture everything from her living room, and instead was thrown into the deep end trying to find production and shipping partners that could not only make her very specific products, but do so in a sustainable way that stayed true to Bite’s ultimate mission. There were challenges around every corner, but Lindsay navigated through them all, and on today’s episode, she shares that rollercoaster ride of a story . Plus, she explained why she thinks it’s so important to keep content creation in-house, the reason she’s always testing new channels and leaning into video content — I mean, it is what launched her company — and she reveals why she’s not scared at all about the big-name manufacturers making copy-cat products, in fact, she’s excited about it. Hear all that and more on this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • Don’t Fight The Fog: Breaking into new channels means divorcing yourself from KPIs and metrics and walking into foggy and unknown territory. Embrace that journey because not only will you eventually be able to measure success, the opportunity cost of not taking the risk is too costly not to try.
  • Pay It Forward: Going viral comes with its pros and cons. While the huge boost in sales is a dream come true, fulfilling orders becomes a major problem that has to be solved quickly or you risk losing all of your new customers. As a sustainable business and a small business at that, Bite fought many battles to find manufacturers and fulfillment centers to partner with that met all their needs and price points. As Bite has gotten bigger and found the right partners, the company has also outfitted those partners with some of the tools that they can use to help support and grow other small businesses.
  • Teach Me Your Ways: Educating consumers is one of the most important things an ecommerce site needs to do, especially when the product offered is something that requires a change in habit and/or expectations. Customers who take the time to learn will be more likely to repeat orders, and they will also be more likely to be understanding of things like extended shipping times.
  • Make Em Sweat: It can be intimidating to go up against giants in an industry, but showing even a little bit of success in grabbing market share is something that will leave those big guys feeling pressure to make a change. Not only should that be encouraging to you as a disruptor, but in the world of sustainability, when the big guys start making changes, the small impact of a disruptor grows exponentially.

 

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“Sustainability is an incredibly nuanced topic that has so many details that you have to dig into. But you have to be able to communicate it in a very easy way. I think that it takes a lot of thought to be able to do it in an entertaining, but also truthful and authentic way. I think that’s where my background comes in of being able to say, ‘How do we take this and basically distill it down into the most digestible way?’”

“Any brand that’s growing right now have all of the things that you outsource….and everybody wants to outsource their creative because it takes so much freaking time. But it’s like the last thing you should be outsourcing because it’s literally your brand, it’s your brand, and it’s your vision and it’s your voice.”

“The next question is how do we sustain this? Because there are so many companies that have the blip and then go off forever. We were like, ‘We do not want that to happen.’ Luckily, we had a Facebook pixel set up. We had all of our tracking set up, so we could do retargeting, which is so important. We were able to just keep the momentum. From that, we were able to do Shark Tank, from that we had way more press opportunities happen, and so we were able to just keep feeding this cycle. We ended up having Now This, which was a new site, we were their most cared about video in 2019. Those kinds of things just keep on going, going, going.”

“We’re constantly testing out things while optimizing our bread and butter channels. I think that that’s something that is really, really important to do. No matter how big or small you are, is to just constantly be trying to have the pioneering spirit on the new stuff, and know that you’re not going to win all the time…. If you’re tied to making sure that you immediately see the ROI and having the KPIs, you’re not going to be able to find those new channels because it’s going to be really obscured at first.”

“We’re subscription and the fact that we don’t use rush shipping, in the world of Amazon where everyone’s expecting their thing to end up the next day, ours takes like a week to get there. But it’s because we’re carbon neutral, we offset the carbon. We purposely choose slower routes because it has the least footprint. It’s like there’s an education piece every step of the way. But, luckily, we have really curious customers who that’s important to them. Instead of being penalized for our stuff getting there slow, typically, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ as soon as they realize why, they’re like, ‘We get it and thanks for doing that.’ I think it’s definitely a totally different way and way more work the way that we’re doing things. But, in the end, it’s the most important thing.”

“We listen to our customers, I think, obsessively. I’m constantly going through our DMs, I’m constantly going through Instagram. We have places on the site where we’re asking for their feedback. It’s so important to me to have that really tight relationship with them.”

“I love basically being the thorn in the side of these big companies. I think one of the things that has happened really recently that people think is scary or bad, but I think is actually incredibly exciting is we’ve seen the big guys, like get into our space. They’re starting to come out with their own toothpaste tablets. They’re starting to launch these things specifically going after our customer. For me, that’s the most exciting thing ever because we, as a small brand, can do a lot but we can’t do it all. The plastic problem and the reason we’re in this to begin with is because the big guys have made unsustainable choices and have been caught in this race to the bottom, and they’ve been doing these things. For them to see us basically improving out the market, being like, ‘Hey guys, this works, hey guys, this works.’ Then them feeling pressured to have to then be like, ‘Oh, we’re losing part of our market share to this little company. This is super annoying. Okay, fine, we’ll release a two-face tablet.’ Even if they’re not doing it for genuine reasons, they’re doing it, and that’s keeping plastic out of landfills. It’s showing that people care about these things and it’s going to ultimately help the movement.

Mentions:

Bio:

Lindsay McCormick is the Founder and CEO of Bite, an all-natural, zero-waste toothpaste tablet on a mission to become the world’s most sustainable personal care company.

McCormick was working as a surf and snowboard instructor turned TV producer which had her traveling all over the world. It was during her travels that she realized she was going through plastic toothpaste tubes at a rapid pace. The repeated use of plastic didn’t align with her values of conservation and sustainability, so she did something about it. This marked the beginning of Bite and why Lindsay felt there needed to be a more sustainable and cleaner solution to toothbrushing.

Unable to find travel-friendly, plastic-free alternatives to the toothpaste she was using, Lindsay enrolled in a self-taught online chemistry course, where she learned all about making toothpaste and spoke with every dentist and dental hygienist she could find to come up with a more eco-friendly idea.

Lindsay made her first Bite tablets in her living room on a hand-press tableting machine as a way to reduce her personal environmental footprint. Her early customers consisted mostly of family and friends who shared her passion for sustainability. But once a social media video went viral, sales skyrocketed overnight and McCormick quit her full-time job to launch Bite.

Rather than producing toothpaste in plastic tubes, Bite makes low-waste, tube-free oral care bites and accessories that are 100% gluten and cruelty free, vegan and absent of harsh chemicals. All you have to do is bite (hence the name) down on one before you brush and the mint-like pellet acts in the same way that toothpaste does to clean your teeth and freshen your breath.

Lindsay later appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” where she turned down a six-figure deal from Mark Cuban. Lindsay and her team want to keep Bite streamlined and to continue disrupting the oral hygiene market, one tablet at a time.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, Co-founder and CEO at Mission.org. Today on the show, we have Lindsay McCormick, CEO and Founder of Bite Toothpaste Bits. Lindsay, welcome to the show.

Lindsay:

Thanks for having me, Steph. I’m excited.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m super excited to have you on here. I was looking through your background and it looks very interesting because I’ve never had someone on the show who had a background in production, working on HGTV shows, like all my favorite things. I was hoping we could start there where you tell me a little bit about how did you get into the world of TV and YouTube and what was that like? Then we’ll talk about your company afterwards.

Lindsay:

Yeah, for sure. I didn’t actually mean to start a company, which we can definitely get into, but I was working as a TV producer on the show House Hunters, and I was traveling all around the country filming. Whenever you’re filming that show, you’d only be somewhere for a few days. So before I got into TV, actually, because I wanted to make nature documentaries and documentaries before even getting into TV, I was a surf instructor and snowboard instructor. On the off season, I would travel and make YouTube, little YouTube videos. That was like, oh my gosh, back in 2011, 2012. It was like at the beginning of YouTube and the beginning of all of these putting stuff online, and it was really fun.

Lindsay:

But through working as a surf instructor and snowboard instructor, I was seeing the plastic washing up on my surfboard and the climate change impacting our mountains. I wanted to get into media. I had been really, really influenced by a lot of documentaries. At the time back, it was like Blackfish where about really mammals [inaudible]. I was like, “You know what, I think media is this amazing way to tell important stories and I want to learn how to do that.” I started at the bottom, I was an assistant and I was making nothing, working insane hours, but I loved it. I worked my way up over the years and then actually got to be producing. I went from shows on Travel Channel to then HGTV. That’s what I was doing before Bite.

Stephanie:

That’s amazing. What did the day-to-day look like as a producer for things like that? Because I watched House Hunters, I watched all those shows. What were you actually doing? I saw that you even did branded integration, which to me is very interesting and I want to hear what did that look like?

Lindsay:

Yeah, I loved it. It was so fun. For branded integration, that was different. I had previously been what was called a show producer on House Hunters. All the shows are they’re all different because they need different things. But, basically, you’re in a producing team and your team is responsible for an episode, and you basically like there’ll be certain amount of teams and you just volley around the episodes. Like your episode one, then another team’s episode two, episode three, episode four, and then you come back and you’re episode six. You’re like one, six, 12. Basically, you’re responsible with your team from start to finish to make the episode.

Lindsay:

It’s that would be for show producing I was helping, basically, it’s funny because it’s actually really similar to running a company because you’re just trying to make sure everything happens, get everything together, deal with all the fires that they pop up. I had great bosses, the best bosses, I learned a lot from them. Then for integration, so that’s something that I saw a huge opportunity in, and it was basically so now that people are fast forwarding through commercials or in that team going, “Oh my God, what am I in the ’90s?” [crosstalk]. Yeah.

Lindsay:

It’s commercials are important, but they started doing something, it was basically like a new work for product placement. That, actually, helped me a lot too now, like that I have a company, because it’s understanding how to organically integrate a brand with an episode. So that was my job where basically there would be brands that were paying the network an enormous amount of money to be integrated into the shows that I was working on. I would be the ping pong ball going between the brand and the network and our production company, and actually being on the field and making sure it all happened. And being able to take these abstract concepts that we had figured out and make sure we hit all of the marks to get every shot that they wanted, and then deliver it to them so that it gets placed into the episode.

Lindsay:

That was something that is really helpful because now we’re making videos for our company and I’m like, “Well, we need this, we need that. This is how we’re going to experiment and this is how we know if something’s working or not.” Branding integration, and now it’s like content in general. When I was working on that a few years ago, that was like a separate thing, but now it’s everything is branded integration. I feel like there’s brands are integrating into all this content because they have to, it’s so fragmented. Yeah, that’s the whole long thing.

Stephanie:

I love that.

Lindsay:

[crosstalk] background, but then somehow all came together.

Stephanie:

Oh my god, I love the background. That’s why I was really excited for the show today. When I’m thinking about branded integration, I always think there’s still so much untapped potential when it comes to content. We’ve had a couple people in the show who are essentially creating their own shows and movies and all of that. It’s maybe 80% about the story and then they, of course, have their products in there as well and really cool stuff. How do you think about success when it comes to that? When you’re talking about now working on that for your own company, how do you know what could be successful, what works? How do you go about approaching that?

Lindsay:

It’s so important. It’s so important, and we started from a video. I had selling Bite online. We had a little bit of traction with some vegan and zero waste bloggers. We had a video just go insanely viral on Facebook, and that’s really what launched the company. It was like I already knew video was important and now it’s literally the whole reason that company exists type thing. For us, we take content and video very seriously. It’s not something we outsource. We’re an incredibly small team and we still do all of our creative in-house. It’s all either being done like the story and everything. Because it’s, for me, it’s about being able to take sustainable… Like sustainability is an incredibly nuanced topic that has so many details that you have to dig into. But you have to be able to communicate it in a very easy way.

Lindsay:

I think that it takes a lot of thought to be able to do it in an entertaining, but also truthful and authentic way. I think that’s where my background comes in of being able to be like, “How do we take this and basically distill it down into the most digestible way?” We put a lot of time, and I think any brand that’s growing right now have all of the things that you outsource. I see it a lot, I’m in a lot of entrepreneurial groups on Facebook and everything, and everybody wants to outsource their creative because it takes so much freaking time. But it’s like the last thing you should be outsourcing because it’s literally your brand, it’s your brand, and it’s your vision and it’s your voice. I give major props to the brands who are still doing it in-house.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you’re fully leaning into that. You’ve got your YouTube studio that you’re creating. I feel like you’re living by that truth, which is great. Let’s dive in a bit into Bite Toothpaste Bits, tell me what is the company? I also would love to get into how you started the company? Because I think it’s such an interesting story about buying a van and being ready to go all around the country and just having this toothpaste idea and selling on Etsy. I want you to dive into all of that because I think it’s really fun.

Lindsay:

Yeah, and I love, you have done more research than any, I love it, everything in advance. Because I was traveling and I couldn’t find an alternative, and it was from that, it was from throwing out those little toothpaste tubes where I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, I have…” When I traveled for my shoots, I had a little go kit. I had my shampoo, my conditioner, my face wash, my body lotion all in a reusable thing. Because I didn’t want to use the hotel stuff. I knew that, that was wasteful. But then I was throwing out my toothpaste tube every other week, and I was just like, “This is like a thick plastic. This is not cool.” I started looking into alternatives and that’s when I learned about all of the harsh chemicals that are in there where it was Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG, artificial dyes and flavors that I don’t even use in my body care.

Lindsay:

I was like, “I’m using this in my mouth. What the heck?” Plus I’m vegan, and I found out that a lot of the stuff, a lot of commercials do these tests on animals and I was like, “Did not know that.” So that was the, “Whoa, I want to make sure that this is something that I’m doing everyday twice a day. How can I do this better?” I couldn’t find anything that checked all my boxes, and so I started… I think in typical producer fashion, it’s like you find one little thing and then you just get obsessed with it and then expand. Originally, I didn’t want it to be a tablet, I really wanted it to be like I was trying anything besides a tablet because I didn’t want to have to buy a tableting machine.

Lindsay:

They were even $1,000 and this was supposed to be a hobby, and that seemed pretty obsessive. I was just like, “Lindsay, you have to calm down. You’re not going to spend $1,000 on a hobby.” I ended up taking online chemistry classes and then talking to dentists and dental hygienists like on Facebook, whoever I graduated high school and college with.

Stephanie:

I thought you were on Reddit threads trying to figure out the chemistry of toothpaste?

Lindsay:

Yeah, and I was on Reddit threads trying to figure out how to make drugs because once I realized that I had to make a tablet, I was like, “Shoot, how am I going to make a tablet?” Everything that I was finding online was big industrial like $100,000 machines. No one was giving instructions on how to use the little machine, so I was like, “Who is using these little machines? Who does this?” I was like, “Oh, yeah, drug-

Stephanie:

Drug dealers.

Lindsay:

… people who make drugs.” I was on Reddit being like, “How do you make ecstasy?” But I’m sure I’m on numerous-

Stephanie:

Watch list.

Lindsay:

… FBI watch list, for sure. Well, and even when I bought my machines, I actually had to register with the DEA because the machine that you get, the little TDP-0 and the TDP-5 is so used in these things that they want to track them, which I think is great. But I was just like, “This is crazy. What world am I in?” That was the beginning of that, then figuring out how to make tablets and toothpastes, and it was like, “This was for me.” I figured my parents are very supportive, they would use it, and then my friends who also care about the environment, they would. It also needed to be effective. I’m not going to be giving this all to people that I love and then ruining their teeth. It was really there were a lot that was high stakes for me to make sure that it was good. That’s how it all started, just in the living room, like bottling everything myself to working this machine.

Stephanie:

Then you want to go and you buy a van. You want to be going and traveling the country in your van, and I guess the plan was just to sell on Etsy and your friends and things like that. Then what happened?

Lindsay:

I was fully anticipating, I have a photo of me holding cases of this Vegan Ramen. Because I was like, “I’m going to be so broke. I’m going to start my own business and I’m going to quit my job in TV, where I was making good money and my boyfriend and I are literally going to live in a van.” We bought a van, we signed, it was the biggest purchase I’d ever made. We bought this on… It was, what is it? 4/4, no, 8/4, so August 4th we signed the paperwork for this van and started ripping it apart because we were going to turn it into a tiny home. I was in, then I was going to quit my job and we were going to start selling. Then August 8th, Bite went viral, and all of a sudden-

Stephanie:

Wow, what happened?

Lindsay:

… it was like the video on Facebook.

Stephanie:

It was a video?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so at that was that point, we had the vegan community talking about us and the zero waste community talking about us and women’s health had reached out and was like, “Hey, we’re featuring women businesses trying to do really cool things. Could you shoot some stuff on your iPhone and tell us about your story and we’ll put a video together and we’ll probably put it on our Facebook.” I was like, “Yeah, no problem.” Literally, shot it at 6:00 in the morning before shoot. If you look at it, my hair was terrible, I was barely wearing any makeup. I was on my way to LAX. It was in the bathroom before I went to LAX. Then I didn’t hear from them for like a month and a half, nothing.

Lindsay:

Then on the 8th, my phone started going so crazy with ching, ching, ching, I thought we had gotten hacked or there was an error or something. But it was basically what had happened is that the video had gone up on Facebook a few hours before and just went full steam viral. We went from I had done $6,000 in sales the whole year prior to over 200,000 within a week and a half. It had two million views within the first eight days. Then what happened is that ripple, so then it was like Business Insider wants to make a video and everybody now is calling and I’m just like, “Okay, we’re going to make the video, yes.”

Lindsay:

We’re just pushing out and then, basically, then what happened too is that the women’s health video happened and then it did so well, it got syndicated through Hearst outlets, online outlets. Then it was like Cosmo, Oprah Magazine, all of these started playing it. Then that’s, basically, that was the company. That’s when we started, and then [crosstalk]-

Stephanie:

Like that is my van life plan.

Lindsay:

Well, yeah and I was just like, “Oh my god, we literally moved in with my parents.” Because we had already put 30 days in on our house. We had moved and everything and it’s just like, “Okay, this is crazy.” Yeah, it was definitely, the van, we still have the van. It’s beautiful and it’s sitting in Pasadena not used.

Stephanie:

Wow, that’s such a fun story. I was getting goosebumps thinking about all these orders coming in. So what was the content in your video? Why did it resonate with people so much? What were you talking about?

Lindsay:

I think what the was, was just talking about these toothpaste tablets and the problem with toothpaste tubes. I think that was something and it was very much like it showed me in my living room with the machine and it just explained what was in the tablets. There was really nothing special about the video and we’ve seen other brands in our space try to make it almost frame for frame and it doesn’t have the same steam at all. But I think it was just the right video at the right time with the right message. Then I think also is that once that happened, nothing about that video was big. Every single thing is like you go to our website and we’ve listed out, we’re incredibly transparent.

Lindsay:

Now we’re finally getting all of our certifications but we’ve been doing it even before. It’s like palm oil free and all these different things. I think that what it was, is it really just spoke to those people who wanted to be able to make a change and just didn’t have an easy way to do it. I think, I guess we didn’t even really talk about our product, but it’s a dry toothpaste tablet and it comes in a glass jar and then compostable refill pouches. Now that’s actually like the refill system is super everyone’s doing it in a different way, but we were, definitely, we were the first ones to do it for toothpaste tablets, and one of the first to really get that mainstream in personal care.

Lindsay:

I think that it was just people were like, “Oh, wait, this makes so much sense.” We see comments all the time on it being like, “Why didn’t I think of this?” You’re like, “Yeah, I know because it’s so obvious.” But we didn’t, no one thought about it, so yeah.

Stephanie:

That’s so fun. Also just your energy and your vibe and that’s probably why the video did well. They just see you and they’re like, “Obviously, Lindsay is the best.” And act surprised.

Lindsay:

I think maybe I come off very unintimidating and I think people like that. Because it’s just I think, and that’s something too, and I say this, if I can figure this out, literally, we all can, we all can.

Stephanie:

Okay, so you have that small scale operation with your tablet maker and then you start getting all these orders. What did the backend look like to keep up with, I think, you said 200,000 in orders in a week or something? What did you do when the prior year you only had 6,000 in sales?

Lindsay:

It was literally the most stressful point in my entire life. I had, had one panic attack in my life before that and they became a bi-weekly thing and I was just like, “What have I done?”

Lindsay:

It was insane. Luckily, my boyfriend, who is now my co-founder, we’ve been together for six years and he has a business background. He was actually running a startup at the time, which we didn’t even get into. His startup had to get shut, like they shut down the week that we went viral. Totally unrelated, and so he had a venture backed startup and that was his jam. Then it just sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. There’s some time it didn’t work, and so he shut it down the same week that we went viral. Luckily, he had to-

Stephanie:

Good timing.

Lindsay:

He had time on his hands and he knew how to do this, and so basically he started running the war room. I’m sitting there making the tablets still and he was just like, “Stop making the tablets. You will never be able to make these tablets.” He’s like, “We need to find a manufacturer. We need to do all of these different things.” That’s what we had to do. We were back-ordered for two months I was sending out these pleading emails to our customers just trying to explain what had happened. We found a manufacturer, we had to find a fulfillment center. I was still shipping these out of my house. Then we also had to get business insurance. We had to basically set up a company immediately, and we did.

Lindsay:

It was really stressful, really crazy. My mom actually flew in from Virginia to help. Because, at that point, we had, had to leave our place in West Hollywood because we were going to live in the van. Then we moved in with Asher’s aunt and uncle, and then my mom flew out to help, and then we moved in with my parents because we were like, “What family can we live with?” Because we had totally screwed this up. When I look back at those times, it was just it was so unexpected and amazing. It felt like I had this, all up until then, I had this baby bird of a company that before it went viral, I’m trying to keep this thing alive and feed it and nurture it and love it.

Lindsay:

I feel like as soon as we went viral, it was that baby bird was actually a Pterodactyl or something, and it grew and immediately was trying to eat me. We were just like, “How do we make this work?” Now I definitely feel like we’re working with the Pterodactyl. We all understand each other, and it’s definitely working way better.

Stephanie:

That’s so fun. Did you keep that, like the growth that you had from that first week where you were like, “Whoa, 200,000,” and that week, did you continue that growth and where are you guys at today and how big is your team?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so when that happened, then the next question is how do we sustain this? Because there are so many companies that have the blip and then go off forever. We were like, “We do not want that to happen.” Luckily, we had a Facebook pixel set up. We had all of our tracking set up, so we could do retargeting, which is so important. We were able to just keep the momentum. From that, we were able to do Shark Tank, from that we had way more press opportunities happen, and so we were able to just keep feeding this cycle. We ended up having now this, which is a new site. We were the most cared about video in 2019. Those kinds of things just keep on going, going, going.

Lindsay:

Then in 2020, I was one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, which also then gave us, for the first time, like street cred, real cred in business. It all just fed into each other. We were, in 2019, there were two of us full-time, and by the end of 2020, there was five of us full-time. By now, in 2021, we’re nine and we’ll probably be 11 by the end of the year. We’re keeping it small, but growing.

Stephanie:

Yeah, very cool. You got an offer from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, but you turned it down. What was the thought process behind that and what was that experience like?

Lindsay:

He’s so amazing. I can’t believe I turned it down for Mark Cuban, an actual billionaire. When we went on Shark Tank, we had our like what we were going to do and what we were going to negotiate. I, basically, was I knew it was going to be a whirlwind and emotional. My background’s TV, it’s a high pressure situation and I knew that. I was like the only thing that I can do is… Asher and I had decided what our negotiation was before that, and if we went, we couldn’t go over. We were like, “If it goes over, we have to say no,” and we couldn’t get to where we needed to be, and so we had to say no. But it was also we went on there. The name of the game on Shark Tank now, looking back, is definitely negotiate.

Lindsay:

We went in being like, “We want a partner, so we don’t really want to negotiate.” We just want to be like, “Hey, this is what we think is fair.” But I think that’s not really how the Shark Tank thing goes. But it was such a fun experience.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really, really cool. Now where you guys are at, how do you go about advertising and marketing? How do you get in front of new audiences and keep finding… I mean retaining your current customers, but also finding new people? It sounds like Facebook, you guys are there, you’re doing re-targeting. What other channels are you exploring and finding success with now?

Lindsay:

Yeah, that’s the game. It’s always finding the new ones, and so I actually put a lot of my time into that. We were on TikTok before many brands were taking it seriously. We’re on Clubhouse literally all the time. It’s so fun, and we’re constantly testing out things while optimizing our bread and butter channels. I think that that’s something that is really, really important to do. No matter how big or small you are is to just constantly be trying to have the pioneering spirit on the new stuff, and know that you’re not going to win all the time. We are constantly learning like, “That didn’t work, that didn’t work.” But it’s like you’re looking for the things that do work because it really helps, and if you’re the one looking for that and you find it for anybody else, it’s really good.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it seems like it’d be hard to vet if a channel… You think about like Clubhouse, TikTok probably has more metrics now. But how do you think about evaluating if that channel is working? Especially, when you’re coming from a background in TV and branded content, and I’m sure all the brands were like, “We need metrics,” and you had to really tie to different KPIs. How do you think about that now when it comes to, especially, exploring new things?

Lindsay:

Yeah, for us, it’s we try not to let early channels get dictated by that. Because, and that’s exactly what you just, if you’re tied to making sure that you immediately see the ROI and having the KPIs, you’re not going to be able to find those new channels because it’s going to be really obscured at first. But it’s understanding, for Clubhouse, it’s like this is a way that I like to talk to people. It’s a very authentic way. Even though there’s no way for us to really track anything, I know that it’s really important. Because it’s important, we’re going to be there. Eventually, we’ll find a way to track it. Eventually, we’ll be able to see that. That’s also why it’s put in a different bucket.

Lindsay:

For us, it’s not put in with the same Facebook, Instagram, where it’s like, “No, we know what that’s going to look like.” These things, it’s we know they’re going to be weird and we’re going to let them be weird and just explore and have fun. I think that’s really important too is like have fun. Not going into it and being like, “This needs to work.” Going into it and being like, “How can we make connections? How can we get the word out? How can we learn and teach?” I think that’s been really good for us.

Stephanie:

Yeah, are you finding areas to do product placements in shows? So I’m thinking your packaging is so beautiful and different and I’m just imagining it being in different TV shows or movies, or just places where you’re like, “Whoa, what is that?” Especially, with your background, I’m sure you always see opportunities of like, “We should be there.”

Lindsay:

Yeah, well, it’s funny too because a lot of my friends, and we were still in LA, so I’m in a team producing in this world, so it’s like, or I was. All my friends are on all those shows, so I’m like, “Well, here’s some bite for your shoot. Here’s this for…” Trying to get just because that’s they need it. I know because I was that, and so it’s constantly we at least had it behind the scenes, which is super good and important. Because it’s the same people on all the different things. But when it comes to, yeah, getting it on camera, we want to, and there’s a few companies that actually do that. But we have not explored that yet, but I love the idea. I love the idea of it. I feel like we haven’t really, which is pretty ironic considering my background, we haven’t touched TV. We’ve done everything outside of it, but not yet TV.

Stephanie:

Oh, wow, I’m excited to see you eventually get in there. I was thinking earlier you were mentioning how you had to find manufacturers quickly. How did you find the perfect partner who also had the focus on sustainability and using the ingredients that you wanted? Because I could see, especially, for, to me, the toothpaste industry, I feel like has just started coming around where people are like, “Oh, maybe you shouldn’t have fluoride in there. Maybe you shouldn’t have all these other chemicals and ingredients and whatnot.” Then if you add on the sustainability piece, it feels like a lot to bring to a manufacturer who’s maybe like, “I just do Colgate stuff. That’s what I do.” How did you go about exploring that and finding people who would fit within your company mission?

Lindsay:

Especially, at the beginning, everyone said no. It was impossible. It was literally me begging people and getting ghosted all the time. Just being like, “Please, I have like…” At that point, we had a lot of money coming in from orders that we couldn’t fulfill. I was like, “I have all of this money, can you please just make my product?” No one wanted to do it, exactly. I was just like, “This is I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Because not only, as a client, especially when we were small, we were a huge pain. We were asking for, and exactly what you said, they had to be using these very specific ingredients that I had bought from Whole Foods and they [inaudible]. We couldn’t go to toothpaste manufacturers, we were going to vitamin supplement anchors. Because we’re like, “Who the heck makes tablets?”

Lindsay:

They had never worked with so many agents, they’ve never worked with really like any of this stuff. Then when I tried to go palm oil free, oh my god, it was like the end of the world. It was like such, and then we were like, “Oh, by the way, not only do we have this incredibly complicated tablet that we want you to make, and it has to taste good, and it has to break apart perfectly, and it has to also be able to withstand being shipped across the country.” So it’s like this whole thing, “It also needs to be in glass.”

Stephanie:

Yeah, I was going to say the final piece of glass.

Lindsay:

Oh my god, and that’s not something that they do. This is when you go to these manufacturers, it’s like a huge, basically, it’s a tumbler. They throw all of the plastic bottles into it and it shoots it out onto the line. That’s basically how, I mean, you throw like thousands of plastic bottles. Into this big, it’s called the scrambler, into a huge barrel basically. The barrel shoots out the plastic and then the pills get put into the plastic on the line and then it gets whatever. Not only did we have a glass, so it needs to be put on, like hand put on. But then we had these aluminum lids that kept denting because, typically, it’s like these plastic lids.

Lindsay:

When they put them on and the machine, basically, goes through these two pieces of foam, that screws the lid on. When it’s plastic, it’s fine, nothing happens. But when it’s aluminum, it scratches and crushes. Now we have to have people hand tightening our breaking thing. We were like, “And by the way, it needs to cost this.” We were like it was so hard. Everyone said no. We finally found one that said yes. Then it’s now it’s like, “And we like working with small businesses.” But then we’re like overwhelming them with orders because if we just keep on getting orders. It was hard. It’s like people are like, “Oh, they’re good problems to have.” You’re like, “Hey, yeah, but they’re actual problems still. We still think it’s a real problem.”

Lindsay:

I think that, and even our fulfillment company is it was incredibly hard to find a fulfillment company that will commit to not using plastic tape, so hard. When we finally found one who would even… They didn’t even commit, they were just like, “We’ll try to use paper tape.” We’re like, “Okay, that’s fine.” We were with them until we were big enough, and then [inaudible] companies wanted us. So then it was like, “Oh, hey, we know your plastic free. We bought a paper tape dispenser just for you guys.” We were like, “Oh, we’ll come to you.” That’s really cool because now it’s there’s other brands that are smaller than us that can work with that fulfillment center, and they don’t have to have the same battle that we did. It was definitely hard, and the bigger you get, the easier it is.

Stephanie:

How big? What’s that tipping point when manufacturers started reaching out to you all?

Lindsay:

That’s a good question. The thing is, is that we’re in a good spot now where it’s like, but then what happens is that you then start, you still, then start outgrowing where you are. Because we were working with small, now we’re at medium, and it’s like, “How does that feel?” I think what we’re doing this time, and we’re learning as we go, instead of going to a bigger manufacturer, we’re actually in the process of setting up other manufacturers around the US. Right now, we’re literally made right up the street in LA. But we’re going to also have one on the East Coast and then possibly one in the Midwest, and that would be the way that we would do it instead as opposed to going through a bigger. We like working with small businesses. We like supporting that, and so I think that’s how we’re going to go.

Stephanie:

Yeah, which I think is probably more helpful when it comes to logistics and shipping and being able to route orders and [crosstalk]-

Lindsay:

Exactly.

Stephanie:

… orders from your East Coast facility and, yeah.

Lindsay:

Right, and we don’t offer a rush shipping either because that’s the highest carbon footprint essentially. So being able to have a… we have our warehouse here in LA, now we have a warehouse in Chicago, so we can still get orders to our customers much faster without having the rush thing, just fricking sweet.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s great. What issues do you encounter with people who come to your ecommerce website and they’re trying to learn about it? What things did you have to solve on there that maybe you weren’t expecting? Whether it’s around like education or how to use this, or what is this and what things are you working on around the customer journey?

Lindsay:

Yeah, it’s a huge education puzzle because it’s something that we brush our teeth twice a day, every day, since we’re like four years old, three years old. Asking a customer or asking someone to break that whole concept and use a tablet is a really big deal. Especially, we’re all on autopilot when we brush our teeth. It’s like who’s thinking about that. I think that for us, it’s trying to explain, it’s not only explaining the problem, like the billing toothpaste tubes and the plastic problem, in general, which thank goodness is getting way more attention now than it was previously, which I think is just so important. It’s like not only do we have that education thing, but then we have the actual using of the tablets.

Lindsay:

So you need to pop it in your mouth, you need to bite down, you want to use a wet toothbrush. Then if people aren’t getting the foam that they want, it’s explaining like bite down a little bit more. This whole thing, very, very hands-on. Then the final piece of the puzzle is the fact that we’re subscription, and the fact that we don’t use rush shipping. In the world of Amazon where everyone’s expecting their thing to end up the next day, ours takes like a week to get there. But it’s we’re carbon neutral, we offset the carbon. We purposely choose slower routes because it has the least footprint. It’s like there’s an education piece every step of the way. But, luckily, we have really curious customers who that’s important to them.

Lindsay:

Instead of being penalized for our stuff getting there slow, typically, they’re like, “Oh my gosh,” as soon as they realize why, they’re like, “We get it and thanks for doing that.” I think it’s definitely a totally different way and way more work the way that we’re doing things. But, in the end, it’s the most important thing.

Stephanie:

Yep, and it sounds like you made a conscious decision to not be on Amazon. What was the thought behind that? Was it the sustainability aspect of it, or you just wanted to keep your customers in a place that you can fully educate and bring them on board, or how did you think about that?

Lindsay:

Yeah, it’s funny because I get this question a lot, and I guess, just for all of the reasons why you would assume for an eco-friendly brand not to be on Amazon, is true. At the beginning, I had to make that choice and I did, and then I just haven’t changed it. It’s not something that we would like… I’m not saying we would never ever do, I don’t see us doing it. But if there was one of the criticisms we get a lot is accessibility because we are only available on our own site. We’re not in retail and we’re not on Amazon. I’ve done that for a lot of reasons, control is one of them. I know when it comes out of my site, it’s not packaged in plastic, it’s not I know exactly where it is. If there’s a problem with the order, we can look it up.

Lindsay:

It’s this whole it’s I like that hands-on approach, but it’s not… You do compromise on accessibility, and so that is something that one of the things that we get is you guys are really trying to do the most good, then why wouldn’t you make it accessible to everybody by being on Amazon or being in Target? For me it’s like, “Well, I’m not ready to think about that yet. Maybe you’re right, I’m not even thinking if that’s right or wrong yet, but I’m not ready to even look under that thing.” But so as of now, no.

Stephanie:

Cool. Makes sense. Let’s talk about product development because I know you have a new whitening gel product coming out, and I want to hear what that process looked like when you were so focused on your toothpaste bits. Is that how… Yeah.

Lindsay:

Yes.

Stephanie:

Then shifting over to starting to create new things and listening to maybe customers and what the market wants. How do you think about developing new products and the logistics behind it and all of that?

Lindsay:

Yeah, new products are so fun. We listen to our customers, I think, obsessively. I’m constantly going through our DMs, I’m constantly going through Instagram. We have places on the site where we’re asking for their feedback. It’s so important to me to have that really tight relationship with them, and so that’s how we knew. We have our 2K servers that we came out with mouthwash and we came up with mouthwash as a direct response to what they’ve been asking for. We have our toothpaste, it’s really minty, but it’s not like pow in your face like commercial minty. We do that specifically because there’s a lot of people who we want it to be natural mints. You can really only get it so minty, honestly.

Lindsay:

But also we want it to be just a lighter mint, but what people are asking for is a really pow in your face solution. We were like, “Okay, let’s do mouthwash.” That’s what our mouthwash tablets were or are, and you basically just pop one into in your mouth, you bite down and they’re made with nano-hydroxyapatite, just like our toothpaste tablets, so it’s good. Not only does that help to strengthen your enamel, but it also helps, basically, it coats your teeth and it makes them look whiter and brighter. Like not only that, it makes your teeth look nice and shiny. It’s like minty, it is like in your face.

Stephanie:

It turns into a mouthwash from a tablet?

Lindsay:

Yeah, and that was something that was super fun to make. It has similar ingredients, but then we’ve also used like… We basically put other things in there that just immediately dissolve in water. When you put it in there and you take a sip of water, it just dissolves super fast and gets all over your mouth. Basically, it turns into mouthwash. That was super fun and that was our customers asked for something like that, and so that’s what we made. Then we have our bamboo toothbrush, which has castor bean bristles, which is actually really rare. Most bamboo toothbrushes are made with nylon or polyester bristles. So we did castor bean because it will compost down to plant food essentially.

Lindsay:

Then same with our floss, it’s made of PLA, polylactic acid, which gets a bad rep sometimes because it’s one of those industrial compostable things, but it’s so thin that it’s not like the same as when you get like a cup of this made of PLA. But the reason we get that is the only other option is silk and we’re a vegan company, and were like, “We’re not going to do that.” Also soap, but soap floss broke too easily for me. I use all of our products, so I’m like, “If it’s not working for me, it’s not going to work for our customer.” Then our most recent one is our whitening gel, and so that was something that, again, our customer had been asking about because it’s whitening, especially, whether it’s the lights or the the trays. Those syringes, like the plastic syringes, not like [inaudible], those syringes and the whitening strips are not recyclable.

Lindsay:

It’s like those are going in a landfill and our customer and like me too, you’re doing what’s best for the planet, but you also you want to be able to whiten your teeth and you want to be able to wear makeup and do these things. We were like, Okay, how are we going to make this solution?” It was actually way harder than you would think because whitening gel, it expands and contracts because of the peroxide in it. When you put it in glass, it’s way less friendly than plastic, which will expand with the gel. It was actually quite a hard nut to crack, but it was really fun and we’re the first and only ones to ever do it. We launched it last week and it’s just sales have been amazing.

Lindsay:

That was one of the things too that we’re constantly trying to figure out, “How much do we order? How is this going to do?” We’re like, “We don’t have any data and no one’s done this before. How are you supposed to know?” There’s a lot of gut thinking that goes into what we do as well.

Stephanie:

I was just going to ask about how you plan for the order management and how much to even make, and how do you think about that when you haven’t created a product like that before?

Lindsay:

I stress our ops guy out all the time.

Stephanie:

You’re like, “You got it.”

Lindsay:

Yeah, I’m like, “We don’t know.” We, literally, get on the phone and we’re like, “Okay, what do we think it’s going to be?” Then try to figure out like what’s our lead time and how fast? It’s always coming up with plan A and then plan B, and then what’s the ripped cord plan? What’s the perish shoot of like, “We’ve sold through this in three days. What do we do?” Type situation. Yeah, we’re always coming up with those kinds of things.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. Yeah, I’m excited to try the whitening gel. I want to try this mouthwash. Now, I’m like, “I’m just going to spend the whole day just working on my teeth, trying all the things.”

Lindsay:

You and me both.

Stephanie:

Where do you want to be in a couple of years? What are your goals? What are you guys focused on right now?

Lindsay:

That’s a good question. I really like where we are now in terms of I want to be doing what we’re doing, but just bigger. I think that we’ve seen some really positive things since we’ve started this journey. I love basically being the thorn in the side of these big companies. I think one of the things that has happened really recently that people think is scary or bad, but I think is actually incredibly exciting is we’ve seen the big guys, like big pace, like get into our space. They’re starting to come out with their own toothpaste tablets. They’re starting to launch these things specifically going after our customer. For me, that’s the most exciting thing ever because we, as a small brand, can do a lot but we can’t do it all.

Lindsay:

The plastic problem and the reason we’re in this to begin with is because the big guys have made unsustainable choices and have been caught in this race to the bottom, and they’ve been doing these things. For them to see us basically improving out the market, being like, “Hey guys, this works, hey guys, this works.” Then them feeling pressured to have to then be like, “Oh, we’re losing part of our market share to this little company. This is super annoying. Okay, fine, we’ll release a two-face tablet.” Even if they’re not doing it for genuine reasons, they’re doing it, and that’s keeping plastic out of landfills. It’s showing that people care about these things and it’s going to ultimately help the movement.

Lindsay:

If we’re the ones that are there, it’s like, “Cool, you guys released toothpaste tablets.” We already have like other products that we’re releasing that’s going to do the same thing in other spaces. It’s like, for me, it’s I love that position. If we can just still be there on the fringe and still pushing these big guys and showing out that there’s a market, that’s exactly where I want to be. I just I hope we’re doing this but more.

Stephanie:

Oh, that’s cool. I definitely could see these companies coming and trying to acquire you. Then a lot of those brands, I think, need to garner more trust. Like you said, whether it’s genuine reasons that they’re doing it or not, if they were to take a company like yours and triumph pulled into their own, it’d be great if they could take your best practices and level them all the way up to the top of the company. Might be hard doing that. I’m trying to even think about like what that integration process would look like, and trying to maintain the clarity behind the message and the brand and the mission and everything. But I feel like they’re going to come and just try and scoop you up.

Lindsay:

I don’t know. Well, and the whole point is to get… If we can show that customers want this and then the big guys start doing it, that’s when like accessibility no longer because as long as they do it right. If they don’t do it right, I will be tweeting about the store [inaudible]. Yeah, as long as like they’re… and it doesn’t, and that’s the thing too is for sustainability it’s like, “Yes, I would love that we all want to save the planet and we all want to do this.” But also if your company’s behaving in a legitimately sustainable way, just because you see that there’s a market opportunity, that’s the same to me. Because the at the baseline, it’s still helping the cause. I think that’s where we’re really trying to push. I really want that.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. Amazing perspective. I love that. All right, well, let’s hop over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud, our basic sponsors. This is where I ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Lindsay?

Lindsay:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

Okay. What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Lindsay:

Oh my gosh, that’s a really hard question.

Stephanie:

You can take time to think about it though.

Lindsay:

Yeah, I got a minute. I got one minute.

Stephanie:

While I drink my water.

Lindsay:

I guess the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me. With that, is that I’m thinking of so many different things. I’m not like, “Oh, I can’t think of one thing.” I’m like, “I’m thankful for so many different things.” I guess the first thing, though, and I think it’s because we were just telling the story. This is going to sound so cheesy. I really think the amount of for [inaudible], like first customers gave us at the very beginning when I was sending these emails being like, “I’m so sorry that I have your money and I can’t deliver your product for two months.” They were like, “It’s cool.” Like that literally would bring me to tears.

Lindsay:

I would get those emails and I would be crying on my bed, and Asher would be like, “What’s going on?” I’m like, “This customer said it’s okay.” Because that was a really stressful time. I’m sure there’s like way more meaningful things, but that’s the first one that came to mind.

Stephanie:

I love that, yeah, not cheesy at all and that’s awesome. What one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Lindsay:

One thing that I don’t understand today that I wish I did? I guess like investing or something. The first thing that he said, I was like Bitcoin.

Stephanie:

We’ve had people say that.

Lindsay:

[inaudible] let’s bring them down. Just putting too much time on Clubhouse, okay.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Hey, there’s Bitcoin clubs, you can just hop in.

Lindsay:

Yeah, I know, but I don’t think that would help me understand it.

Stephanie:

You can get up on stage, just ask all your questions and you’ll be good.

Lindsay:

Yeah, I think that was like maybe if I did one understand that actually I should probably think of more meaningful things. But, yeah, I’ll say that. I’ll say that for now.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. Another question, I feed my creativity by doing?

Lindsay:

Going on a run.

Stephanie:

Going on a run?

Lindsay:

Yeah, random, but that I know off of that [inaudible].

Stephanie:

If you had a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Lindsay:

Oh, I love that. I would love to do like sustainable journey type one where it’s a… but it would need to be done in a non-boring way, which is why I haven’t done this yet. But I would love to have, honestly, I would just love any excuse to talk to Jane Goodall. I would literally start podcasts to just talk to Jane Goodall. Yeah, I would just basically orchestrate a way to have a podcast to talk to her.

Stephanie:

I love that. We are working on potentially putting together a sustainability podcast and looking for a sponsor right now. Anyone out there you can get in, and Lindsay is ready to hop in and talk to Jane. We already have everything set up.

Lindsay:

Yeah, any time. Any time.

Stephanie:

The last question, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Lindsay:

What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year? I’m thinking, this is important. I would have said the iOS thing, but we’ve already been through that and that didn’t really do all that much. I would say the incredible amount of brands that are starting up and the competition in the way that that’s going and brands” abilities to adapt and what we were talking about, pioneering those new acquisition channels. I think that will be the biggest make or break moment for a lot of the brands that have popped up over the last two years. I hope that continues to go up and stuff.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s a good answer. I do sit there and wonder like how is this going to play out with all these new D2C companies popping up so much competition? How do you stand out? It’ll be interesting watching.

Lindsay:

Yeah, it reminds me of what happened with TV in a way where it was there used to only be those channels, like certain channels. Then, all of a sudden, the internet came and then it was really fragmented. Then there were so many and you’re like, “Where are all the eyeballs? How do we get eyeballs?” It’s like the same thing, but with brands. It’s cool. It’s a good thing for the customer, that’s for sure.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. Well, Lindsay, this interview has been so fun. You’re a blast, of course. We’ll have to have you back for round two, hopefully, in the future. Where can people find out more about you and Bite Toothpaste Bits?

Lindsay:

Yeah, on our website, so it’s either bitetoothpastebits or bitetoothpastebits.com. They can come to us, and then on social media is just @bite, so B-I-T-E.

Stephanie:

Amazing. Can’t wait to try everything out and thanks for joining us.

Lindsay:

Thanks.

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Episode 104