Clean teeth and less waste – Bam Brush
Balancing good health practises and waste reduction can be challenging. Many dental professionals recommend changing your toothbrush about every three months, and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you replace your toothbrush approximately every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Changing a toothbrush every three months means lots of toothbrushes going to the landfill.
Many consumers are actively reducing the number of plastic products they use and most toothbrushes are made from plastics. A couple of friends in Victoria B.C. decided to create a solution for the problem by creating a subscription service offering bamboo toothbrushes.
In Zero Waste Canada’s continuing series on small businesses creating Zero Waste solutions, we speak with Craig Tessier owner of BamBrush , the bamboo toothbrush subscription service.
How did you decide to start a bamboo toothbrush subscription service?
I started Bambrush almost 3 years ago now (how time flys) with my friend while sitting in his small apartment. We were talking about how something as important as a toothbrush is thought about, but also how much plastic waste they much create (Over 4 billion plastic brushes a year are made, and never biodegrade!) We both had the passion to start something new but had no idea even where to start. So I got busy brainstorming, how we can help people not only think about replacing their toothbrushes more frequently, but also how to reduce the plastic that was entering the oceans, and landfills. We did some research and found someone to help us manufacture bamboo toothbrushes, and BamBoom, BamBrush was made!
Can you tell us about the products you offer?
BamBrush also offers more than just bamboo toothbrushes. We have started to think about more natural, and eco-friendly products we could offer our customers. About a year ago we came out with our charcoal based carbon tooth polish. Made with 3 ingredients, it’s a great way to get whiter teeth without harsh chemicals. Carbon is made from activated raw coconut shell, calcium bentonite clay, and organic mint extract. More recently we came out with our copper tongue scrapers. I’ve been using plastic tongue scrapers for years but these break over time and get pretty nasty. Copper is a naturally antibacterial metal, so there’s no need to worry but nasty germs building up.
What is Moso bamboo? Does it have any special properties?
Our brushes are made from a very interesting type of bamboo called Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is one the quickest growing plants and often referred to as the Usain Bolt of plants, and grows about 4 feet in one day. Our bamboo also has a special attribute, its also naturally antimicrobial, and that’s the reason moso bamboo is used for cutting boards, and BamBrush toothbrushes.
Did you design the toothbrush and did you have any feedback from dentists?
The design of the brush did exist before we started BamBrush, but we have since added to the design but adding a waved style to the bristles to get those pesky hard to reach parts of your mouth. As for dentists, there has been a lot of interest from dental professionals all across Canada, and a few from the US. We recently made a sale to a dental office on Vancouver Island, and are excited to hear, and meet more dental professionals as the year progresses.
The tooth brush is not completely plastic –free as the bristles are made from nylon. Did you test alternative materials for the bristles? Will the toothbrush design be evolving if an alternative to nylon bristles can be found?
Correct, our brushes aren’t completely plastic free. We use top quality dental nylon for our bristles, for the simple reason we don’t want to sell a bad toothbrush. If the bristles fall apart in your mouth, then no one wins. As of right now, there is no biodegrade toothbrush bristle, except for boar hair. We are always working towards a completely plastic-free brush, but for now, 98% of a BamBrush will biodegrade and return to the earth.
Is the toothbrush manufactured in Canada?
Right now our brushes are manufactured in China, and made using bamboo from sustainable, and monitored bamboo grown just for products use. Once we grow bigger and can afford it we would love to start producing BamBrush in Victoria, BC. And not to worry, we are not taking away from the pandas.
At the end of the life of the tooth brush what can you do with it?
When you’re ready to replace your BamBrush you simple remove the bristles to be disposed of, and the handle can go directly into your compost. Some of our customers get creative with the handles and use them to mark plants, and vegetables in the garden. Your brush will last just as long as a regular plastic brush, but you should replace your brush every 2-3 months.
One of the concerns for many consumers is the amount of packaging for mail order products, how do you deal with this concern?
When we started BamBrush we noticed how much plastic they package a plastic toothbrush in. That completely seemed backward to us. We thought we can not only reduce the plastic used to make the brush but we can improve the packaging itself. We use a kraft paper package for our brushes. Super simple, and recyclable. I still cringe when I see all the plastic that regular toothbrushes wastes. As for mailing our brushes directly to our customer’s door, there are several benefits of this compared to buying a brush from a store. We don’t have big trucks driving inventory to big stores that use energy 24/7 365 days to run. We simply put a brush in an envelope and it arrives at your door. No need to get into the car to go to the store and pick up a toothbrush, we took care of that for you. We are also going to offer a year subscription of BamBrushes at once, so no need to have them sent every 2 months, but just once a year.
Zero Waste Canada, often receives questions from aspiring entrepreneurs in search of products for Zero Waste or environmentally conscious shops, are your toothbrushes available whole-sale or for stores?
We do offer wholesale and sell in stores all over Canada, and in an eco-resort in the Cook Islands! You can find BamBrushes in many stores around Victoria, BC, including West Coast Refill, Nezza Naturals, and The Copper Hat. All great shops run by great people that we are so happy to work with. For wholesale please feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Several of the small businesses that Zero Waste Canada has interviewed have used funding platforms like Kickstarter to help launch their products, did you do anything like this?
For funding, we completely bootstrapped the whole thing ourselves. When BamBrush was first started we had never run a business, and just went for it. We couldn’t have foreseen it becoming what it has. So we pooled our money together and made a budget, and have been steadily growing since then. We have talked about doing a Kickstarter campaign for future goals like going national, but we will see!
How have you been able to connect to customers? Has social media been important for your company creating brand recognition?
Social media has been a huge help for us building brand recognition! With such great apps like Instagram, its brought so many people together to share thoughts and experiences. To find like-minded people with ideologies, who care about similar things like dogs, home decor, bears on unicycles, to zero waste communities. As budding entrepreneurs, we are so lucky to have so many tools like Instagram to connect with people who care about what we stand for.
What challenges did you have taking your service and product from idea to an actuality?
So many challenges when starting off! The biggest one was I was working 2 full-time jobs when we started BamBrush. So being at work for 12 hours a day I would come home and reply to emails, and fulfill orders every day. This was very challenging, but this was something I wanted so bad. To start something from nothing, and become a real business, even if I didn’t know how I was going to do that. So finding time to run orders to stores, keep growing our social media, and balancing all the emails, I would say that was the hardest part of this journey so far.
Do you have any advice for individuals thinking about how they can take a great idea and make it a business?
For anyone wanting to start their own business, I say jump in! Make it happen, be passionate, do your research, and have fun. Fail learn fail learn, and don’t give up on the dream. If you truly believe you have a good idea, then go make it happen. There is no easy path, but you will find the way. Starting BamBrush has been the wildest rides of my life. People will tell you not to do it, people might think it is a stupid idea, but just keep making your dreams become a reality.
What is your background before BamBrush?
Before I started BamBrush I was a support worker. I worked 2 full-time jobs working with adults and children diagnosed with autism, and down syndrome. I was living in Europe before I started being a support worker, and had never thought about becoming one before. I was offered a job with a day program when I moved back to Canada, and that has played a huge part of who I am today. I’ve met some amazing people in that community and so glad to call them all my friends.
What are your goals for BamBrush?
Our goals are to reduce more and more plastic each year from entering the oceans, and landfills. To start up beach cleanups, raise awareness of plastic waste, become a worldwide brand, grow a better mustache, inspire more young entrepreneurs to start their journey, and remind people to brush responsibly.
BamBrush is another innovative company helping us to lead Zero Waste lifestyles.