Turning a Side Business into a Successful Social Impact Business with Heather McDougall of Bogobrush



Bogobrush CEO Heather McDougall shares how she started a social impact business and what has changed since then, while providing expert advice to aspiring artists for the cause.

What does it take to launch and run an eco-friendly oral care brand? We asked Bogobrush CEO Heather McDougall how she turned a smart idea and a passion for sustainability into a successful impact business. The company’s innovative toothbrushes are made from recycled and biodegradable materials. With every sale, Bogobrush gives back to people and the planet by donating toothbrushes, planting trees, supporting low-cost and no-cost health clinics, and more.

Heather shared with us details about her journey to becoming a social entrepreneur and explained what has changed, the challenges she still faces nine years after starting the business, and how she turned a side business into a real one. full time job.

How did your secondary activity start? Where did the idea for sustainable toothbrushes come from?

My brother John and I founded Bogobrush together and we like to say the idea started when we were kids, growing up as the kids of a dentist in North Dakota. Neither of us had any plans to do anything about oral care. John became an industrial designer and I studied law. Throughout our studies, we have realized our common passion for sustainable development. We decided to use our talents to start a business that would bring more environmental and social values ​​into a product and into people’s daily lives. As fate would have it, we couldn’t resist starting with a toothbrush.

What were the first 3 steps you took to launch this social impact business?

The first steps we took to start Bogobrush as a real business and not just an idea were:

  1. Filing of organizational documents and formation of a legal entity. It was in my wheelhouse. We did it very early on.
  2. Designed the product. It was iterative and we keep making improvements as we go, but because the design was John’s expertise, we tackled this right away with a design process that involved competitive research. , research on materials, games with clay, digital modeling, sketches, etc.
  3. Creation of a pre-order campaign to raise funds and educate consumers. The product has evolved since then, but this step required us to rally a team, build the website, and take the brand to the world.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered while starting this business and how did you overcome it?

The oldest and most stressful challenge we have faced dates back to 2013 when we increased our first production from several hundred units to 10,000 pilot test units. At first we planned to use bamboo for our product, but when we placed the initial order for 10,000 units, we experienced what looked like a disaster. More than half of the heads broke during the bristling and overseas manufacturing being very difficult to deal with, we needed a better solution. (There are actually many reasons why bamboo was not a good choice for a toothbrush.)

Left with thousands of orders to fulfill, we chose to go ahead and looked for a better option for materials and workmanship. Over the next few months of massive networking and absolute faith in our mission, we met our current material suppliers, C2Renew. Since then, we have faced more challenges and rose to overcome them every time. This first challenge, however, was an important step into the realities of entrepreneurship.

You were in the very first episode from the Disruptors for GOOD podcast! What has changed for Bogobrush since then?

First of all, it’s so cool that we’re the first! Since then we have hired a CSO and Sales & Operations Coordinator who helped us get started in retail including CVS, Amazon and Selfridges Department Store UK. It has changed our cash flow and business needs. We’ve launched new products and new packaging, recruited some really cool new advisors, and are actively seeking funding to keep up with scale and demand.

Also, I would say that I have changed. I stepped up and out of “do it all” and into a leadership seat. I continue to learn and grow constantly, but not at the expense of my health and well-being. A team is where it is.

In that podcast episode, you said, “Doing things in a more socially responsible and environmentally responsible way is more difficult because everyone is learning and understanding. It gets easier and easier over time. Do you find this to be true as your business has grown since you launched in 2012?

Yes, it is still true. Working with the materials we make makes manufacturing a very specialized project. We have evolved our supply chain a few times over the years and each time we get closer to the expertise we need. Currently we have a manufacturing partner who is very aligned with our goals for the planet, and they recognize the limits of manufacturing products in a world that, although the market says it wants better products, is still very. behind in terms of resources and access. for companies like Bogobrush. While there are partners like this around the world, in the United States we are always at the forefront of innovation and change. This is the nature of evolution.

What advice would you give to an artist colleague who wishes to transform his secondary activity into a business?

I would say stop seeing your side business as a side business and recognize it for what it is: a real business. Submit your organizational documents. File taxes even if you have no income or profits. Act like it’s real and it will be. Your startup idea and day-to-day job, whether it’s at another business, as a stay-at-home parent, or at school, and everything you do in your life is part of who you are. Your responsibility is to identify your goal, your “why” – both internal and external – and then decide who you need to become to achieve your goal. Be that person in everything you do.

Also, familiarize yourself with money and numbers. Decide what you personally need as income and visualize your transition from your current source of income to your business as a source. Know your worth. You may not need to earn income from your business right away, but the more you know what your business needs to do for you, the more confident and empowered you will be in recognizing your business as legitimate and not depending on it. ‘no label. Your confidence and energy are the foundation. Growth will follow naturally.


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Jenny sands

Jenny is eager to shed light on the latest entrepreneurs, brands and products at the forefront of the sustainability movement and making a difference in our world. His professional background covers digital advertising, project management, customer relations and everything related to content, from creating branded content to producing personalized photos and videos to social media. Throughout her career, Jenny’s goal has been to help brands identify creative and data-driven content opportunities to increase awareness and drive growth.


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