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Who should be your first hire? What’s your funding plan? Dr Lisa Creaven shares her top advice from building Spotlight Oral

by Female Startup Club
November 9th 2021
00:51:52
Description

Today we are learning from Lisa Creaven, one of the Co-founders of Spotlight, which she’s built alongside her sister Vanessa Creaven. 

Spotlight is a dentist-created oral care brand made with... More

This is lisa Craven for female startup club. Hello and welcome back to the show. It's Dune here, your host and hype girl today we're learning from lisa Craven, one of the co founders of spotlight, which is built alongside her sister Vanessa spotlight. If you don't know, is a dentist created oral care brand made with the highest efficacy ingredients to put a smile on people's faces for joy, confidence and positivity. Now, something I didn't know is that the mouth is actually 50 times more absorbent than the skin. So what you put in your mouth is extremely important spotlight, puts a huge focus in educating people around this message and has been disrupting the industry ever since they launched this episode. Was super insightful. I learned a thing or two that I didn't know before and we chat about her funding plan in the beginning and the approach she took with macro influences as well as her retail strategy and another piece of gold you'll hear in the episode is around their first hire and important advice for other entrepreneurs tuning in.

If you haven't signed up for our newsletter yet, make sure you check it out. I'm telling you it is so good. Obviously I'm biased but truly it's great people tell me so if you're interested in entrepreneurship and women in business, just in general, it is for you. You don't have to be an entrepreneur just interested. You can sign up at female startup club dot com and pop your email in there. It is totally free and goes out every monday. Happy listening. This is lisa for female startup club. I do customers want more from brands, delivering more means owning the customer experience, taking control over data acquisition analysis, creative and delivery. Clay vo calls this owned marketing and believe it's the best path to growth for more visit clay vo dot com slash F S C. That's clay vo dot com slash fsc female startup presence lisa.

Hello, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here. I'm so excited to be here to super excited to learn from you. Where are you by the way, are you in Ireland? I'm actually in Ireland. Yeah, so um I think after Covid and everything, we've, we've settled in Ireland but we just have to do so much traveling. So it has been lovely to just be a little bit quieter in terms of traveling. So yes, we're in Ireland for now. Have you been based there for most of the business or were you living somewhere else and you've moved back? So we have actually been based here in Ireland but it's funny just before Covid hit my sister and other co founder, she was actually moving to new york, but then Covid hit and she decided to stay in Ireland throughout that. So we'll definitely keep an eye on things in terms of where is best to be located, but for now we are in Ireland. Yeah, I think that's so interesting because, and I guess this would be the same for you, I'm looking to build this brand, you know, I'm based in the UK, but we're looking to build more of a US focused brand and I always wonder what that looks like, you know, when you're actually not on the ground and whether you have to be there a lot for it to work or whether you can just truly be remote and it's not a big deal or you know what the vibe is, And I think the landscape has totally changed in that regard over the last 18 months.

I think while I am really looking forward to being back in the U. S. I think it also depends totally where your focus is if it's D to C I feel like that can be, it's a little bit more possible remote. I think if you have a retail focus, I think you need to be on the ground more. And I'm picking up um what's happening in the retail space a little bit more, so it's totally dependent on your business totally dependent on your distribution or what channels you're focusing on, and also where your team is based. Um and I feel like obviously over the past two years, how we are building our teams has fundamentally changed also where is your team? So our team is actually based across Ireland the UK, somewhere in mainland europe and somewhere in the US, so it's very global. Um it has been a really good experience. And again while I feel like you need that kind of a certain skill set in like a U. S. Retail base and team are in the U. S. Obviously.

Um and some of our dtc anarchy to see players are in europe. So yeah it's been interesting trying to navigate that that building a team, building a best in class team while also being a global company. Yeah and I mean you guys are absolutely killing it so it's amazing to see just how possible it is to be so global and all over the place instead of the traditional, everyone under one roof and within the same kind of driving distance to each other totally. I think it's been really interesting and I think you know even we had one of our first team meetups last week in Ireland and a lot of people travel obviously from the U. S. And from from you know Germany and and different places in europe. I think it's really important for team members to still meet each other and to connect. Um but I think there's a lot more opportunity for growing a remote team and I think we're still really figuring it out but it's actually been really positive so far.

That's super cool before we get into it. I just wanted to ask you a personal question as I know you're a dentist, what is your opinion on folks going to Turkey to like change their teeth. Oh, we're going down the rabbit hole, like super interested to know the professional opinion. Oh, totally, I am a dentist and I have done so much cosmetic work over the years and I think really what it's about is I think the day where everybody had to get, you know, all veneers and their top t than all veneers on their lower teeth, I think that's really becoming a thing of the past. I know now we use a lot more orthodontic options, like Invisalign and then we might do some bonding or more conservative cosmetic treatment options and while veneers are an amazing option, what I would say is often times I could have a patient who comes in to me and says, look, I want to have my front six teeth veneers. I said, okay, perfect, this is what it would look like.

This is, you know what I would think, and I would say either you need, Well I agree you need six. Actually, no, you need four. Actually, you need 12, but I almost always see when someone travels abroad that the person who needed four veneers or six veneers literally gets 20 veneers. So for me, it's about overtreatment, you know, you're getting veneers on back teeth and all this kind of crazy treatment that was never necessary. Um I think there are fantastic clinics abroad. Um but I also think there's a lot of over treatment and I think that there is a lot of work that comes back to haunt you. So, the thing with dentistry is you can put veneers on a patient and almost everything will work for two years, no matter if you did it with your eyes closed, but With your veneers last for 15 years and when you go to replace, you know, are you, have you set that patient up for success for their lifetime? Because obviously a person not wanting to give veneers for 10 years and then lose their teeth, you know, in which you often see, and I've literally taken off people's veneers that have had them done abroad.

So the lot of over treatment, a lot of treatment that isn't thinking about the long term outcome of that patient's teeth and that's the most important thing. And I think we have fantastic treatment options now for more conservative ways rather than typically that crown or veneer from year to year approach. Yeah, I mean, Tiktok just blows my mind. I see this these kind of things that I just didn't know about before and I just didn't know that that was the thing, I always just thought like some people had really perfect teeth and that I wasn't one of them. Um and I don't know, I'm just like, holy sh it like you changed all of your teeth and you know, when you see the before and after him, sometimes I'm like, but your teeth were really good before. I don't understand. But yeah then I also understand that like self esteem and you want perfect teeth. And of course we live in this age of social media where you know I would say my teeth are pretty good but of course I would love to have shiny white pearly teeth. But yeah it's it like kind of blows my mind.

The real issue I have with that cosmetic aspect of dentistry is that almost everyone does not feel represented when they look at a perfect smile. You know that people feel like well that's not me. And I think that there needs to be a move towards individuality in a world care and oral beauty because you know recommending everybody to get 12 and years is not a good idea. And I agree with you often cite you see people who are pretty perfect teeth guests pretty extensive you know dental treatment and which could be totally right for that individual and that's what they want and I get it. But I think that level of aspiration in terms of what your teeth should look like. It just doesn't it doesn't suit almost like a lot of people. You know. Yeah totally. I like what you're saying about that representation thing. I had like this Who was it? It was a dentist and he dropped into my D. M. S. To be like oh you never smile with your teeth like do you want to come in for a consultation because I can see that you're not smiling and I was like yeah I never smile with my teeth because I don't know they just aren't like super white and all that kind of stuff.

So I forced myself to start smiling with teeth and to be more like okay well I've just got to like put myself out there and like smile with teeth. So now I try my best to do a bit of a mix of both. Yeah and I think that's that message of what is that perfect smile and I really have a bugbear. It's a bugbear of mine that you know normal smiles because you know your family or your friends will look at you and love your smile and because your smile is actually beautiful and just because you feel like your smile isn't the smile that is on a big ad or you know it doesn't mean that it's not beautiful you know and it doesn't mean that it's not unique and also so much that makes a smile beautiful. It's not just that uniformity and like that one size fits all its individual. It's also genetic and it's also your face, your growth. You know it's a huge amount of how your whole like skull basically is formed. So it's not just that kind of blanket approach and I think that there needs to be more movement towards individuality in oral beauty because like every other aspect of world beauty is individual and should be celebrated in that way.

Yes. Gosh, totally. Oh my goodness, let's dive into the actual business side of things. How do you like to introduce your business? What is your elevator pitch? My name is lisa craven. I am one of the co founders and I'm the CMO in spotlight oral care and spotlight oral care is really the product of an S. And I we are sisters and dentists. We worked together um in practice and really it is in response to a disconnection that we felt was apparent between what we knew to be true as dentists and what products were available for our customers and our patients to buy in pharmacy and beauty stores. And I think you know as dentists, everything we do is based on science and data on research and we're really trying to create clinical outcomes whether that be health or beauty. The great thing about having a beautiful smile is that you cannot have a beautiful smile unless it is healthy. You know, you have to have healthy gums, healthy teeth for it to be beautiful.

And so really when we looked at the oral care market, you see two main options, you've got your mass market products, those huge brands. But to me as a dentist, they sell this message of one size fits all. So it's like bright white smile, minty fresh and they haven't innovated in any meaningful way over the past 20 years, like you're still buying the same toothpaste your parents bought and there's been very very little innovation, you know, and actually you don't buy the same shampoo that your parents bought 30 years ago, you don't need the same food, you don't use the same, you know, cosmetics or or makeup, you don't use the same skin care, you don't have the same approach and then you use the same toothpaste. And then also why is it that we're told to use the same toothpaste from two all the way through your life? You know, oral health, like any other aspect of health is dynamic. It's individual, it changes throughout your life and you should be using products that target your needs. So those huge players, a lot of those companies still test on animals unnecessarily still contain animal byproducts.

They are almost entirely un recyclable. So they're made from the cheapest type of plastic. So if you imagine how common a billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfill alone in the U. S. Every year. So any toothpaste tube that has been made in the last 50 years is still in our planet somewhere. And so you know, we in spotlight, we have recyclable toothpaste tubes. We do not test on animals where animal cruelty free vegan friendly and we create products that target your individual needs. Uh So whether you have bad breath or you have chipping teeth or they're wearing or you want to whiten your teeth. So they're really results focused products that are really cleanly formulated and that are ethically and sustainably made, wow, You just told me so many things that I didn't know besides the recycling aspect. I knew that one, but that's crazy. I didn't know the toothpaste brands tested on animals. Mhm. Gross! I know it's totally unnecessary.

Like, honestly, up until not that long ago in europe, there used to be little tiny bits of plastic in your toothpaste, The microplastics. I remember. Yeah, and and why? Because they were a bulking agent because it was cheap. And so actually, when you look at toothpaste, it's one of the lowest quality products that you're you used typically in my opinion. And when you think about it, the lining of your mouth is 50 times more absorbent than your skin. So if you are careful about what you eat and what what products you use on your body and your Children, you should be thinking about what your toothpaste because it's literally a product you use twice a day for your whole life. You know, there's things like that are in your antifreeze in your car is still in toothpaste. You know, it's really, really lacks any innovation. And so we were looking at are the products and vanessa and I you're quite trained actually to quite a high level in terms of product formulation as dentists because we use a lot of materials quite versed in material science. You know, we really looked at what ingredients were there and actually couldn't believe it like as dentists, we did not know The brands that we have been recommending for 10 years contained all this rubbish ingredients and ingredients that are totally unnecessary.

Um and so we wanted to clean it up and create like clean oral care. But then I have it also have an issue with natural products. So your alternative to these huge brands are natural products that don't contain any active ingredients as dentists. We don't recommend natural products. We see practical rise in oral disease. If you start using for free products or natural products, they simply don't work. Is that like charcoal based products. Is that an example? Exactly or anything that says natural, it basically means there's no fluoride or active ingredients. Um florida is one of the only ingredients that has been proven to reduce decay to reverse decay and to prevent future cavities and decay. Charcoal is actually so typical because charcoal is a real example of how oral care to date is really trend led. So charcoal is an abrasive element that has been added to some toothpaste with you know, supposedly whitening benefits. There's no clinical research to show that charcoal whitens teeth.

In fact charcoal isn't abrasive, it wears your enamel away ironically making your teeth darker over time. So it's not only does it doesn't work, it's actually bad for your teeth, your teeth will be wider if you don't use it. No dentist recommends charcoal and if I had one billboard, you know that's what it says. Do not use charcoal to face. It's so bad for you. Oh my gosh! Yeah, you need to put that on a billboard. That sounds pretty important, wow. Holy moly. Okay, so you're a dentist, Your sister's a dentist. It makes total sense that you would bring these kind of products to the market. How did you actually get started? I I think I already launched around 2016. What was that time like? Can you paint a picture of the kind of key steps you needed to bring the brand to life? I needed to do. And really what we focused on in the very beginning was what our patients were looking for the most. So obviously whitening and whitening products are really, really popular. But would you believe when we looked at the market in europe, there were no whitening products on the market that actually contained any active ingredients that could possibly whiten your teeth.

I feel like when you're starting a company you've got major advantages and major disadvantages. And our advantage was we knew exactly what we wanted in the product, what we didn't want in the product, we knew exactly how the delivery system should be and how to get clinical results as dentist. This is what we're trained to know. Um So that aspect of the business is what we really focused on Creating. It took us about honestly about 18 months to create our first product. And we launched with one product for our own patients in our in our practice we trialed lots of different formulations, lots of different motive deliveries and we settled on our whitening strips that have an active ingredient that is peroxide based, that achieves whitening results. And it's specifically designed for sensitive teeth. So again, for us, it was like looking at our customer base and finding out, like looking at finding out, ok, what is the barrier, what is the pain point in dentistry? What is the most requested treatment and why do people have issues with it?

So whitening is one of the most requested treatments in dentistry. What are the major barriers? Cost a lot of money to have your teeth whitening at the dentist also, any whitening you do wears off. So when you start drinking tea and coffee and meat curries and drink red wine, all whitening treatments wear off. It's not permanent. And so you have to repeat it. And there's a huge movement away from using really high concentration whitening products to using lower concentration products more often. Um and so we could see that clinically that's what where the move was was happening. And so we wanted to bring this in a product for our customers and our patients to use in the comfort of their own home. Um that was specifically designed for sensitive teeth. So if you have sensitivity and you put your teeth before, you know the pain that comes with that and also at an affordable price because you're going to have to repeat it. So we wanted it to be accessible and affordable for our customers. So there were things that were really focused on that were, you know, we had to achieve, it had to be an affordable price, it had to be suitable for sensitive teeth and it had to be easy to use.

And those are the three things that we, we, we looked at, obviously it had to work, but the three kind of surrounding aspects of the product were really important to us and we really focused on that for two years and created a product that worked and I think that that's really important and sometimes is not focused on enough, but creating a product that actually creates results is super important. When you say there was nothing in the market in europe before these, is that because it was like a legalities issue or like what was the reason there was nothing on the market? Because when I think of these kind of products, I think of in America like crest, I think it's called crest whitening strips, but in the UK, they as far as I was aware like years ago, they didn't have anything similar. Um, and I'm wondering why. So in the US, there are products like crest, um what they have varying levels of active ingredient. I'll kind of explain it to you this way. So as a dentist, you are allowed to prescribe a certain percentage in your practice that you can kind of stand over and make sure that everything is safe.

A lot of times in crest those products, they contain double the concentration if not triple the concentration that I'm legally allowed to provide as a dentist. And so there, that's where the issue comes in sensitivity and discomfort. So a lot of times there's a lot more that goes into bringing a product to market that has an active ingredient, ironically it's easier to bring a product to market that has nothing in it because regulatory bodies are not looking at it so closely. It's probably easier to bring a charcoal product to market than it is a proxy based product. But you know, as dentists, we were really determined that you know, we have science and research on our behalf and we went through all the legal requirements that we had to to show that it was safe and show that it was at the appropriate level that it wasn't going to damage anybody's teeth. And that was really important to us because we didn't want to add additional nonsense conversation into a topic that we already felt was pretty lacking any true evidence and, and data.

So we wanted to create best in class products and that for us has to be peroxide based when it comes to whitening your teeth. So interesting. I'm wondering about you said a moment ago you spent about 18 months or two years in development working through, you know, iterations of your product until you could get to your final formula. When I hear that it makes me feel like, okay, that sounds expensive. You know, I'm going through R and D at the moment for our non alc wine company and it's obviously a lot of ongoing costs. And now when we look at our minimum order to bring one skew into the world, it's like 45 45,000 for that one skew. And so it's shifted our thinking in terms of like, okay, we were going to bootstrap originally, but now we're like, okay, maybe we need to rethink the financial side of things for you in the beginning. How are you thinking about the financial side of the business and how are you going to fund it? So, I think it's like, it's a really difficult part at the beginning for us, we each put a small ish amount of money is the three founders, we each put about €30,000 in, which is a lot of money, but at the same time, it actually allowed us to bootstrap the company for the first three years, I think at the beginning you can do a lot.

That doesn't cost a lot. I mean we brought one product market, you know, at the start, there's a lot of back and forth in terms of making sure that product is perfect, but it wasn't necessarily a really expensive process to make sure that the product is perfect. I mean, I think what's really important is making sure that your manufacturers and your partners are really aligned in terms of what you're trying to achieve. You need to motivate them to bend the rules a little bit. Maybe it's, you know, slightly reduced initial order, maybe it's more favorable payment terms. You're not gonna win every battle, but I think that they need to be on your side and I think that they need to know who you are and to talk to you and I honestly, you know, huge companies, huge manufacturing companies, they want to help smaller brands because actually smaller brands do all the heavy lifting in terms of changing industry. Actually, it's in their benefit to work with smaller brands because they will see, okay, this is actually something new.

I can I can see where the market is going and it actually informs their own MPD. So I think being really transparent, being really open and you know, I think that there's so much to figure out at the start if you can bootstrap it. Like I I personally think that's a fantastic way because I do think, and we have been through and raised finance and to be honest, we've had a fantastic experience and I know a lot of people don't necessarily have a good experience, but you know, there's different elements that will influence then how the, how the company grows. And so I think at the beginning you have to really stay true to who your customer is and what you're trying to provide that customer um, in terms of product or service. Um, and there's a lot to figure out and I think you need time and space to do that correctly. And I think if you have an investor depends on the investor, like they really need to allow you the time and space to grow. And having said that, I would say, do not spend a lot of money to start until you figured out the correct offering.

I mean, we've changed our packaging two or three times and we're only five years old and so that's an expensive process. Um but you know, you have to iterate, you know, you're never going to get everything right. So there's a balance of just get out there and get started, but try and do it is to be as you can, because you probably do like a lot of stuff wrong and that you have to figure it out and you don't want to have invested a huge amount of money and something that you're gonna change already. Yes. So true. So true, wow. I can't believe you bootstrapped for three years on that. And I think I read you did something like 20 million in the last financial year, that's just such a great achievement And I know you said you've raised and I've read about it online but still, wow, that's incredible Doing here as we get deeper into the holiday season, you might be thinking about ways to keep your business connected through the madness with things like employee holiday travel by our behavior changes and Q4 wrap ups staying connected has never been more important from marketing to sales and operations. A hubspot crm platform is ready to connect all of the touch points of your business, whether you're just getting started or scaling to what's next.

Hubspot is consistently working to make its platform more connected than ever. Improved forecasting tools, give you a bird's eye view of your entire pipeline to see what's around the corner, see how your quarter is going inspect new deals and use customizable data driven reports to improve team performance as you grow with custom behavioral events. You can get into the details of what makes your customers tick track site behavior and understand your customers buying habits or within the platform, learn more about how a hubspot crm platform can help connect the dots of your business at hubspot dot com. Could we talk about that 1st 12 months, maybe the 2nd 12 months, what you were specifically doing to find and acquire your first kind of loyal customers may be your 1st 1000 for example, I think what we really focused on was who was our customer and where are where is our customer. And a lot of times when people will say to us, oh you know your competition is crest or moon by Kendall Jenner and typically our customers actually our customer is is not in the market to either buy this toothpaste or this toothpaste or this whitening system or this whitening system.

Our customer is normally in the market for our product or the latest mascara. So from very early on we tried to establish ourselves in terms of our marketing and messaging. Yes, to stay very true to who we are in terms of were created by dentists. You know we're creating products that work that are going to create clinical results but are very beauty focused. And so we approached any marketing that we did like a beauty brand because we know we have the oral care aspect sorted. We are dentists. I know my product is the best but I I know who my customer, I had a good feeling and my sister, we both had a good feeling about who our customer was and what they were likely to be buying if they weren't buying our products. So it was about creating messaging um that resonated with that customer but that also conveyed who we actually were as a brand if that makes sense. So I think that your customer isn't necessarily making the most linear decisions and you have to be aware that it's a huge world and people are being exposed to so many marketing messages.

Um, and oral care is actually beauty industry and you know, even selecting the retailers, you're going to like we our first retail partnership in the U. S. Was alta, it wasn't a pharmacy was alter. And that was really important to us because we believe that we are a beauty brand and oral beauty brand and not overly clinical. So we didn't go initially down the pharmacy route. So it was really looking at your customer from quite a high level and seeing what they're buying and where they're spending their time and their focus also. Were you focusing more on the retail side of the business in the very beginning or were you focused more on direct to consumer through your own channels? So for the first year, we really focused on retail. We launched in Ireland and the UK through different pharmacy channels. So like Boots and different farms, chance in Ireland also. We've always had relatively strong enough direct to consumer business.

So initially It was about 70% retail at 30% direct to consumer. And now we're 60% direct consumer, 40% retail. And we focused on retail partnerships. That really made sense of pharmacy where the retailer could do that education piece also. And we supported them a lot with educational materials. So why are we different? You know, and in pharmacy in that channel, you have a great opportunity to educate and to drive awareness of oral health, not just our products but oral health and his dentist, you know, that's kind of low hanging fruit for us because pharmacists and chemists understand formulation and they immediately understand why we're better when they speak to us. So we go with what's easier at the beginning, you know, where do you feel like your brand is actually going to get success? Um and then we also did a lot of, we worked with a lot of influencers at the start also just to drive that brand awareness and that kind of dTC sales. Um so that's what we did in the initial year.

So really focusing on influencer marketing just to get the name out there and then also establishing those retail connections because they can take some time to take off also. So, you know, that takes time to get into retailers in time for for you to organize your logistics and those aspects to support retail. That's so interesting. I have to follow up questions around budgets for what you've just said, both on the retail side and you're ddC side when it comes to you being a new brand in the market and, you know, you're bootstrapping, you obviously don't have the same kind of budgets as someone like Colgate if they're to release a new product and you know, go crazy when you work with a company like Boots, which is nationwide in the UK, I'm sure it's, you know, thousands of stores, whatever, what is the kind of working capital, you need to be able to support that partnership through marketing. And are you able to kind of share a little bit about how that kind of relationship works for smaller brands? I think that it can be very overwhelming, but I think that the reason that Boots is so successful is because it works to support brands also.

So there are opportunities to support your brand within retailers. I think you should be picking a retailer that your customer is going into, so you should be picking a retailer that, you know, your customer is going to discover. And I think Boots is a very good example of that customers go to Boots to discover beauty and new products and it's not about replenishment so much as discovery. So that's really important when you're looking at a retailer partnerships, why is your customer going there? Are they going to spend an extra few minutes discovering a new product or brand? And do they have the support uh, in, you know, in store too help a new brand? I think Boots are very sensible in their approach also, they tend to roll out new products by store account and I think that you again, be transparent with your buyer, maybe you want to start with a lower number of stores and you want to figure out, okay, what seems to move the dial and then how can you work with boots to show success? And I think you can start small, maybe it's more promotional activity, um, that you can absorb through your margins and get product into customers hands, you know, and trial and pick and choose your activations.

And again, the great thing at the start is when you, when you don't have a huge amount of brand awareness and you do an activation and you monitor it and you see, okay, that actually worked or we saw in that area, rise in sales. You, you can start to figure out, okay, what works, what doesn't work? Um, I think, you know, always be aware of how much money you're spending and just don't overspend tested. It's a long term partnership and I think if you do good work in terms of education and awareness and if you've been looking up to have a retailer that supports that education and knowledge, um, that goes a long way to established early success and I think it's important that you look at it like that, it's a long term relationship, you do have to invest and little small things. We would have done our discounts in store, asking your buyer okay, what activations can we avail of, like what has proven to be successful, you know, in your store. Also, it's very simple things like where are you on shelf, is it really clear is your branding super, super clear.

And one thing maybe we definitely could have done better at the start is when you have a product, bring it into a store and put it on the shelf and then walk away and then walk back, you know, you could be that crazy person in the store, like we used to take your product and put it on a retail shelf, does it look right? Does it, does it stand out? What is the message that you need to put there to make it stand out against other products? That's a very basic thing you can do, but that's about, you know, looking at your branding um in a really objective way, Yes, that is so important and I think making sure that you're a, you know, different to what's around you and be easily able to kind of like hook someone in, especially from afar that they'll be like, oh, what's that? That looks really interesting. My second follow up question from before was around your influencer marketing strategy in the beginning, obviously, again, new brand, you probably don't have huge budgets for marketing. How many influences were you gifting for that successful kind of brand awareness piece and what you considered successful?

Yeah, and I think, you know, we've we've tried a lot of different methods and approaches when it comes to influencer marketing, I think at the beginning, when we launched we went with more like bigger influencers, more macro, so maybe like half a million followers, two million followers. Um, and I think honestly, even over five years, the influencer, that aspect of the market has changed hugely. Um, I think it was actually quite successful in terms of building brand awareness and I think that how you approach influencer marketing, you learn so much and you can, you can lose a lot of money and it can be expensive. I think now if I was starting again, I would definitely look more at micro influencers and smaller influencers and obviously looking for engagement. I still think that larger influencers are impactful. They just drive that brand awareness. But I know what obviously recent updates, you can't track everything. But I still think that if you pull back too much, you need to have some driver to your website, you need to have some brand awareness piece out there.

Um, that is driving traffic, driving awareness. And really when you look across the different options, I still think macro influencers are a reasonable choice, you know? Mm Yeah, it's still beneficial in the kind of influence a piece for sure. Especially when it comes to things like Tiktok, I feel like Tiktok is just driving so much um, you know, viral moments and brand awareness and things like that for all sorts of brands at the moment. Tiktok is honestly is incredible And I think that it's something that, you know, new brands in particular should lean into because I think we're the number one oral care brand on Tiktok and we've gone viral a number of times and honestly it's the most simple thing sometimes to go viral. Like I think the first video that went viral was a girl commenting on the color of her teeth, she didn't feel like her teeth were white enough and I stick to it and I said, look, people's, the color of people's teeth is totally different. It differs between people and it's individual brushing your teeth will not change the color.

You need to actually change the shade of your tooth. And the only way to do that is proxy products. But it was more focused on a real personal moment for that girl where she was not feeling represented in terms of what her teeth looked like in color wise and people have different color teeth, that's just nature. We have different color skin, different colored hair, different color teeth, that's not normal. And you never hear people talk about that, but a lot of people very pertinent to your initial conversation and part of our conversation, people don't feel represented by that. Um, and so that went viral because it was a moment and it was a real, real moment for that person. Um, and I think if you were a brand has something to say, I think Tiktok is amazing because there's a lot of brands, a lot of the older, bigger brands have no place on Tiktok because they're not necessarily doing everything the right way and they're not necessarily providing the most value. Um, I would say that Tiktok is literally, I think is so focused on fun, but also education and information and you know, I've commented and downloads videos on trends in oral care that are really popular.

So I think Tiktok is an amazing platform and I think working with influencers on Tiktok is a really good option for smaller brands also because it has that they're micro influencers there on the platform and it's a really good way of engaging with micro influencers in a very meaningful way. So I think if, you know that could be a really good option for smaller brands starting out also see, I love sex, I mean I love to talk to, it's so great besides Tiktok, what are the kind of channels that are really performing for you at the moment and kind of, you know, fueling your growth. I think that again, if you are brand is something to stay and, and, and an education piece, I think like your email, So you see around your email sMS is very important and so we put a lot of um effort and we put a lot of focus in terms of driving more leads and creating a more meaningful and larger database of customers. I mean for us there's an education piece that has to be done. Most people don't know that, you know, products are still testing on animals.

Most people don't know that you shouldn't be using charcoal or if you want to, this is why you should use the sonic truth purchases. Actually the clinical benefits. This is actually the science behind it. Most people don't know that. So we really use our email channel to drive awareness and education and to create loyalty. I think that's really, really important. I think it's going to become even more important over the next year, I think is that real value that you're offering your, your customers? Um, I think that's really, really important. So I think our email and our smS is very important for us as a channel. I'm hearing sMS marketing coming up a lot now in these conversations and that it's really kind of the, the thing of the now to be, to be making sure you're active on and kind of utilizing who was your first hire? And was it a good choice? Oh, she was a fantastic choice because she's still with us to this day. She's um amazing girl called at ling and, and actually that's a really good point because we started obviously with Vanessa and I, we made our product and then we were working and sending our products and at lunchtime and in the evening.

So when it came time to hire our first team member, you know, we definitely took on asking who had a creative background, but more generalists. So you need someone who can get stuff done. You know, like she was so amazing as you know, bringing a little bit more structure to what we were doing. Um you know, getting the logistics sorted out, making sure that, you know, any issues were being dealt with. I mean now we have 50 team members, so it's a different kind of situation, but fashion has now moved through the company and is now very much an important part of her NPD process. Um so I think some taking on somebody who's really organized, who is very accountable, very responsible, who gets stuffed on who figures it out. Um, doesn't necessarily need to have, although she had an amazing creative background, doesn't necessarily need to have like a specific skill set. I always think accounts is very helpful. Um but yeah, like an all rounder to start, I think it's really important and then as you grow, you just need more specific um hires and more specific team members to take more things in house and to focus on more channels and more more aspects of the business as you grow up.

Mm Yeah, I love that. A generalist, very cool. What is your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are earlier on in the journey coming into 2022? I think that e commerce and business in general is changing so much all the time. It's changing for everyone and you know, whether you're, I mean we're still very much startup mold, you know, you really have to be agile and adapt, you know, starting out, you are the most agile when you're starting out, so you can be the first person to jump on Tiktok and own that space, you know, um, I think just keep moving, keep staying in the game and be practical, you know, and, and you don't need to know the most about everything. Um, you need to make informed decisions, but you need to just keep moving forward, you know, like you don't have to do the smartest person in the room, your people are more than capable of doing it, but it's just 1000 little challenges all the time.

Um, and so while people interact with the brand that might feel like it's seamless, there's so much going on in the background that is not seamless and that, you know, is going wrong and you've got freight and logistics and IOS updates and growing a team and a it's not office based and you know, you're going or growing across three different regions with different suppliers, distribution and regulation and every business has that amount of complexity when you get into it and you grow, so you just keep moving forward, just keep going if you have to change something changes. You know, it's not failure, you just have to keep moving forward. Thank you so much. Great advice. We wrap up every episode with a series of six quick questions, some of which we might have covered, some of which we might not have, but I asked them all the same question. Number one is, what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing? Because I fundamentally think that the oral care industry needs to be innovative. It is a disgrace at the moment and I feel honestly a responsibility to innovate to change and to create more sustainable, more ethically minded products that are actually going to create value and clinical difference in our customer in our patients lives.

100%. What a great mission Question. Number two is what has been the number one marketing moment that made the business pop? I think the number one marketing moment honestly is going viral on Tiktok has really helped us in terms of to pick a moment. I think marketing can often feel like it needs to be a moment when very much is about strategy and layering those strategies, layering those channels and being more efficient um and growing carefully. But our standout moment in terms of marketing was going viral on Tiktok, I saw one of your recent viral moments that had something like five million views on it. So cool, Gosh, that must be so exciting. Yeah, it's amazing. It's amazing for the brand and like it's just, it's so much fun to and like that you have to have a little bit of fun when you're working because it's what keeps you going for sure. For sure. I got to enjoy the journey Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter?

What are you reading or listening to that we should know about. I am listening to a lot of podcasts like this amazing podcast. I think I'm always learning and I think that you can take it for granted. There's a lot of really good newsletters that I subscribed to in the industry linkedin. I like the D two C newsletter. It's very so ST it's it's really honest and it's quite critical as well which I like. I look at these amazing brands and they're like, oh but they could have done there so they could have done that. And I think like just understanding that actually probably part of your role as a founder in particular is to learn because things are changing so much that you need to be learning for your company to adapt quickly um and to see opportunities before the next brand does. Mhm. I will link that news later in the show notes for anyone who wants to check it out. It's a really good one. I am also subscribed question number four is how do you win the date? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful.

I have four Children. So I have to get up really early to get some exercise done. So I find exercise really important for me because it really focuses my mind, It gives me clarity that I wouldn't have otherwise. And it gives me a little bit of time for myself. So I try to get up before my Children um to do a little bit of exercise. It's not anything crazy. But you know what? It gives me a sense of control of the day that I've decided to get up at this time and I'm not being woken or you know, my date hasn't been set off by somebody else. This is my time. And then I can kind of hit the ground running. I'd like to go to bed early and I like to read there are very simple things and throughout my day, but at night time I read, I don't look at my phone. I just read. Love it. I'm trying to be better with that too. Question number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money, where would you spend that in the business? What is the most important spend of a dollar for you? I think especially at the beginning I would get your product into as many hands as possible.

So whether that's sampling some guerilla marketing, Get out there and get your product into people's hands and asked their opinion. What did you find? What did you like? What didn't you like and invite criticism. You know, welcome critique because you're very likely going to have to reiterate and change whether it's your messaging your packaging. So get it into people's hands and figure out what's working, what's not working. And question # six, last question is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset when things don't go to plan? I think it's very easy to focus on failure and we very rarely focused on little successes and, you know, very similar to your question. There tends to be very few standout moment of success, but you you recognize the failures also quickly, you know, um so I think keeping a little bit of fun and keeping things, you know light and moving forward, keep going, just keep going because it's not about getting everything right, You're never going to get everything right.

And I heard this um this advice before someone said, look, you're not going to make all the decisions right? It's just important to make the decisions and keep moving forward cause you'll figure it out. And so have a bit of fun. You know, I have my sisters, my co founder, so we have fun. You know, we don't take everything so seriously. And I think that, you know, There is no one way, there's no one way that suits every brand. Every brand is different. Every customer is different, you know, so there's 10 ways to skin a cat and you have to approach it like that because you will find a way that works for your business and your style and your customer. Um and so it's individual and you can only take so much from other people. Mhm lisa thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your insights with us and your story and all things to do with your brand. This was super, super cool. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Was so much fun. Hey, it's Doom here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Female Startup Club podcast.

If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup Club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D I. Y. Course. The ads, M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. No. Yeah,

Who should be your first hire? What’s your funding plan? Dr Lisa Creaven shares her top advice from building Spotlight Oral
Who should be your first hire? What’s your funding plan? Dr Lisa Creaven shares her top advice from building Spotlight Oral
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