Our Corporate Partner, WooBamboo Eco-awesome Oral Care, is based in the state of Florida, U.S.A., and was launched on Earth Day in 2013. In just over 5 years, their line of natural bamboo toothbrushes, biodegradable silk floss, and natural toothpaste has become available in almost 17,000 stores in more than 30 countries. So far, well over two million plastic toothbrushes have been replaced with those made of bamboo.
We asked Christopher Fous, one of three founders of WooBamboo, to share their experience and insight on launching their successful bamboo business.
Q: How did the idea for your business come about?
A: First off, it strangely has nothing to do with teeth. Or hygiene. Or bamboo. For us, it was about inspiration. We wanted to create something that was simple, beautiful, and most importantly: universal. Something that was an eco-friendly alternative to a product everyone used, no matter what country you live in, what age, sex, or religion. We all brush our teeth, but unfortunately almost every person in the world uses and throws out plastic toothbrushes. They all end up in a landfill or an ocean - and we rarely even think about it because we so seldom throw them out. But there's billions of people doing it. It adds up. For us, our toothbrush is more than a piece of bamboo with bristles. It's a reminder - a symbol. It will remind you every time you use it that you've made a planet-friendly decision. You'll feel good about yourself and want to do more for the environment. If millions of people start and end their day feeling good and wanting to make eco-friendly choices, then we've changed the world. Everyone can make a difference with the decisions we make and the products we choose to endorse - and that's a powerful, beautiful thing.
Q: What is your company mission statement?
A: Innovate. Inspire. Change the world.
Q: How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the company mission?
A: When I'm ready to hire, I hire a person, not a resume. Find good people - then find a place for them in your company. Finding the perfect person for a job is much more difficult than finding the perfect job for a person. I am relentlessly positive, and believe in kindness above all things. I make that very obvious - and I follow it relentlessly. Everything you do should live and breathe that purpose. Do that and people will come to you. Stand for something, and good people will stand with you.
Q: What are the challenges to running your particular bamboo business?
A: We've developed our brand from scratch, so creating a worldwide demand for a product that no one was particularly searching for has been a challenge. But once people SEE our products, they get it instantly. That's the power of bamboo. It's synonymous with sustainability.
Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in your bamboo business?
A: It's hard not to immediately think of the eco-excellence awards we've won, or the incredible feeling of landing the Costco’s and the CVS’s (large chain retail stores) of the world. But I get the most satisfaction from traveling with my business partner, who I'm lucky enough to have as a best friend. We started WooBamboo to make a difference in the world, while also being able to travel together and have a great time. It's a fantastic feeling knowing that we've already succeeded in creating that opportunity. It's also so rewarding to me to see my son's face on our toothbrush packages, knowing that families all over the world, with children like mine, see my sweet little guy's face. He’s a symbol for positivity, for change, for sustainability, and it warms my heart to think he's a part of what we're doing.
Q: How do you build a successful customer base?
A: Be nice to people. Other than my being the creative arm of WooBamboo, I'm not particularly an expert in anything. I'm not a dentist. I'm not a retail pro. But I'm a helluva nice guy - and so are my partners, Steve and Tom. So are all of my employees. Be a good person. I truly believe that that's why WooBamboo is where it is today - because we believe in what we're doing, and we believe in positivity. You'll hear that business is cut-throat. It's not. People can be. But business is about working together. It's about sharing, and mutual benefit. Make connections. Leave a positive impression on the people you meet. Deals are made more with the heart than they are with the head. 100% of customers are people. Just people. So treat them with kindness.
Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A: Having started WooBamboo with two of my very best friends, I know how much effort, time, sacrifice and stress is involved in simply trying to launch a brand. It's tough, and incredibly humbling. I am so inspired by the other companies I see that are just a few steps ahead of us in the game. I'm also driven by the companies a few steps behind us, and I try to share my experiences as much as possible in order to help. We are all citizens of this world, and our goal should be a common one. To all the other companies and people out there trying to make a difference, trying to leave this world (that belongs to our children, by the way) in a better way- THANK YOU. Thank you for enduring. The struggle is real. But the payoff is, as well.
Q: How do you go about marketing your bamboo business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A: Most of our marketing is done at tradeshows, honestly. We get in front of distributors, and push our brand that way. We also have an active social media presence, and are constantly getting bloggers and influencers to review our stuff.
Q: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A: I honestly admire anyone with the courage and fortitude it takes to start a company. It's not easy! There are so many companies in the eco-friendly arena now that are working towards making the world a better place. I'm proud to be a part of this movement towards better practices, more transparency, and more ethically-sourced goods.
Q: Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
A: It's hard to say. 10 years sounds like a lifetime, doesn't it? I'm not sure where WooBamboo will be. Hopefully it will be synonymous with eco-friendly personal care. I foresee us expanding past just oral care, and moving into natural skincare, haircare, and perhaps cleaning products. We've never been a "toothbrush company". We're an "inspiration company". Our products are eco-friendly and natural alternatives to the products we use everyday that are harmful to the planet and/or chock full of chemicals. So that leaves a pretty broad spectrum of opportunity for us. Whatever we're into, know that it'll be a great product designed with passion and positivity. Woo, baby!
Q: If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
A: I would ask, ‘What are the best and worst things about your job?’ I have a job? Man, I guess I do. I don't see it like that. I GET to do what I do. It's my personal mission (not job) to help inspire the world with cool, natural alternatives. I'm formulating a completely natural toothpaste and mouthwash line because I know people deserve a better option. I get to design the products that can help shape tomorrow's eco-driven marketplace. That's ferociously cool, and I can't help BUT think of a million and a half reasons to love what I'm doing every day. Worst thing about it? Waiting - hands down. Everything takes time, unfortunately, and I want to make a difference NOW. I've a short attention span in a world that demands patience...