Q: How did you get started with Smile Squared?
A: I certainly didn't set out to start a toothbrush company. The backdrop of our story is really adoption. My wife and I have 3 children who were all adopted internationally. In 2005, we adopted our son from Guatemala. When we flew there to pick him up, we were struck not only by the beauty of the country and people, but also by the poverty we saw. We instantly knew that we wanted come back at some point to try and make a difference there.
This opportunity came in 2010 through a Texas-based organization called Buckner International. During our trip to Guatemala, we volunteered to be part of a group that hosted a dental clinic at local orphanages and community centers. We soon realized that many of the children had preventable and sometimes severe dental problems.
In Guatemala, my job was to teach the local children how to effectively brush their teeth. With no sinks or running water, I was also assigned the task of holding trash sacks open for kids to spit in. I saw firsthand the effect that poverty and poor dental hygiene could have on children?s health. Not only do poor dental habits adversely affect children?s overall health, but it also affects their confidence due to the poor esthetic condition of their teeth. Simply put, some children were in pain and didn?t want to smile.
In visiting with the nurse, she explained that many of the children we were seeing probably didn't even own a toothbrush. If they did have one, the family members were probably sharing it. The idea that a basic necessity to overall health?a toothbrush?was in fact a luxury for so many children. This didn't sit well with me, so we set out to create Smile Squared.
We founded Smile Squared in hopes of giving children their smile back. Our ?Buy One, Give One? philosophy ensures the purchase you make has a direct impact on the world. I just felt that this type of business model was more sustainable in the long run, as opposed to constantly coming up with donations. Any time you buy a Smile Squared toothbrush, we?ll send one to a child in need. We work with amazing organizations and non-profits throughout the US and the world to make this happen.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment with Smile Squared?
A: To date, we have donated over 24,000 toothbrushes to children as a result from our sales. This excites me, but also lights a fire to dream that Smile Squared will catch on, that way we can furnish millions of toothbrushes yearly to children who need them. By the end of 2013, Smile Squared toothbrushes will be donated in all 50 States and at least 17 countries throughout the world.
Q: What is your favorite/most memorable story related to Smile Squared?
A: I had the opportunity to travel back to Guatemala in 2012 after we started Smile Squared. It was so meaningful to see our toothbrushes put to great use, and to teach more kids about the importance of taking care of their teeth.
After Hurricane Sandy, we were also contacted by Save the Children to donate toothbrushes for their relief efforts. We sent them right away without hesitation.
One of the organizations we donate to is Give Kids A Smile. I recently had lunch with Joan Allen, the St. Louis chapter Executive Director. She sat down and told me story after story about kids whose lives have been changed because of the generous work done through their clinics.
Q: What do you want the dental profession to know about your company?
A: We are still a young company, and don't profess to "know it all"?whether it's about products, programs to support, etc. I'm always willing to sit down and listen to suggestions. We're even changing our product lineup a bit based on feedback from dental health professionals.
I also recognize that the dental field in general is filled with the most humble and generous professionals I've seen. We have witnessed so many clinicians who devote their time, resources, experience, and staff to helping those who cannot afford quality healthcare otherwise. This is seen both in the US and internationally.
Q: Do people who purchase and donate to Smile Squared receive pictures of those who you help?
A: We work with quite a few non-profits, and we ask them to send us stories and pictures from the trips and clinics they host. We try and post these pictures and stories on our social media websites as soon as we get them. Communication is key.
Q: Can dental offices take part in and give toothbrushes to many children abroad while also helping out children who lack toothbrushes here in the US?
A: We certainly have dental offices that stock Smile Squared Toothbrushes, and I'm sure many other offices have their own way of giving back. All I can control is how we adhere to our mission. When you buy one, we'll give one.
Q: How has this idea been received?
A: Very well?not only in terms of sales, but in terms of press.
We've been featured in several newspapers, magazines, and all sorts of media. We were recently featured on the Today Show. Last year, we were featured in Martha Stewart's Whole Living, Kiwi Magazine, The Costco Connection, and Entrepreneur Magazine, to name a few.
Q: Do dental industry companies and non-dental industry companies purchase and donate?
A: Our mission certainly struck a chord with the DuPont CEO of Filaments in Shanghai. In 2012, DuPont Filaments Division committed to donating enough bristles for 1 million of our donated toothbrushes. We are certainly thankful to Mr. H.H. Wong for this gesture.