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How a Cartoon Gator & Deer created a $5-10K Monthly Profit Toothpaste Company... In Six Months!
Level 2 - Value Investor
This is a Bonus Post for the Holidays. Many of you say “where to start” so what better example than one that just happened in six months. Verifiably built in public.
For those of you that don’t know me, I go by Gator. I’m an anonymous cartoon alligator and a practicing dentist. The cartoon behind BrushWithNobs
Recently BowTiedFawn and I launched a personal care brand called Biöm. Our first offering is a toothpaste, but we have plans to expand into a wide array of products for your daily routine.
Today we’re going to talk about how we started this, and what goes into launching a product like this.
I started my account back in June of 2022. Funny enough, Fawn was my inspiration because I saw that the BowTied community started to take a liking to something like skincare. I thought to myself “If they like skincare, I bet they’ll like dentistry too.”
I had been following many BowTied accounts for the last year and a half and was excited to see it expand beyond crypto and finance, so I decided to take a stab at it.
I was fortunate to be welcomed with open arms and experienced pretty rapid growth on Twitter. I began receiving questions like “when are you going to make your own toothpaste?!”
Ironically, I had experimented with making a toothpaste a few years back but ran into a few roadblocks. If you’d like to read more about the story of why I created it, check out this thread:
I hung up the idea, but I still had all of my Google Docs with recipes and research.
One day, I was speaking with Fawn over DM and we joked about making toothpaste. One thing led to another and the conversation became more serious.
Here’s how we did it:
1) Make a Corporation
We incorporated using Northwestern Registered Agent and made an LLC in Wyoming. In the future we’ll likely elect to file as an S-corp for tax purposes.
In the beginning, it’s most important that you get the thing filed and step on the gas. Once filed, then we opened a bank account with novo.co. Now we’ve got an EIN number, a bank account, and it’s time to make this company useful.
2) Define Your Product
Due to the insane minimum order quantity for tubed toothpaste, I knew the only way to pull this off would be to go down the toothpaste tablet route. In order to start up a tubed toothpaste brand, I would have had to order around 50,000 tubes of toothpaste which was not logical in any sense of the word.
There were legitimate health benefits to toothpaste tablets compared to tubed toothpaste as well. Due to the concentrated ingredients, we didn’t have to formulate with undesirable preservatives. Tubed toothpaste has a high percentage of water and needs preservatives to stay fresh. Tablets don’t have this limitation.
The existing competitors in the toothpaste tablet market have some great success, but at the end of the day, they aren’t good products. I knew if I was going to do this, I would need to heavily modify the ingredients to make it a product worth using.
I knew what I wanted in the formula, so we just needed to find someone to make it.
3) Find a Manufacturer
Here are the best resources I’ve found to find suppliers and manufacturers:
I found about 20 potential manufacturers and whittled the list down to a small handful. From there, I ordered samples from those that remained. I ultimately went with the manufacturer that gave me flexibility to modify the formula.
From there, I went through 5-6 rounds of modification until I landed on a formulation I was happy with. Once we finalized the product itself, it was time to design a label and build a website.
4) Define Your Brand
I have some intermediate experience with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, and to keep initial startup costs low, I designed everything. I purchased a few fonts from Creative Market and got to work.
From the beginning, I had high aspirations for the brand we were creating, so I wanted to name the company something with a broad stroke, not limited to toothpaste. After a lot of creative dialogues with Fawn, we landed on Biöm.
The concept was derived from “microbiome”, an important element for both oral and skin health. This would set the stage for us to grow and expand the brand into aspects that cover the entire umbrella of personal care.
We employed a similar branding strategy for the toothpaste itself.
NOBS has a double meaning. On one hand, it’s a playful and meme-friendly name. It’s a little nob of toothpaste.t’s one syllable. It’s cute. It’s approachable.
The other meaning is that it’s “No BS”. This encapsulates the philosophy of why we sought to make it in the first place - a no frills toothpaste that has everything you need and nothing that you don’t.
I’ll be honest, the first label sucks. It’s clean and done “well”, but it’s ugly. That’s fine, though. The game is won by pressing on and iterating as you go. I don’t regret designing the first label in-house because it saved us capital to put into the product and to get the project off the ground.
For the next round, we hired @BowTiedApollo to clean up the design and make it more professional. We had this idea in mind from the beginning.
Then came the packaging.
5) Customize Your Packaging
We shopped around for a bit and went with the manufacturer that was the most responsive. At the end of the day, a box is a box and isn’t as important as the product itself.
We spent a lot of time designing the box in order to create a brand positive experience. In retrospect, this was something that seemed a little frivolous but actually turned out to have a high ROI because so many people were proud to take and share pictures of their deliveries and tag us on Twitter.
Many people would have just opted for a cheaper unbranded box, but I’m glad we made this a nonnegotiable.
6) Final Logistics
Building a Shopify site is pretty easy. There are a few essential apps you can download that make it even easier. We used a drag-and-drop page builder called Shogun, and started designing.
We kept all of the branding elements the same to create a consistent feel across the website and product.
Third Party Logistics (3PL)
Finally, we had to iron out the fulfillment for the toothpaste. A third party logistics company, or 3PL, is what would allow us to make this process go smoothly. No one wants a pallet with thousands of toothpaste jars showing up at their doorstep.
We shopped around and landed on Packdash. They have been great so far, but each 3PL will have different pricing structures to fit each business model differently.
In fact, as we scale, we may move to a different 3PL. The theme of everything I’ve laid out so far is that you should never be married to any piece of this process.
Always be willing to shop around, walk away, or pivot.
We started a pre-sale around 3 weeks before we fulfilled orders. This was good and bad.
On the positive side, it allowed us to gauge interest in what we were offering and generate a little bit of revenue to offset the capital investment we each made.
On the negative side, Shopify doesn’t like when you collect money and don’t fulfill orders. We got put in “Shopify jail” for lack of a better term, and they reserved some of our funds due to being a high charge-back risk.
Side note: make sure to spend a lot of time updating your policy documents in the website’s footer. If these are not up to snuff, Shopify will shut you down without notice, especially in the personal care and supplement spaces.
8) Going Vertical
On December 4th, I made an off-brand tweet about tipping culture which got retweeted by Cernovich (Who Writes a Substack Here). This retweet took off more than any of my previous tweets. My first viral post on Twitter.
Except it didn’t convert. At all.
I woke up the next morning out for blood. I crafted a thread about the dentist being a scam that I knew would be a hit. It was.
The next day I tried to do it a second time. It worked again.
Two days later, I tried for a third time. Also worked.
Over the course of 5 days I went from 7k followers to 27k. I’d say it was an accident, but I was determined after having a useless tweet gain traction from Cernovich.
This “vertical” event in popularity had an amazing effect on sales. It may sound cocky in hindsight, but I wrote each of those threads with intention to grow. I didn’t sacrifice any of my integrity in doing so, but it took time for me to learn how to write proper hooks and craft content that is engaging.
9) Official Launch
Launch day went fairly smooth.
It wasn’t ideal because we started fulfilling orders right before the holidays. We got hit with some additional holiday surcharges and some orders didn’t get delivered before the holidays.
Overall, we can’t complain.
We made rough estimates very early on that we’d be shipping out orders on December 18th, and the orders actually started going out that day.
Pretty wild that we were able to pull this off, but we had a little bit of luck and didn’t waste a moment when inevitable fires arose.
10) Post Mortem
It’s still early to say but things have gone fairly well, and I don’t know what we would have done differently. I guess the classic “I wish I started earlier” would be my only comment on that.
I am pretty obsessive with projects like this, so I spent a lot of time with careful consideration at each step.
Conversely, we were also incredibly decisive. Many people get into trouble with paralysis by analysis, and then they just burn time. Indecision is a decision.
11) What’s Next?
Good question. We started developing new products before the first batch even arrived at the warehouse.
It’s our goal to have at least 10 products available on the website before the end of 2023, and we are on track to have 5 ready for shipment before the end of Q1.
We spend a lot of time in the development phase of things, because it’s easy to just order a bunch of ready-made products in bulk and stick them on the website.
Our experience in dentistry and skincare puts us in a unique position to design, formulate, and leverage quality products that very few companies are offering.
We plan to continue this philosophy in what we offer, and we think the market will respond positively to it. In our minds, we can’t fail because we are making products that we personally want to use.
Some BTB Notes - Section Not Written by Gator or Fawn
Here are some interesting notes:
Notice they didn’t bother trying to create a product until people asked for it! (Remember you’re only good if other people tell you that you’re good)
Target audience matters, you have to niche down and write about what is related to your niche. Not just strange cultural talking points (although fun from time to time)
You can generate ~$50,000-80,000 a year (*profit*) within six months as a cartoon online. This is just one example of the most recent E-com related success (out of what what feels like hundreds at this point)
They utilized other people in the jungle for the basic advice on LLCs/S-Corps, getting a deign person (Apollo) and they have the self awareness to realize that their first iteration won’t be the last
The only comment we have is that it is likely better to have lower SKUs than higher SKUs for the first year of launch (general rule on our side) but to each his/her own
Oh. And. Neither of them asked “how to buy a website or how to start” they just got the ball rolling as soon as they saw demand for something they knew well. Most won’t even buy a single domain in their entire lives. They said it best. Start Today!
If you’re not part of the Jungle we have no idea why at this point so go ahead and join ASAP. Or. Continue to have celebrities insult you for being poor and “Flex on the Broke Boys!” The choice is yours anon.
Disclaimer: None of this is to be deemed legal or financial advice of any kind. These are *opinions* written by an anonymous group of Ex-Wall Street Tech Bankers and software engineers who moved into affiliate marketing and e-commerce. We’re an advisor for Synapse Protocol and on the JPEG team.
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