1105
7 min 56 sec

Librarian Invents Eco-Friendly Dental Floss

A lucky in-flight conversation leads a librarian on a twenty-year quest to start a half-million dollar oral health brand.
Floss Product

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What It's About

A librarian frustrated by the lack of eco-friendly floss takes a bite at creating her own.

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Research & Marketing
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
High

Words of Wisdom

If you've ever thought, "why doens't this exist in the world" you may be on to something. Jodi saw a gap in the market and filled it.

Fun Fact

Dental Lace got its name from a fellow traveler on a redeye flight to Maine. Jodi’s tried to find the businessman to thank him for the inspiration but hasn’t yet.

Notes from Chris

Episode 1105
In 1998, high school librarian Jodi Breau was standing in the bathroom staring into a mirror, frustrated by the ugly container of dental floss in her hand. She was thinking that all that plastic couldn’t be a good thing for a person, or for the environment. Over the next few weeks, she found herself ranting about it to her coworkers until someone finally said, “Well, why don’t you do something about it?”

And she did, though it took her almost twenty years to grow her idea from mild irritation to an eCommerce reality.

As a librarian, her go-to planning method was detailed research, so she studied the ultracompetitive floss market, including every type of possible container. She also started talking to dentists, friends, family—anyone who would listen to her new obsession.

Jodi’s vision was to design a refillable container that held dental floss made from natural fibers. She acquired an abundance of information over time, and eventually worked with a Chinese supplier.

They put together an artistic glass container that could be refilled with 100% Mulberry silk floss. It eliminated the waste, the waxy feeling of plastic on people’s gums, and it looked a lot better in medicine cabinets than those little grey and white boxes.

Between the different batches they tried, as well as various permits and licenses, Jodi spent a few thousand dollars over a few years.

The experience taught her that she needed to learn more about the world of business before investing much more. Once again, the librarian took to her stacks, and found a “How to Start a Business" book that had been recently returned.

This gave her the confidence, a couple years later, to invest another thousand dollars into more setup costs, including some branding and a website.

But her plan wasn’t to rely on online sales—she was going to load her car with samples and a sales pitch, and do drop-in calls at natural food stores.

Before she could hit the road, however, she sent a link to her new website to her sister, as more of an “FYI - Hey, look what I did!” Nancie, being a good sister, posted the link to Facebook, and by the end of the day, Jodi had multiple customers. By the end of the week, she had orders from across the country.

Dental Lace was officially in operation. The name came from a chance conversation she had on an airplane, where a business traveler sitting next to her suggested it.

Business grew rapidly through word-of-mouth (get it?!). A blogger included Dental Lace in her book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, and the interest led to features in national magazines like Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, and Forbes.

Jodi still hasn’t had time to celebrate her success, because the business has been growing so rapidly. Dental Lace made $80,000 in 2017, its first full year, and grew to $387,000 in the second year. This past year, the company earned over $500,000.

The entire operation still operates out of a house, though it has taken over more space. Along with her husband, who joined up as CFO, she also has two full-time employees and several contractors.

Her background as a librarian and dedication to a cause has paid off.

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Dental Lace: Get your own eco-friendly dental floss from Jodi's website.
  SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"I would say I'm on a totally different path now but years of selling To Kill A Mockingbird to high school students sure didn't hurt. Selling Dental Lace is so much easier!"
—Jodi Breau #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau