[9 MINUTE READ]
TGIF, right? We know that many people out there might be struggling over this period of quarantine and self-isolation. Here at CAROLINAGMX, it is really important to us to uplift our readers over this time and make you smile, even if just for a few minutes.
That is why this week, we couldn’t be more excited about our interviewee: Natalie Quail, the CEO and Co-Founder of SmileTime. SmileTime is an oral cosmetics company that aims to bring you long-lasting confidence and happiness through your smile.
In our chat, Natalie tells us why she started the company and outlines her vision for the future. So get yourself into a cosy corner and get ready for a mood-booster… We hope you enjoy it!
Hi there Natalie! Let’s start with the personal stuff… Could you begin by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I grew up near London with a very multicultural family as my parents are originally from South America. My parents came to the UK and worked hard to build their own successful business in the dental industry. Our South American culture is full of passion, family and hard work. As a result, I developed a desire to succeed, mould my own future and build a community based on shared values, which became intrinsic to who I am.
That is awesome! So how did you get your foot into the oral cosmetics industry?
I became interested in oral cosmetics, particularly teeth whitening and lip-care when I was a teenager as I always felt more confident when I improved my smile. I worked as an international tax lawyer for four years before I realised my passion for oral cosmetics could become my vocation.
You’ve come full circle! So when did you decide to start up SmileTime and why?
I decided to start SmileTime with my co-founder in early 2019 when we started to research how we could make oral cosmetic products more accessible. I came across an article detailing how in the UK alone, 80% of the population are unhappy with their smile, yet only 1-2% of the population can afford to do something about it. This is because dental teeth whitening can cost hundreds of pounds and teeth straightening can cost thousands. I sincerely believe that our smile is the foundation for our sense of self-confidence.
"Plastics in traditional oral care are at the heart of the global plastic crisis; almost one billion plastic toothbrushes are disposed of annually in the US alone and end up washed up on beaches."
It sounds like there was a real gap in the market for creating a company like SmileTime. What strategies have been key to the company’s success so far?
Understanding our customers and creating a personalised experience through customer service have been fundamental to generating customer loyalty. Our social media marketing strategies to reach new customers online have also been essential in creating the SmileTime Community, which we couldn’t have achieved without our ambassadors. It is really important to us to only create ambassador relationships on an organic, gifted basis (rather than a paid basis); it means that anyone who promotes our products genuinely believes in them.
That’s great to know! What is your favourite thing about having started SmileTime?
There is nothing more rewarding for me than hearing from customers who genuinely didn’t want to smile for photos, and now feel confident enough to share their smile with others. I want us all to achieve that feeling. The experience of being able to create a vision, values and direction that customers fall in love with, is very special.
That must be lovely to see the impact your company is having on people’s lives! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients they use in their cosmetics nowadays?
Millennials and Gen Z are our main demographic and I think they are particularly conscious about their own health and their impact on the environment. I think our customers want to know that the people behind the cosmetics they purchase are sourcing ingredients in a conscious way. That very much involves living by the same values our consumers are living by. Essentially, these values are the cornerstone of our company; we want to empower and inspire ourselves and others. This starts by eliminating suffering where we can, whether that be in reference to gender equality, equal work rights, or animal protection.
Sustainability is also something we are really passionate about here at CAROLINAGMX; how does it factor into your business?
Sustainability is one of SmileTime’s core values. Plastics in traditional oral care are at the heart of the global plastic crisis; almost one billion plastic toothbrushes are disposed of annually in the US alone and end up washed up on beaches. We wanted to change how oral care uses materials and create sustainable alternatives. Our line includes bamboo toothbrushes; the handles are 100% biodegradable, and the majority of our packaging is recyclable. Our long-term goal is to use only sustainable materials in our products, while still preserving hygiene. Currently, we still have to use some plastic coverings for the teeth whitening syringes due to hygiene purposes, but we are actively researching alternatives.
You’re really paving a new way for oral cosmetics companies to operate- it’s exciting! What were your biggest challenges in starting up the company?
For me, understanding the supply chain we needed and establishing one that we could rely on to meet customer demand and scale was a big challenge from the outset. I’m proud that we are now working with suppliers we can trust. Great business relationships are more vital now than ever due to the COVID-19 crisis, as it means that we have been able to keep trading and delivering to our customers.
That’s great! It’s a really tricky time for any company to navigate. What makes SmileTime stand out?
SmileTime is making a mark in the global oral cosmetics market for two reasons: the uniqueness of our products and our values. Most of our competitors focus on one area of the oral cosmetics market, for example, teeth whitening, teeth straightening, or oral care. We want to provide consumers with a holistic oral cosmetic offering under one trusted brand name: SmileTime. We currently offer options to keep your smile healthy with our oral care products; whiten your smile with our vegan teeth whitening products and straighten your smile with our partnership with dentists in the UK. We will even be rolling out moisturising lip-care later in the year.
I'm looking forward to that! Ok, so could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
The first thing that comes to mind is our write up in Women’s Wear Daily in February 2020, where we discuss our retail outreach strategy. It was a huge moment to be featured in a publication of that calibre. Another stand-out moment was when we were scouted by a high profile TV series to feature in their program on new, exciting startups and entrepreneurs.
Wow! It sounds like SmileTime really kicked off 2020 with a bang! What inspires you?
In business, I am inspired by stories from our customers that have found the confidence to share their smile after using our products. In life, I am inspired by the stories of those who struggle to succeed and those who succeed after failure. Perseverance is inspirational!
Oh, definitely! And what is your average day like at SmileTime?
To be honest, every day is different! Coffee and wine usually feature at some point.
I love that! Do you think you have a work/life balance?
I think having a work/life balance is fundamental to mental health. There were times I struggled to find this balance in my previous legal career. Nowadays, I make sure to take downtime to reset; this time is crucial for garnering creativity and assessing the direction of the brand.
"I believe our smiles are key to our self-identity. It’s part of how we recognise ourselves and how others recognise us."
I completely agree! Why do you think creating oral cosmetics is important to you?
I believe our smiles are key to our self-identity. It’s part of how we recognise ourselves and how others recognise us. For me, feeling confident about my smile as a teenager was the gateway for feeling confident about other areas of my life. I want to give others the opportunity to feel this way too and I believe SmileTime’s oral cosmetics are the gateway to help people achieve that.
I definitely agree. A smile is usually what we first notice about someone. Right, what words do you live by?
The words “no”, “you can’t”, and “you shouldn’t”, just mean “find another way”.
Absolutely! What’s next for SmileTime?
2020 is all about focussing on consolidating a robust online presence through social media, our website and building partnerships in the retail industry. We want to offer our customers the option to shop in-store and on different online platforms.
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