Business Link’s Client Feature blogs allow us to highlight some of the many incredible Alberta entrepreneurs we work with, like Mike Medicoff and Damien Vince, Co-Founders of Change Toothpaste. Inspired by Mike’s sixteen-year-old daughter Sydney, who set out to make her family’s home as close to zero-waste as possible, they designed and created an innovative product to offer a zero-waste option to the toothpaste tube.
We connected with Mike and Damien to ask them a few questions about their business and entrepreneurial journey together.
Q. What is your background?
A. Meet co-founders Mike Medicoff & Damien Vince!
Damien Vince (left): I have a background in IT support, Operations and have been an entrepreneur most of my adult life.
Mike Medicoff (right): Serial solopreneur in a wide range of careers, including Vet Tech, Massage Therapist, and Travel Agent.
Q. What motivated you to start your own business?
A. Both of us like the freedom to build a business. We enjoy setting direction, controlling the narrative and providing a solution to a problem. The manufacturing process is not something either of us has done, so learning new skills to tackle this has been rewarding.
Q. Tell us about your business and what it does.
A. At Change Toothpaste, we manufacture, distribute and retail zero-waste toothpaste tablets. We focus on distributing toothpaste tablets to retail locations in Canada and the United States. We also have a direct to consumer website that allows customers to purchase direct. Inspired by Mike’s sixteen-year-old daughter Sydney, who set out to make her family’s home as close to zero-waste as possible, Change Toothpaste offers an innovative solution for an increasingly dire problem. Each year, more than 900 million toothpaste tubes around the world are added to landfills and oceans. Standard tubes cannot be recycled and are made up of 11 layers of plastics, polymers and resins, which take over 500 years to break down.
Q. What are you most proud of? What is your biggest success?
A. The biggest accomplishment is manufacturing a product. Making a thing is highly rewarding. Both of us have come from the services industry and creating something is completely different.
Q. What is your biggest challenge now, in light of COVID-19?
A. The biggest challenge during COVID-19 is the distance that we (Mike and Damien) maintain. We are the only two employees, and with the high risk of infection, we won’t continue manufacturing if we get sick.
Q. Have you had to pivot your business due to the impact of COVID-19? If so, what have you done?
A. Change Toothpaste has been very fortunate during COVID-19. We have no revenue to compare to year over year. We always had Direct to Consumer in mind when we started, so our online business was already functional. We have grown month over month, and our customers continue to support us.
Q. What has this pandemic taught you about you and/or your business?
A. We are very aware of how fragile the small business economy is in Canada. We are finding customers rallying behind not just us, but a lot of small businesses. It has been a struggle, emotionally and physically, and we want to continue making a change in our community.
Q. What advice would you offer other small business owners as they continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on their business?
A. Believe in what you are doing. Your passion has gotten you this far, it will continue to push you forward. Reach out to other business owners. A lot of business owners have the same struggles; some may have the ability to help. Some owners have reinvented the wheel before; learn and leverage that. Please pass on the information to those that need it.
Q. How has Business Link helped you? Why did you come to us?
A. Business Link has been a great resource for Change Toothpaste. We’ve received introductions to people who have helped us. They have also provided resources to help us on the business end (business planning, marketing strategies, and financing).
Q. Have you received support from other organizations? If so, which organizations?
Q. What advice would you share with others who want to start or grow their own business?
A. Passion and resiliency is the key to being an entrepreneur. Believe in what you can do and ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait to talk to people; perspective is a beautiful thing. If you keep your head down and only listen to yourself, you can miss out on different thoughts, ideas and growth potential.
Q. What’s coming up next for you?
A. We are launching a new flavour, the first kid’s toothpaste tablet, bubblegum. In 2021, we will launch our new pre-printed, shelf-ready packaging and plan to be in more retail locations. We will also continue to navigate the regulatory process to bring a fluoridated zero-waste toothpaste tablet to Canada.
We want to acknowledge that in the province of Alberta we are situated on the traditional territories of Treaties 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10, ancestral homeland of diverse First Nations groups, Métis and Indigenous people whose ancestors have walked this land since time immemorial and whose histories, languages and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community. We pay respects to the Indigenous people of this land, past, present and future, while recognizing their cultural heritage, beliefs, and relationship to the land on which we reside.