Do you want to learn how one of the fastest growing eco friendly businesses in the USA inspires it’s customers? We find out from Christopher Fous of Woobamboo
Christopher Fous, pronounced like you’d say most, but with an “f” and no “t”! Or close. Christopher runs Woobamboo in Cape Coral, south west Florida, USA. We spoke to him at 9am his time and it was a balmy 23oc/74 of. Not too shabby for November.
Why oral care?
Woobamboo – the way Christopher explains it is Woobamboo is in the oral care industry, but its’ not an oral care company. He considers himself to be in the inspiration business. Oral care is his vehicle. Everything they do is about inspiring people to be more “eco-friendly”. With the decisions they make and the products they use.
The products they offer are bamboo toothbrushes. A bio-degradable floss. A natural toothpaste.
They chose oral care because it is so fiercely ritualistic and universal. If you’ve late, you might skip a shower, but you’re never not going to brush your teeth! No matter who you are, everyone believes in having a nice smile. That’s why they chose oral care.
The business was formed 5 years ago, when 2 of Christopher’s best friends decided to start a company where every day they felt fulfilled. Woobamboo is them every day, trying to make a difference, having fun and trying to be part of the solution not the problem.
How big is Woobamboo is the US?
Woobamboo just reached their 10,000th store worldwide, in 23 countries. They have succeeded in replacing over 1 million plastic toothbrushes with bamboo ones. Woobamboo have been listed in big chains in the US. They are visiting the UK in April.
Want to try one out? They are just a click away on Amazon http://amzn.to/2jxexqr
There are styles for adults, kids and pets. The toothbrush is organically grown. It is not 100% organic however, as the bristles are plastic, but they are pushed into the bamboo, rather than being glued.
They use 90% LESS PLASTIC. Which is a tremendous achievement. Where do these plastic brushes often end up? In the sea. We must do something about that.
What kind of difference can you make?
Christopher told us that every toothbrush that you ever used, since you were little, still exists somewhere. If it doesn’t it has been incinerated.
Woobamboo knows they are not going to save the world with their products, but every morning when they use it, they are going to think, I’m doing something good for the environment. This was easy (using the bamboo toothbrush) – I can do more, what else can I do?
It makes you feel good about yourself. You care about the products. I makes you FEEL.
“We don’t own this world, we are borrowing it from our kids.”
We are going to have to give it back to them one day. Christopher wants it to be cleaner because of what he did.
The thing is the market is getting smarter and they are paying attention to products that they can STAND BEHIND. Find a cause that you can stand behind. It’s about doing good. We all want to make a difference.
Is this a lifestyle business?
An interesting combination. Steve, his partner and him started the business as a side-line. They didn’t think they’d be competing with Colgate! But they are now. They like the idea of being able to travel together, where they have a hell of a time! Causing chaos!!
Making money has never been the number one goal. Making a profit is something that happens if you are doing everything right. Profits enable you to move the machine forward.
They wanted to have fun and make a difference. If they make money in the process that is fantastic.
Do you inspire by walking about?
They go to as many shows as possible. Boots on the ground. They travel all the time. They drink their own Kool-Aid. Sometimes you need to get out there to be reminded that people are ‘digging’ what you are doing. They go to at least a dozen shows a year and travel all the time, including out of the country as much as possible.
They are into 10,000 retail outlets. Has growth taken the happiness factor away? Don’t know, they are still happy.
Beauty in simplicity. The toothbrush is almost a design icon. They call it innovation by elimination. Break down to its simplest form and that’s how you find its beauty. It feels good to touch something that came from the earth.
Design wise, branding look etc. Steve handles sales, Tom handles finance. Christopher is the designer and marketer.
Inspire us with the future
Christopher is inspired by others in the green movement. In the States, the ‘natural’ section of the store is getting larger and larger. It used to be a very niche product. “Oh you, want something that’s natural and chemical free, you have to go to the specialist store”. But, now here, along with Boots etc in the UK, their natural sections are increasing.
“I’m hoping one day that there will be a small section of un-natural products!”
People say its trendy to use natural products. Christopher says, no, the trend was using plastics and THAT is over. The world’s waking up and we are realising that every product we buy ends up somewhere.
“Every dollar you spend is a VOTE you are casting for how you want the world to be.”
Vote often and vote smart. Spend your money on the products that are making a difference and actually doing something good for the world.
His vision is customers make such purchases instinctively.
Eventually buying smart and buying with the world and humanity at the tip of your mind is going to be the natural thing to do.
Where is your bamboo grown?
It’s grown all over the world. They use a species called MOSO Bamboo.
It’s one of the thickest and densest fastest-growing bamboos. They use only the bottom 7-10 feet of a 60-foot-tall growth.
The lowest part gets dense. The rest of it can be used for chop sticks, paper pulp. Bamboo comes from China. It is sustainably cut down. Bamboo is the most sustainable of materials. It should be sued for buildings in every country.
Bamboo is an incredibly strong product. It has greater tensile strength than steel! It is a grass! Not wood.
How have you grown Woobamboo?
No-one is looking for a bamboo toothbrush. It is a discovery item. No-one wakes up and says I am going to buy a bamboo toothbrush.
The trick has been letting the world know.
Christopher has been a quick-study of Marketing. A year ago, if you asked him who his customers were then he’d have said, buyers in stores. Now it’s about his consumers. Speaking to the consumer is an entirely different and much trickier thing.
They are still trying to figure out the best way to let the world know.
Social media, influencers. Woobamboo don’t use traditional media. They are slowly getting out there. Woobamboo do a lot of sampling. They hand them out to people in coffee shops.
How do you inspire others?
Has Christopher been asked to share his inspirational message. Schools and he is behind a children’s book called “Pirate Pete’s Voyage”
He advises other businesses – stand for something you believe in. Your bank account doesn’t say how successful you are. It is the number of lives you touch in a positive way.
Keep chasing that feeling of doing the right thing.
How does Christopher say we make a difference in the next 100 days?
What is the cause you stand for?
What can you do in the next 100 days? Can you make your employees supremely happy? Take care of them and let them take care of your customers. Live a life trying to inspire.
Woobamboo is in its 5th year. Several dozen alternatives have come forward.
Eco is so natural. It is second nature today.
They want a sustainable future. He’s happy to be one piece. Making eco mainstream. Business is not cutthroat. People can be cutthroat. Bridges are not meant to be burnt. He wants to rise up by working with others. One of Christopher’s favourite quotes is:
“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”
The same arc as LEGO
Being compared to LEGO is an honour. He’s just being good to people.
There over-arching tag line is: INNOVATE, INSPIRE, CHANGE THE WORLD
Positivity is a choice.
He hires people NOT resumes. He finds good people then finds good places for them. It is a lot more difficult to find the perfect person for a job than it is to find a perfect job for a person.
Most of the team are local to Florida. People in Denver and North Caroline plus Overseas.
[we record this podcast by Skype video and record the audio] Woo their Panda just walked by. Actually, it was a 6-foot-tall guy with a panda head. He was eating a large stick of bamboo. Not our bamboo.
What lessons can we learn from Woobamboo?
They are the fastest growing natural toothbrush brand in the US last year.
- Fail small.
- Succeed humbly
- Not all trends are the same
- Next year who knows where they are going to be
What makes floss natural? Silk, woven into floss. From Milan.
They have natural mouthwash too. Chemical and fluoride free. You don’t want to swallow toothpaste!
They will have four flavours of mouthwash. The market for natural toothwash. They tend to be mild. They have corrected this.
Fluoride is good for your teeth, but not for your body. Don’t ingest it.
What would you tell others?
They are plenty of ways to be eco-friendlier. One of the challenges is that you go so eco-friendly that you cannot get into stores, you are doing the world a disservice. There is a plastic to cover the toothbrush. Better to be 90% eco than a product that is 100% biodegradable and nobody either gets to see or wants.
Make as big an impact as possible. You cannot change the world if no-one buys your products. People don’t want animal hair in their mouths. There is always a balance.
Think big picture. Make decisions for the decade not the week.
Facebook – Woobamboo UK or Woobamboo Oral Care
If you send a FB message, there is a great chance that you’ll be read by Christopher. How many other CEOs would do that!?
The Next 100 Days Podcast is brought to you by Graham Arrowsmith and Kevin Appleby