Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].
We don’t make it a habit of reviewing toothbrushes here at The Next Web, but the social entrepreneurship work that Smiles for the People is doing caught our attention.
Smiles for the People’s main offering is a $5.95 toothbrush, though it also provides a discounted subscription service that sends a brush every three months. For every brush purchased, the company promises to donate the equivalent monetary value to organizations providing dental care to those in need. It’s a similar model to Toms shoes, but doesn’t stick to a one-for-one donation because the issue of oral health is more complicated than footwear.
The toothbrush is designed to be eco-friendly by employing a biodegradable bamboo handle instead of plastic. I’ve been using one for the past few months and though the ‘wooden’ feel of the bamboo (it’s technically a grass) was an adjustment, it’s worth the incrementally lighter conscience.
In an interview with The Next Web, founder Joe Brennan recounted the inspiration behind the company:
In the world of international development, oral health care is really frequently overlooked. There are really few NGOs that are doing good work in oral health…In my travel, experience, and studies, I learned how detrimental it is to people that are trying to lift themselves out of poverty when they don’t have access to regular dental checkups or even the most basic of preventive dental services.
Brennan decided to combine a for-profit model with a “for-purpose model” in order to tackle the problem.
“Not only are we a cause-driven brand. but we’re organized as a triple bottom-line business,” he said. “Everything we do has a heart and an eye to improving the lot of people while caring for the planet with an eye to our financial bottom line.”
Beyond toothbrushes, the kinds of dental needs in developing communities range from addressing toothaches, extractions and root canals. Just handing out toothbrushes could actually cause problems in communities without clean water, Brennan noted. Smiles for the People works with dental charities as giving partners, starting with an organization in Argentina.
“We try to understand where every dollar goes – who it goes to, what impact it has,” Brennan said. “We track to the child how many root canals our giving partners have provided. We want to follow up and look at what impact the root canal had on that child’s development.”
With the growing number of social enterprises putting products on the market, it’s becoming easier to build a lifestyle around giving back through our brand choices. Smiles for the People helps keep you covered in the oral hygiene department while looking out for the planet and others, and that ought put a nice clean smile on your face.
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