Heather McDougall : Bogobrush
Heather McDougall is the co-founder of Bogobrush, an innovation toothbrush company that is shaking up the oral care industry. With both recyclable and compostable options, a subscription service, buy-one-give-one model, and sleek aesthetic, Bogobrush is THE sustainable option for quality oral hygiene while keeping sustainability and social consciousness in mind.
What inspired Bogo Brush?
My brother John and I founded Bogobrush together and we joke that the idea started when we were kids growing up as children of a dentist. :) Really though, neither of us had any plans of doing work in oral healthcare and then while we were both in college - John studying industrial design (car designer) and I studied law - we realized our shared passion for sustainability. We wanted to do something that brought environmental and social awareness into people's daily routines, and we couldn't help but keep coming back to the idea of a toothbrush. So, we got to work and created Bogobrush, our little toothbrush that could.
How long did it take you to come up with the design for the brush?
John is the trained and technical designer for Bogobrush, but we worked together with ideas and inspiration. We started playing with clay and sketches in the beginning of 2012. From there it was researching and testing materials, which took us three years to find the right solutions. When we looked at manual toothbrushes on the market we noticed they all had these crazy and useless grips and were made with lots of materials. This made them unrecyclable and uncomfortable to use. Instead, we took inspiration from tools we use in our hands like paintbrushes and dental instruments to come up with the beautiful, minimalist form that is easy to use and looks good, too.
What is it like owning a business with your brother? Do either of you have a background in dental hygiene?
I love working with my brother. Our skills complement each other really well- we're both creative, imaginative people and at the same time can think critically and detailed about what it means to run a business. I trust and respect John totally, and this makes me want to hear his opinions even if at first they are new to things I've considered. And, at the heart of it all, it's just so fun to work with him because I get to hang out with him and talk about things we care about all the time.
What is bioplastic? And why is it important to you that Bogo Brush offers options for recyclable versus compostable brush?
Bioplastic is a material that uses bio-based starches - like corn or soy - to make a plastic-like resin. Bogobrush uses a type of bioplastic that is called biocomposite. This is a bioplastic that is mixed with actual plant matter. The idea is this makes the product easier to break down and also creates a beautiful, natural texture.
Bogobrush offers recyclable and biodegradable options so that customers can choose the brush that fits their waste cycle the best. The biodegradable brush is great for people who compost or have access to community composting, but most communities don't have those types of programs, so, if you don't compost, the recyclable option is perfect. It's made from one plastic (#5) and can be tossed in the recycling bin when it's use is over, ready to become something new again.
What can you tell us about the manufacturing process of the brushes?
Bogobrush is made entirely in the USA and we are so proud that we can support local communities through the jobs we require and also that we reduce our carbon footprint instead of shipping product in from overseas. The handle materials come from our supplier in North Dakota and the biocomposite uses plants that come from American farms. The handles and stands are molded at our facility in Iowa, the brushes are bristled in Wisconsin, and everything comes together at our warehouse in Minnesota.
Manufacturing Bogobrush is much more expensive than traditional manual toothbrushes because we manufacture in the U.S. where people are paid fair wages, and because we use innovative, eco-friendly materials.
“To us, this is a necessary part of being a business that cares about sustainability and is reflected in the end quality and price. People who purchase Bogobrush can feel good knowing their money is supporting a well-rounded effort, not just taking care of their teeth.”
Can you share about the giveback component of Bogo Brush?
We like to say that Bogobrush is planet-loving oral that cares. We started the company with a ‘buy one give one’ business model where we donated a toothbrush to health clinics in the U.S. We are now expanding our giving model beyond just toothbrushes because we've seen that not everyone community needs toothbrushes. To help support sustainability, we see that some communities need neighborhood clean-ups, planting trees, or supporting art education. So, we're growing our business model to have customized solutions for each community. Sometimes it's a toothbrush, sometimes its something else.
No matter what, when you buy a Bogobrush you are helping make the world a more beautiful, balanced place. If you have a cause you care about, let us know and we'll love to find a way to connect. :)