Five years ago I was anticipating the birth of my first baby with my partner Leo. With a degree in commerce I had been enjoying my career but was now ready to transition to working mum life. I had always been big on natural skincare and when I fell pregnant it became even more important. I was really cautious about what I was putting in my mouth – even though my daughter wasn’t even born yet! We began hunting around and switching to products that were natural or as close to nature as we could find. It was really important to us to feel confident with our choices, not just for ourselves but for our growing baby. We were shocked by the fact that we were unable to find a good natural toothpaste. Most natural dental pastes didn’t feel as though they were doing a good job and all the fluoride toothpastes were packed with added nasties like artificial flavours, sweeteners, parabens and sulphates. With our growing family at the forefront of our choices we made the big decision to create our own!
I couldn’t believe that something people use twice a day could have so many chemicals in them. I knew there was a vast range of haircare products that were now labelled ‘nasty free’ and wanted to try to create an option with oral health. The current offering was either dated or ageing and so I felt confident that we could bring a fresh, vibrant product to market. Plus, our daughter was going to be here soon. Our first product was the Grin Natural Freshening range, I tested the products on myself and it was after she arrived I decided to add a kids range too. After all, I wanted to create something for all the family.
After the arrival of our daughter, things didn’t slow down, in fact they sped up! When we first started I had this idea that we could work with dental professionals and labs to come up with a trusted formula. We drew from existing research and experts in the field and developed our very own unique brand that not only keeps teeth healthy but also strengthens them! By the time my daughter had arrived and was teething we had products ready to go. When we started the kids range our daughter quite often was the first to try our products! As the brand has grown, so has she, and all along the way she has been the one to try the latest Grin product first! She was kind and gave me very clear feedback on the flavours she loved and especially the ones she didn’t! You really have to trust the efficacy of a formula to be willing to give it to your own daughter to try. The final sample that she tried and loved became our kids formula that we still use today. The proof is in the formula because we have now sold millions of tubes to families all around the world and in different markets! I was no longer worrying about my daughter’s oral health because I knew she was getting the very best with our own product!
There have been the usual ups and downs but through it all we have kept our main goal at the forefront. To create healthier families and a healthier planet. When you first start a business, it’s easy to over-excite yourself by thinking you have the best product in the world and that your business will be uber successful. And while this may be the case, you have to realise that it may take a while to get there. When we started five years ago, we were under this preconception and we were knocked down to reality pretty quickly, so to speak. We knew we had a great product and great branding to attract the best people to work with us and we automatically thought that would earn us the respect in the market. I now know that even the best of the best won’t always work out in your favour. We’ve faced challenges like rejection from retailers and I now realise that providing a good quality product is just the foundation, you also need to be altruistic and proactive in creating value for your community and for your partners. We went as far as to employ this mentality with the key opinion leaders and influencers we work with. It’s less about simply paying for a direct service or exchanging with us, but how can we create value for them! The businesses of today which are most successful, are so not because of their product, but because they helped their community in solving a problem.
With the success of the kids range we decided to add in fun activities like a teeth brushing game and book and made sure the flavours were spot on for fussy little brushers! With flavours like orange and berrylicious we hoped it wouldn’t be too long before all kids were Grin kids!
The different stages I’ve gone through with my daughter have been reflected in the brand. For example, at first she was happy for me to brush her teeth and I would let her brush mine. However, later it became a big mission as she wanted to do it on her own and didn’t want to be forced to do anything (as I’m sure many parents can relate). I started really thinking about how we can make it more fun and engaging and instead of us getting upset at each other, why don’t we turn it into little games and make it more of a bonding time. Here we started coming up with brushing charts, stickers, pop-up books etc that we feel would make the whole routine more enjoyable. I of course, added this to the range and families loved this option.
As a mum, you find yourself not only thinking about your own child, but you also want to look after everyone, as well as the planet. We’re all humans and part of this one ecosystem; we need to support each other so that we can all live happier lives together. Our range is the only Orangutan Alliance certified oral health care brand in the world. I feel so good knowing that our social good partnerships with UNICEF, PADI and the UN Environment Programme are helping even more communities.
One thing that my dad told me that I always remember is that ‘what kind of happiness you have, comes from how you want others to feel’. I think he meant having others in your heart, enables you to grow, inspire and empower yourself. I’m so grateful for Grin and the whole Grin team. I feel like I am living my father’s words. Not only have I found my purpose, but I am helping others to find theirs.
Although our brand is still young we are grateful for our journey so far. Looking back, its enabled both myself and the whole team to understand ourselves better and to find our true value in this industry. Key to what we do is keeping community at the heart, rather than being caught up driving sales or distribution, we focus on what’s most important to our community. From learning and practising this, we feel happier and more accomplished both as a team and as individuals. And it all started with expecting my daughter! She’s not only changed my life – but many others as well. I can’t wait to see where the next five years will take us.
Tara Tan is a New Zealand based entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of oral health care brand Grin Natural™. You can learn more about Tara and the brand at www.grinnatural.com.au.