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Googling to start her oral care business with Bite Co-Founder Lindsay McCormick

Joining me on the show today is Lindsay McCormick, Co-Founder of Bite.


Bite is on a mission to upend the personal and oral care industry with innovative products that are made with the planet in mind. Started by Lindsay McCormick in her living room and after launching their viral toothpaste tablets in 2018, they have since expanded to offer the first and only 100% plant based and plastic free oral care set - Bite is here to make your daily routine more sustainable with products that are plastic-free, cruelty-free, made with effective, clean ingredients, one smile at a time.


The most common review the brand receives is "It's weird at first but now I'm obsessed”.


In this episode we’re covering how Lindsay started her business in her living room, taking online chemistry classes and googling ‘how do people make drugs’, why she turned down offers on SharkTank from Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, and the lessons she’s been learning along the way.


Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!


Lindsay: Definitely so. My name is Lindsay McCormick and I'm the founder and CEO of Bite. We make plastic free personal care. We started with toothpaste tablets


And I started


It in my living room in twenty eighteen and


We now have


Grown. We're available online and in some


Retail stores as well.


Doone: Amazing. I always want to go back to life before you started the business to find out what you were up to and what even got you thinking about starting a business in the first place.


Yeah. So I did


Not really expect to start a


Business. I was traveling


All the time. I was a TV producer before I


Started by which meant


I was on a plane every other week and I was flying to all these different destinations for shoots and traveling on only because only there a few days. And I've always been super passionate about the environment.


I was before that


Even I was a snowboard director.


I was out on mountains


And in the ocean all the time, kind of seeing the plastic problem and what we need to do to really step up conservation. And so I was traveling and I had gotten my kit all down where I had my shampoo bottle that I could refill and my conditioner bottle that I could refill on my face wash. And I was throwing out these little toothpaste tubes every single shoot. And I was just like, this feels so wasteful.


And I feel like I've done so


Much with the rest of my stuff, like, why can't I figure out toothpaste?


And so I started looking


Into


Alternatives like


Tooth powder and other to use tablets that were on the market, but they were all in plastic. And so that was the beginning


Of this


Process for me. It was like, OK, I want this so I can take it on shoots for my job. I'm going to start making it.


And then from


That I was like, well, if I'm going to be making it for myself, it needs to be as


Effective and


Safe as possible. And that's when I started looking into the ingredients and most toothpaste. And I was just like, wow,


This is absurd.


I was like, I've spent more time looking at what's on the back of my


Shampoo bottle than I have ever even looked at the back of my toothpaste


Tube. And turns out there was a bunch of stuff in there that I was


Like, I don't like that


In my body every day, you know? And so


I started


Taking online chemistry classes


And talking with


Dentists and


Dental hygienist and


Starting making the first like iterations of what


Bite was


In my toaster oven at that


Time. So that's kind of how


It all started.


And I definitely did not set out


To make a business. But after I started investing in these, like machinery and time, I was like,


Well, I might as well sell


This on Etsy and Shopify and see if


Other people want. It would be great if I did, but I


Figured it would just be for like me and my friends. And then from


There, that's


How it all


Started and kind of just


Grew into what


We are today. That is


So cool. I love that you were taking online chemistry classes


To fully


Understand what you needed to put in it. Can we just talk about how you actually go about in those early iterations of what you were doing? How do you actually make. A toothpaste bite, and when you say machinery, what do you mean?


It's a really good question.


So it's changed. So at first it was I mean, this was literally


Like me in


My I say lab, but it was really our dining room that I turned to my


Lab and I would just


Sit there all night and I was


Researching, you know, different ingredients


And what I could use. And I would go down to Whole Foods and I would go by. They had


Different things. They're like Xyloto and Urethral,


Which I couldn't find a normal grocery


Store. I got a lot of


Stuff off


Of Amazon, like just went on there and got off


Amazon. Then there's a website called Chemistry Connection that has


Different like a little like


Surfactants and things like homing pigeons. So I was just buying these little samples of things that I could try and I'd put them in mason jars and I was mixing them together to figure


Out what felt


Good, what


Tasted good, what worked when I clean my teeth


With it. Good.


And the machinery at first


Because


I didn't want to


Buy a tablet machine.


So our


Bits are toothpaste, tablets are dry, dry,


Little toothpaste


Tablets, and they're made by being pressed in a tablet machine. And those machines are I mean, it is an entire career to know how to work those machines like it's a whole


New thing


And they're very expensive. And so I was like, I have a machine I want to. So I bought a pastry


Kit and I was


Trying to take the powders I was making and mixing it with a little bit of coconut oil or these different things and pipe it out of a pastry


Bag like


These little balls, kind


Of like the candidates. It was like a dot


On paper, like I was trying to like I was like, maybe I could do


This and I can bake it.


And I set my toaster oven on fire and I was like, I can't bake it. And so then I was like, OK, fine, I have to I have to invest this machine. And so it was a thousand dollars, which


Now


Looking back, that was nothing to start a business. But at the time this was a hobby and just trying to solve this problem for myself. So I was kind


Of like, am I getting


Obsessed with this? Like, what am I doing everything so much time and why am I going to be buying this equipment? So I bought I finally did. I bought the equipment and I


Actually bought it originally.


It was a TDP zero and


As a machine.


And to even find out what kind of tabloidy machine I had to spend time on Reddit and I was actually looking up how to


Make drugs because I


Was like, oh my God. Yeah, because I need to figure out how to your landlord must have been like, what is going on in the kitchen.


There is for sure, like


An FBI


Watch list of my search history because I was like, how do you make tablets? And everything I was finding was just like these huge like hundred thousand


Dollar machinery


Things. And I was like, I need to know how to make it in my living room. And I was like, who makes tablets in their living room?


And I was like, people who make their living.


So I was like, I was on Reddit


In like the deep, deep holes


Of Reddit. And I was like, OK, I need to be five. I need a binding agent, I need stuff. And so I started. That's literally how it started.


And so I got a machine


From a company in Texas.


And the guy,


He was just starting out with his business as well. So he was super helpful, would get on the phone with me. And that's how I learned


How to tablet and


My tablet.


Holy moly, that is such a cool beginning's story. Wow. And so at that point, I guess buying the machine really made you be like, okay, well, it can't just be for me. I'm going to try and as you said, put it on Etsy. What were your friends and family saying at this point? Would they like into the idea? Were you validating it through them or what


Was the vibe? Yeah, so


I really leaned on friends and family at first.


So I again, to my background


As a TV producer. But then before that I was a surf instructor and instructor. So like active lifestyle, people who really care about the planet and want our kind of more into things, that could be more weird, I guess, because they're


Just like a different type of it's not like the typical


Nine to five or so. I was like, hey, what do you guys think? So I was sending out and I actually still have I printed up surveys where it was like, what do you think of the taste one through five? What do you think of the texture? One through five. And I would press I would hand


Out these bits and I would send


Them


To family, friends.


I would take them to work at my TV producing job. And I would hand it out and be like, what do you guys think, Ed?


I got a lot of really important feedback.


I mean, at first it didn't taste as good and I was


Able to give a lot more


Affordance to


That because I was making it.


So it's like my baby was like, it's fine, just fine. But then someone else


Gets in there like, no, this is not


This is not good. And so I'm not going to eat this. This is not going to make me switch. I don't care how much plastic I'm saving. And so it was one of those things where it was definitely,


You know,


I surveyed friends and family,


But that's it. You know, like there


Were no major focus groups. I think I sent it


Out to, like, ten of my friends


Who were all here in L.A. and started going


Off of that. And then.


Yeah, so that's kind of how that started.


And then when you started putting things up on Etsy, was it those friends buying or did just random people on the Internet start finding you on


Etsy as well?


Yeah, so I put it up and then I actually took it down from ETSI because then it started there and then I put it on Shopify because Shapefile was able to


Make a site. And like


For me, I don't have a


Tech background. My boyfriend,


Who now is my co-founder, does which I'll get into that.


But at first my first Shopify


Site was literally


Like photos from my iPhone of my


Product,


Like on a template. It was not


Cool.


It did not look great.


Like it was


Just like this is what we got. And most


Of the people who bought from me at first were I recognized


Every single name and


I had put it up on Facebook. I had put it up on like I was talking to people.


And I'm not


Necessarily a shy person, but I'm not like a


Very big like this is me


And what I'm doing person. So there was a lot of I had to get


Over that and the way


That I would think about it, like I didn't want to


Post on my Facebook,


I didn't want to do this. It felt very


Weird. But I saw it as like, this is something that's so important to me.


Like the background of it is just like


Learning about the


Ingredients and the billion toothpaste tubes that end up in our landfills every year. And just being so motivated


That I was like, this is my job and


I need to get over my shyness and just post. So I was posting and it


Felt very honestly, it felt


Weird. It time felt very


Self self pushing out,


You know. And I was like, this is strange, but


I did it. And so the


First customers were all friends


And family. And I


Still remember the first time where I saw someone's


Name or I was like and then I looked on


Facebook


And I was like, no, I


Don't know that person. And I was just like, oh, my gosh. Like, how how did this happen? And so I still remember when it started kind of crossing that chasm.


And how do you think it crossed? Was it like word of mouth or did you start seeing that because the more you were posting and the more you were putting out that you were starting to spread the net a bit wider?


I think it was. So this was back in twenty eighteen, which doesn't feel like that long ago, but it really was a million years ago, an Internet age and the vegan and


Zero waste blogging


Community was very, very


Small. And like those influencers


Now were they had like a few thousand followers. Right. So they were looking for things. They were, they were looking for products just like mine. And so I and I'm vegan. I've been doing for a long time. So a lot of my friends on Facebook and Instagram are also vegan. So then they started post and also zero waste or low waste. So when they started posting about it, that then


Got these kind of newer


Zero waste vegan bloggers interested and then they wrote


Blog post on it. And then that's


How I started getting on their radar. And so it was still like very small,


Very tight knit of two


Communities that I happened to naturally already be in who then started


Writing about it. And that's yeah, that's how it started.


And so at that point, are you talking like a few hundred sales? Are you talking a few thousand sales?


Yeah. So I


Had my


It was like I


Think my first year


In like the whole


Year was like six thousand dollars in sales, which for me I was like, that's amazing. Totally. Yeah. And so it was and it was all through word of mouth. And then what happened


Is that through that word


Of mouth we ended up having a video on Facebook go


Viral, which then just


Rocketed


The company.


It had over two million views in about two days. We did over two hundred thousand, which I know we


Like to do to two over over two hundred


Thousand dollars in sales from just the first few days of this.


And I was like, OK, I was


Still making this in


My living room. So I was like,


I need business insurance, like I


Do business as usual. So how do I fulfill these orders?


I manufacture like I need everything. And so that's


Really what propelled our company into a totally


Different thing. It shows the power of social media, but then also the fact that so many people wanted an alternative and they just needed to be exposed to it. And so I think that was the beginning


Of like that


Trajectory. And there are a lot of companies that go viral and then kind of go away. So the next thing is we went viral.


We got to get the


Product out to


People and I've got to like, really figure out how to


Actually run


A business. And we do this like yesterday.


Totally.


That was in twenty eighteen.


So I started this in twenty seventeen. But that was the year


That I did like six thousand dollars,


But it was in my living room and I was still working


Full time to so. And was


The video something that you published and put out there or was this the video


That was by


Women's Health magazine and they published it. How did that come about?


So at that point I had we had been featured


By a good


Amount of zero waste and vegan bloggers. So they we had made some of their gift lists. We were actually in some gift sets that they were wanting to sell of like plastic free Christmas gift sets in twenty, seventeen. And so we were starting to really find our footing in that zero waste. And so


It was basically


From there I had made some videos, I had done some content about


How to how to live


This lifestyle and why it's important and everything. And from


That, we had like a producer


Was like, hey, we're looking for women's businesses that are making a difference. Can you send me some? And it was like literally iPhone footage that I shot at six in the morning before I left for a shoot.


So like,


I wasn't really even wearing makeup, like my hair was a disaster. Like, I had no idea that this was going to go off over the Internet.


And then, yeah, that's kind of how it all started.


And so obviously, that's the tipping point where you're like, holy moly, this is the real thing.


Now, like, as you said, I've


Got to find a manufacturer. I've got to, like, figure this actually out. What are the steps then? How did you find your manufacturer? What was the kind of manufacturer you wanted to work with?


Yeah, that's a great


Question, too.


So it's you know, there's like


The beginning of the business when you're doing it all of yourself in your living room, which I'm sure so many people are in.


And that's such a great space.


Like when I look back on those times,


I was


Just like so happy and it felt like I was making art and I was playing around with these different powders and I was just really in love with the process. And I didn't feel rushed. I wasn't trying to compete with anybody.


It was just like little art project.


Then once that


Happened, we now have customers


And expectations and we need consistency and we need to get it out and it needs


To become a business. So the first


Thing I did


Was honestly like what's always


Been important to me


Is being


We're in the process right now, becoming a big corp. And so I want business to make things better for people. So I was like, I want to stay in L.A. area. I want to support the community that I'm in.


So that


Meant finding manufacturers


That I could go in


And meet and know and support other small businesses. So that really significantly cut down who


I could work with. But it also made


Things really easy and simple. Right, because that means I'm just finding someone in my own neighborhood. So it was Google going on, Google going on Thomas


That just


Searching it myself and making phone calls and finding that at this


Point my co-founder, who's


My boyfriend, had jumped in and now he had a business background. He had run a few tech startups. So not in CPG, but at least the


Idea of business.


And so he really he had done all of the


Design that


That was now known for, like anything that was


Kind of like green and hippie,


You could tell was mine. And then as soon as he came in, he really took it to the next


Level, if you like, backgrounds, design


And business. And so he was kind of managing that side. And then I was managing the how do we get


Product out the door type


Situation. So anyone


Who is in a position, it's Googling,


It's time


I'm


Making phone calls and then a lot of no's. Oh, my gosh. No one wanted to work with me. Like, even though I had I had this weird


Product that had been made before that


I had orders


Out so many orders


That I need to get out the door.


And they were just like, we don't want


To take this business. We're not fly,


Though, because a


Lot of manufacturers just want to do exactly what they


Already know how to do. And this was something new.


And it was like for them to be like, I have to like learn how to make this new formula. And then, of course, it worked on my pressies, but


They need to use it for


There like a hundred thousand dollar presses that are


Pressing out thousands


In a minute. So it's like they have to figure out, like, how are


We going to make this work for