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
Tooth powder and other to use tablets that were on the market, but they were all in plastic. And so that was the beginning
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
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
Taking online chemistry classes
And talking with
Dental hygienist and
Starting making the first like iterations of what
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
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
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
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
Tasted good, what worked when I clean my teeth
With it. Good.
And the machinery at first
I didn't want to
Buy a tablet machine.
Bits are toothpaste, tablets are dry, dry,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Like on a template. It was not
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
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
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
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
A business. And we do this like yesterday.
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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