Beginning March 17th (Buy Women Owned Day), Sitti is elevating the stories of women-owned businesses through an ongoing blog series titled, “Own Your [Business] Story.” Throughout the past year, we’ve recognized (and experienced first hand) the hurdles for small businesses to pivot and push forward through the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges that have come with it. Through it all, these businesses have shown determination, grace, and resilience. In this series, we get up close and personal with some incredible women so you can hear more about their business stories: what (or who) inspired them to start their brand, what are the challenges they’ve met along their journey and what keeps them going.
In this week’s interview, we talk with the co-founder and CEO of Bogobrush, Heather McDougall. Heather created the sleek and sustainable Bogobrush toothbrush with the environment front-of-mind. Bogobrush is a beautiful, sustainably designed toothbrush providing a daily moment of connection to people and the planet. They fit effortlessly into your hand and look so gorgeous on any bathroom counter, especially when paired with Bogobrush’s custom fit stand. You can choose from two collections: the fun and light recycled collection or their more earthy and sensual plant-based collection. Learn more about how Heather started this brand so YOU can start your mornings saving the earth.*
Bogobrush was founded in 2012, but we spent over three years in product development before publicly launching our first collection in the Fall of 2015.
My brother, John, and I founded Bogobrush together and we often laugh about the start because we like to say it probably started when we were kids growing up as children of a dentist in North Dakota. We had no plans of doing anything with oral health, John went to school for industrial/car design and I studied music and law with a vision for impacting social change. During school, we both realized our shared passion for sustainability and wanted to use our talents to help bring social and environmental awareness into people’s daily lives. We couldn’t help but keep coming back to the idea of a toothbrush.
Bogobrush is technically based in Detroit, but our team members live across the US, Canada, and EU, so we’re based wherever we are in a way.
Bogobrush exists to use business as a force for good, to heal and help people move toward a more beautiful and sustainable world. Through Bogobrush, we divert waste into a beautiful design, creating daily moments of connectedness with sustainability. And because doing good is our driving force, we invest at least 10% of profits into sustainability projects around the US and the globe.
Q - Tell us more about your experience of being a woman business owner.
Several months ago, I had a meeting with a woman who works in VC, including running a fund supporting women founders for several years before moving into the collegiate system. While talking with her, I realized that for the first time in my memory, she was talking to me as an equal. She assumed I knew things instead of explaining them to me - stuff that had always been explained so I just thought that’s how investors talk, but no. And I’ll add that I’ve spoken with hundreds of folks in this space. Most of the experiences are average and nothing too great or nothing too bad. But once in a while, there are some strong reminders that women are still under-represented and there is a natural bias against women succeeding.
And, like other women founders, I have stories of things investors have asked that they’d never ask men - like an investor once told me he didn’t think I could run a successful company while living apart from my husband. The company grew 10x year over year the following year. The kicker is that at the time, my husband was starting a job in another country, and at no point in his multiple rounds of interviews, did anyone ever question his ability to do his job regardless of his personal life.
The story of personal development and confidence is the piece that really epitomizes the experience of being a woman founder. Without confidence, the outliers can sway you off track.
Like any worthy cause on the path of evolution, International Women’s Day/Month is an opportunity to look back as well as forward, and celebrate the present progress. We look back to see the arch of progress, and that fairness and goodness continuously win over time. We look forward, carrying the hope built on the passions of generations before us, toward our dreams of true and sustainable equity. Today, Bogobrush celebrates that we are a majority women team and are committed to building the team with diverse and inclusive voices.
We’ve had some big things that have been in the works with sales that are starting to drop over to purchase orders (POs). For instance, we just got our PO from Ipsy where we’ll be featured later this year, and we've recently launched with Peeba, a distributor in SE Asia. Good things!
And as a sustainably-focused business, Bogobrush has prevented the equivalent of over 400,000 plastic water bottles from entering the waste stream or polluting habitats. We also prevented 58 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by committing to US manufacturing. Some of our other projects have been the restoration of 5 acres of prairie grass along the Minnesota and North Dakota border.
My grandmas. Jessie was my Mom’s mom. She was a beautiful, unique woman who was eco-hip far before her time. She had a very big impact on my life in so many ways. If I were to explain the legacy that she wished to leave with me, it is for me to always, “shine [my] heart,” along with an assumption knowing that it also means to trust my foundation. Linda is my Dad’s mom. She turned 100 years old in January of this year and she is still the most elegant, stylish, and quick-witted woman I’ve ever met. There are several very poignant moments with her that remind me to be vulnerable and to be myself always, but to keep family close. And to play games...just have fun.
Other women who I’ll describe in the shorter form include Miki Agriwal, founder of Tushy and Thinx, Jenny Guccio, founder, and CEO of Imani Collective, Melissa Butler, founder, and CEO of The Lip Bar. And to look at even more experienced women, generationally, I’d also say Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Jane Goodall, to name a few off the top of my head.
Q - What is the best advice you have for women-led small businesses/business owners?
Ah, yes. These kinds of questions always remind me of how seasonal my responses are to them. Meaning, that it’s so related to context: current learnings, or big lessons that continue to be foundations. So, I’ll offer advice from the gut, and trust it’s the best for today.
My advice today for women-led or owned small businesses is to tune in to YOUR magic. It’s easy to get sucked into the tasks: the daily bootstrapping work that is progress, but is more valuable in busyness than anything, but needs to be done. Keep tuning into your magic, and remind yourself of it daily, even if it’s fate. Anytime I elevate myself into places that feel more full and magical, growth happens. And in a company structure, this shows up in a lot of ways, but the top of mind is with leadership and hiring/growing team and culture. Know you. It will still be confusing as hell some days to run a business, but you can feel confident that you are steering toward something you can be proud of. That energy will turn into results.
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story!
DISCOUNT ALERT! Use code “BogoSitti20” for a special surprise discount on anything in the Bogo Brush store!
*This interview has been edited for purposes of clarity.
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