Meet Mike Donovan - CEO of Brushbox

Brushbox are on a mission to change the way people think about and look after their teeth, combat plastic waste, and disrupt the $40.63bn worldwide oral care industry. We spoke to their CEO and Founder to find out what inspired him to start the company and more.  

What were you doing before you founded Brushbox and what inspired you to start up on your own?

Before launching Brushbox, I worked for Deloitte, the world’s largest professional services firm, for my entire career. Over 13 years I worked within their Entrepreneurial Business team, advising high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs, business owners and senior execs at some of the UK’s most exciting businesses. I then rose to Associate Director, won eprivateclient's 35-under-35, was leading multi-million-pound transactions and was being asked to step up and lead the Wales’ advisory practice.

The idea for Brushbox originally came to me back in 2006, and whilst I had considered taking this forward on many occasions, I never did. I guess at the time I had a fear of failing and leaving a stable, successful career and steady income.  

As cheesy as it sounds, what ultimately led me to take the jump and start Brushbox was helping my (then) 4-year-old to brush her teeth. I realised that she wasn’t engaged in the toothbrushing process at all, and that I also had absolutely no idea when I last changed her toothbrush, and this was knowing that I was supposed to change it every two months! I knew that there was a market out there for the service, and after doing a considerable amount of in-depth research, I realised that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t do this, and do it properly.

Why is now the right time for Brushbox to be in the market?

There are currently over 65.5 million people living in the UK, increasing by c.400,000 each year, and every single one of them needs a toothbrush.

The 'oral health' market is currently dominated by some big players (Oral B [P&G], Colgate-Palmolive, GSK). However, none of these brands sell direct to consumers, they all sell via 3rd parties (Tesco, Boots, etc), and none of them form a direct relationship with the customer. There is no ‘brand loyalty’ per se towards the large, multi-national organisations who also own 300+ other brands within their portfolio. Consumers are getting tired of the same old marketing spiel and are wise to the tricks of old. The oral health space has become stale and is crying out for a consumer-focused brand to serve the customer directly.  

The subscription box space is also one of the fastest growing subsets of retail, and opens up a wealth of possibilities as consumers become more savvy and open to the delivery model and the opportunities it presents. And needless to say, with heightened public awareness around plastic, new solutions are needed to meet the increasing need for sustainable plastic alternatives. Our eco-friendly products meet this need.

As such, we currently see a huge opportunity to appeal to consumers and disrupt the oral health space with a socially responsible, eco-friendly brand that is ready to engage and educate consumers across the UK in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Why was it important for you to run this as a subscription business?

Running Brushbox as a subscription service was super important, as it not only ensures our customers replace their toothbrush at precisely the right time, but also secures repeat revenue. Unlike other subscription boxes we have one big advantage - everyone needs a toothbrush. We aren’t restricted to guys who want to be clean shaven (DSC, Harry’s, Cornerstone), or to the younger beauty focussed female audience (Birchbox, Glossy Box), or to the affluent who like their food/ingredients delivered fresh (Gousto, Hello Fresh).

All of the aforementioned businesses have done phenomenally well with just the core direct to consumer model in place. However, none of them are strict ‘necessities’. In addition to this fact, there is also the health rationale behind our service and the environmental and socially responsible value propositions. We are also very reasonably priced, and as such we remove a big potential barrier for adoption.

You’re also targeting the corporate market - how does this revenue stream integrate with your B2C offering?

Subscription boxes can be notorious for having to run eye-wateringly expensive marketing campaigns to acquire customers. Whilst we cannot go into precise detail on the exact nature of our numerous B2B routes to market, needless to say that my past 13 years working with some of the most successful businesses in the country have opened my eyes to the need to constantly innovate and identify multiple routes to market, which are complementary to our core B2C proposition.

In short, our B2B strategies enable us to bypass some of the more costly B2C aspects, thus allowing us to grow Brushbox in a far more cost-effective and sustainable way, whilst still providing us with a direct link to the B2C market through word of mouth from happy Brushboxers.

Why did you choose to crowdfund and what does it mean for your growth plans in 2019?

We see Crowdfunding as a fantastic fundraising vehicle that enables us to bring multiple sources of investment into one place. Crowdfunding has also raised our brand awareness by announcing Brushbox to the 600k plus investors and potential subscribers on Crowdcube. Most importantly, crowdfunding has given our wonderful customers the opportunity to share in our future success!

Find out more about Brushbox and invest by visiting their pitch page.

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Mike Donovan

Guest author: Mike Donovan CEO and Founder at Brushbox

With 13 years’ experience with the world’s largest professional services firm with extensive experience in advising entrepreneurs, business owners and management teams of fast growing, successful businesses, Mike now leads Brushbox after first conceiving the idea over 10 years ago to meet his, and his young family’s own needs.