smile squared, socent, innovator advocator, innovation, business

The Innovator Advocator: Smile Squared

An interview with Eric Cope, Founder of Smile Squared

Please tell us a little more about yourself and about Smile Squared.

Smile Squared is a company that was created based on experiences my wife and I had while volunteering at a dental clinic in Guatemala. We operate under the basic principle that even our small, everyday purchases can greatly impact someone else in need. For every Smile Squared toothbrush purchased, we donate one to a child in need. Our present product lineup includes eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes and a colorful collection of toothbrushes that are made in the USA.

Many people assume I’m a dentist, but I’m just a dad who saw a need and decided to do something about it. My wife and I have 3 children at home- all internationally adopted (we’re actually in the process for our 4th kiddo). As a mountain lover that’s married to a beach person, I’m passionate about my faith, family, adoption, and travel.

What made you want to start your business?

Our oldest son was born in Guatemala. When we traveled there to pick him up, my wife and I were not only struck with the beauty of the country and people, we were amazed at the poverty we encountered. We knew we wanted to return.

When this opportunity came in 2010, we found ourselves in the outskirts of Guatemala City volunteering at a dental clinic. My assigned task was to teach the children how to brush their teeth. This experience was entirely new to me, and our nurse explained that I was teaching many of these kids how to brush for the first time. She also said that many didn’t have access to regular dental care, or own a toothbrush. If they had one, they were most likely sharing it with family members.

Most of these children had painful, untreated cavities and infections as a result. Knowing this was largely preventable and affected their entire health and well-being, I wanted to do something. For us, a toothbrush is a basic necessity and a given. For many children across the world (and even in the USA), it’s a luxury item. That didn’t sit well with me, and inspired us to create Smile Squared. We started with the idea to donate a toothbrush for every Smile Squared toothbrush purchased.

What is the toughest decision that you have had to make with regards to your business?

The toughest decision is one we’re currently tackling, as we discuss the future of Smile Squared. Our core value is giving, and while I love our buy one, give one roots – we are actively evaluating and soliciting advice from our partners in how we give. There will always be a need for toothbrushes, but I don’t want them to necessarily be a “one size fits all” solution for our partners. To change what and how we give is a tough decision, but I’m willing to evaluate this.

What is the future goal for Smile Squared?

For Smile Squared to be a curator of fun and interesting products beyond toothbrushes. To be a brand recognized for our commitment to helping others, and one that helps inspire others to seek ways to make this world a better place.

What have been the most satisfying moments of your journey in creating Smile Squared?

Creating relationships and sharing our story! Whether it’s with our retail partners, giving partners, media members or customers – I’m constantly humbled when our story resonates with others.

I love to share the story of when our family was on vacation a few years ago. After a long day of skiing, I was talking with another parent as our kids were playing in the pool. Learning the other dad was from New York City, I shared our Smile Squared story and mentioned that InStyle Magazine was doing a segment about cause based companies on The Today Show that next week, and had contacted us to send some of our toothbrushes for them to display. I mentioned it would actually be at the 9 o’clock hour of the show. He looked at me and said “That’s funny, I’m a host of the 9 o’clock hour of The Today Show.” Unaware of who he was at the time we were talking, it ended up being Willie Geist! I was all smiles when he gave us a shout out during the segment that next week.

Before you started, if there is any advice that you would’ve gave to yourself, what would it have been?

When starting a business, even a cause-based company like Smile Squared, passion will only get you so far. Create a team and don’t try to do it all yourself. Have an honest grasp on your strengths. Know which tasks and duties of the business that actually fuel your soul. This being said, it’s equally important to understand the parts of business you stink at or don’t like. Surround yourself with talented people that excel at those areas.

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