Smile Squared

Everyone smiles in the same language - George Carlin-

Monday 8 June 2015, by CarlaNoguera, Núria Esquerra

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Smile Squared was founded with the aim to give back smiles to children in need; this has been the mission since its inception. The company was born with the idea to fight against many serious health issues, including oral cancer that affect people in many developing countries. The idea was to donate them an everyday item, as it is a toothbrush for us, that they could not afford. They designed the main activity based on the one-to-one philosophy in which for every purchase of toothbrush people make, they donate one toothbrush to a child.
They created the “smile squared company” based on that and since then, they have distributed toothbrushes to kids in Central America and in Mexico, Haiti, Cambodia, Kenya, India and the Philippines including also US (they have worked through 50 states and in 24 countries around the world).

Their toothbrushes are sold via Smile Squared’s website, and they can be also found at small groceries and drugstores.
They sell two types of toothbrushes. One of them is made of biodegradable bamboo and eco-friendly components packaged in recyclable boxes; the other is made of plastic. Both can be found in adult’s size or children one.
Once a purchase is made, they donate the equivalent toothbrushes through charitable organizations, including some as Buckner International, Save Their Smiles, Hand of Hope or International Justice Mission.
Furthermore, they have enlarged their activity towards the sale of T-shirts that also contribute to improve health for people in need. Their strategy with the sale of 200 t-shirts is to give a child a life-changing surgery and to 100 children a year’s supply of toothbrushes. This huge attainment is in part thanks to one of their partners, Smile Train, who provides this surgery and makes it possible.
Smile Squared tries to improve every day, working with partners that share this engagement towards this model and always having their main objective to achieve a big difference made of small purchases that involve people around the world.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Smile Squared’s aim is to give children their smiles back. Through this buy-one, give-one model the company is trying to have a direct impact on the overall health and wellbeing of children around the world. Actually, it is the main ethical challenge and the reason why Smile Squared was founded. By giving them a toothbrush every time someone purchases one, they are not only having an impact on the children’s oral health care, but also on their confidence and self esteem due to the poor aesthetic condition of their teeth. In fact, what inspired Eric Cope, the founder and president of Smile Squared, was a trip to Guatemala with her wife. There, they realized that many kids had severe dental problems and that they didn’t even own toothbrushes. And if they had it, they were sharing it with family members. This fact, in addition to the pain and their difficulties to eat, sleep and play, was making children ashamed of their smile. So Smile Squared mission is to give every child the health and the confidence that comes with clean teeth.

However, this is not the only ethical challenge that the company is trying to address. They also have a strong compromise towards the environment, so that the packaging and the materials of the toothbrushes are totally environmentally responsible.
As mentioned before, toothbrushes, both the adult and the children’s size, are made of eco-friendly components such as a BPA-free, biodegradable, sustainably-grown bamboo handle, and recyclable bristles. Moreover, they send the brushes through recyclable boxes.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

The idea behind the product is what really makes us trust this company. The fact that they are promoting the sale of a simple product that at the same time is very essential for our health and that can help people in need in a huge extend, makes this company activity to earn confidence of consumers.
Furthermore, “the buy-one, give-one philosophy” followed by the company gives record of the huge impact that their activity is making for many people in need. Consumers can see how their purchases affect the life of people and improve them. They can see the values behind every single purchase and how a simple product can increase the wellbeing of a whole population.
Besides that, personally, what at the end has made us rely on their activity and their commitment towards their business model is the transparency and empathy of their human capital. It is easy to contact with them and they are very close answering every question about their activity and also acknowledging what it is lacking in their business but with huge prospects to achieve and cover any gap remaining and with a high desire to grow and keep improving.
Finally, Smile Squared works with different partners (many non-profit organisations) in order to distribute their toothbrushes, such as Smile Train (the world’s largest cleft charity), Buckner International, Save their smiles, Hand of Hope or International Justice Mission. This engagement with these organisations raise the belief with this model and assures that the product really arrives to the ones that need it most.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Since the foundation of Smile Squared in 2011, the company has achieved important results. They have donated more than 100,000 toothbrushes in all 50 states and in 24 countries throughout the world through their partner organizations.
Yet, there still exist many challenges for the company. One of them is related with the connection between the buyer and the impact of his or her purchase. In fact, when we contacted with Smile Squared they agreed with us about that. They told us that they are working to make a more clear connection between the purchase and the impact so that the consumers become a part of the impact of their purchase. However, they recognize that it is difficult as they donate their toothbrushes after someone makes a purchase. So far, they are trying to show it through their website and social media channels and also through their partners such us Feed the Children, Florating Doctors, Give Kids a Smile and Project Healthy Smile.

Moreover another challenge for the company would be to be able to provide health care education to children of these countries in addition to the toothbrushes, in order to make a longer term impact rather than a short term solution. Today, they are doing it through some of these partners, especially through Smile Train, which provides the surgeries and the related treatment to those in need while helping to train local doctors. But we think that in the future the company should also take this role by providing themselves training to doctors and to the population.
Finally, we also think that another important challenge for the company is to provide customers with a bigger range of products apart from the original toothbrushes as they have started to do now by offering t-shirts in order to finance treatments and different initiatives in these countries. It would help them to maintain the demand and to increase their impact.

Ideas for future business:

“Think about how you can involve your end customer in a way that you can develop products that have meaning” Valeria Budinich, leadership member at Ashoka.

Bibliography

Juergen, M (2015) Entrepeneur. Retrieved May 21, 2015 from:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224444

Pham D. (2015) Inhabitat. Retrieved May 19, 2015 from:
http://inhabitat.com/smile-squared-launches-its-buy-one-give-one-eco-friendly-bamboo-toothbrush/

Potty Mouth Tours (2013). Retrieved May 21, 2015 from:
http://www.pottymouthtours.com/smile-squared/

Smile Squared (2015). Retrieved May, 2015:

Home

Smile Train (2015). Retrieved May 19, 2015 from:
http://www.smiletrain.org

Location: St. Louis (Missouri) (USA)

Sector: Human health and social work activities

Official website: http://smilesquared.com

Key figures:

- Founder and president: Eric Cope

- Donated toothbrushes: more than 100.000

- Partners: Smile Train, Feed the Children, Florating Doctors, Give Kids a Smile, Project Healthy Smile, Buckner International, Save Their Smiles, Hand of Hope and International Justice Mission.

Nbr. visits: 209