Born out of need
The Buddies journey started for me many years ago when my eldest son, now a teenager, hated the taste of any toothpaste we found for him.
That eventually led to us buying chocolate ice-cream flavoured toothpaste for him from the States.
He actually liked using it and it contained fluoride, so I knew it was protecting his teeth, but this approach just didn’t feel right. I hated the mixed message it was giving him. On one hand we were trying to educate him about sugary foods being eaten in moderation as they are bad for health generally, but especially for our teeth. Then we were handing him chocolate flavoured toothpaste to use twice each day!
As some of you may know, at this point I decided that I would fill this gap in the market by creating my own toothpaste for taste-sensitive kids. And that’s how Buddies was born.
The Buddies Toothbrush
What started with toothpaste quickly developed. I had so many ideas for products that would help kids engage with the teeth brushing process and as I met Buddies toothpaste customers, they sparked even more ideas.
In response to feedback that parents weren’t sure how much toothpaste a child should use, I developed a toothbrush that delivered just the right amount straight to the bristles of the brush.
When I contacted a buyer at Boots to test the concept, they were really keen to launch the toothbrush just 7 months later. It also got me on Dragons Den in 2019.
The first set back
In hindsight though, launching the Buddies toothbrush wasn’t the great business move I’d hoped. In a mixture of bad luck and poor judgement, I ended up with a product that had cost me a small fortune to make and actually just wasn’t good enough. The fault rates were far too high and I was worried that this would turn customers off the Buddies brand. So I decided to stop selling the toothbrush and withdraw all toothbrush products until the fault issue could be resolved.
Buddies grows up
I’d got to know an NHS oral healthcare expert who trained carers how to provide oral care to others. She would often be called in to care homes to help persuade someone with dementia to have their teeth brushed, who may have refused brushing for months. She’d been having great results using Buddies toothpaste on an extra soft toothbrush.
This made me consider the fact that Buddies is very much aimed at kids and perhaps I should repackage it in a way that catered for my adult market. At the time, we gave a lot of thought to the branding of this adult product. Could we stick with Buddies or would this be seen as too childish?
In the end we decided to develop a new brand: Senses, aiming it at carers of people who have or develop sensitivies. This resulted in a new website: Sensesforall.com and more products, tackling all aspects of oral health.
We had some very encouraging interest from a major autism charity and from the main UK distributor of products in to care homes, who wanted to perform a full scale trial of our products. Then Covid-19 struck and care homes were more focused on keeping people alive.
On the manufacturing side, factories making our products were flat out producing enough hand sanitiser to meet demand.
It’s well publicised that in changing circumstances, only business that change to meet new demands will survive and thrive. So I’ve given serious consideration to what’s next.
Making it work
I know Buddies toothpaste has thousands of loyal customers who continue to buy Buddies because it works for someone they care for. My business challenge has always been about getting more people to know about it. So I’ve recently been having coaching from an expert in digital marketing and I really understand what I need to do now to spread the word.
It involves a lot of effort on my part but after each session I am so energised and excited at the possibilities.
One of the first decisions to come out of this is that I’m going back to where it all began to focus purely on toothpaste and on just one website: Buddies.
So it’s unfortunately the end of the line for the sensesforall.com website but a new dawn for Buddiestoothpaste.com. We’re still selling Senses adult toothpaste through Buddiestoothpaste.com
I’d love to hear your thoughts though on whether we also re-brand Senses to fit better with Buddies and if we do, what should we call it? Please get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to let us know.
Thank you for joining the Buddies journey! Sian