If you want to start a company that makes claims to reduce waste or be better for the planet, you had better have thick skin.
Like most small businesses trying to grow, we pay for ads on Facebook and Instagram. The upside is reaching people who want a better toothbrush. The downside is the constant barrage of comments from haters.
As someone who is both passionate and sensitive, it can be tough.
I'm completely open to peoples opinions, ideas and feedback. 100%. But what can be very frustrating is the amount of comments from people who clearly have not read our website (or even the ad!) to actually understand our product and motive. (You're probably thinking "Simon! Ignore the trolls!!", and you're right. I just find it hard to do sometimes.)
My usual approach is transparency. I allow negative comments on our ads if I can respond to them. Some people leave comments but block any responses. To me, this is unacceptable trolling. I don't tolerate it as it's not fair. It's like arguing with someone but refusing to let them speak.
So yesterday, when someone took this approach, I deleted a series of their comments. They then sent an email attacking both our products and how I handled the situation.
Below is my response. (I removed the first paragraph as it was simply telling the person that I deleted their comment because they wouldn't allow me to reply to their comment.)
I'm posting this for a few reasons.
First, I REALLY want people to know that Nada is a tiny startup owned by 2 people and isn't some big brand whose intentions are simply to make a buck.
We spend a lot of time and money trying to make our toothbrush sustainable—from the design to the packaging, to the shipping and life of the waste. I really, really, really don't like products which are wasteful. Just ask my wife or kids who have to listen to me rant about plastic waste every single day.
Second, both myself and Thomas (my new partner) are doing it solely to reduce plastic waste from oral care products—especially disposable, plastic toothbrushes. Do we want to make money? Of course. But we pay more at every step along the way to ensure we're as sustainable as possible. Every single decision we make is based on what's best for the planet.
Now (finally), here is the email. I added a bit more detail solely for clarity (wrote the initial response in a bit of a huff 😅). Those parts are italicized.
My email response:
“We are not greenwashing.
I am a husband and father of 2 kids and I’ve spent 6+ years and a lot of money on this. So I hope you can understand my irritation when people attack my ads without reading the website or fully understanding the situation.
Which is this:
The ONLY toothbrush bristles which are not harmful for the planet are made of sterilized boar hair. If that’s your bag, go for it. I’m not into mistreating animals and believe that we as consumers need to put pressure on the big corporations (like Colgate, Oral B, etc) to innovate in material science.
We need to create better solutions as humans and I believe we can. However right now, unless your bamboo toothbrush uses boar hair, chances are they're nylon bristles. Which are tiny and brutal for the environment. Sure, the handle will decompose, but the bristles will then disperse into the environment.
This is why we ask our customers to return their brush heads, so we can control where the plastic goes.
Do you attack all those bamboo companies that call their toothbrushes “biodegradable” and “compostable” yet use plastic bristles? Do you care that they are made in China using Chinese bamboo and shipped here? Would shipping just the brush heads not save resources and energy? Do you care that they cost 6 cents each to buy and sell for $6+ each?
We designed our toothbrush to minimize plastic use, and while not perfect, we will keep testing and trying new materials as they become available.
For now, the best possible solution is what we do: ask customers to spend $2 per year to return their brush heads so we can pay TerraCycle to recycle them (even the bristles).
I know it’s still plastic, but it’s a LOT better than almost anything else and miles better than disposables. Many of our customers hate bamboo and I do too. The last one I used made my mouth bleed.
I hope this alleviates some of your anger. I’m just a guy who is scared shitless with the state of the earth and trying to do a small part to make it better. It’s not perfect but I’m 100% to good ideas.
Thanks for reading. Stay well.
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Thanks for reading my rant. Please leave a comment below telling me your thoughts.