A new spin on a common product, Bite offers consumers a healthier way to take care of their smile while being earth-conscious. With the help of a business credit card, the sustainable oral care company was able to keep up with its viral acclaim.
Featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Insider and many more, Lindsay McCormick has plenty of reasons to smile. As the founder and CEO of Bite — a company that produces and sells all-natural, zero waste toothpaste tablets — she has been delivering smiles while working toward ending plastic waste caused by toothpaste tubes.
“We are on a mission to become the world’s most sustainable oral care company,” says McCormick. “Every year, more than one billion toothpaste tubes are thrown out. That means billions of plastic tubes are filling up our landfills and polluting our oceans with harsh chemical residues.”
McCormick founded Bite in August 2017 with the notion that “the earth is not ours to keep, but to protect for future generations.” Not only does the company pay close attention to every ingredient in each tablet — ensuring each ingredient is good for you — but the environment benefits as well.
“We are a completely bootstrapped startup and growing month over month,” says McCormick. “I believe our rapid growth is a testament to the fact that people are becoming more conscious consumers and looking for companies that offer solutions that don’t come at the expense of our planet and our health.”
To make the magic happen, she called on a credit card — at just the right time.
See related: Howling for a great business credit card
What was the beginning of your business like – any hardships to overcome to open your doors?
I started Bite in my living room — without any sort of business or dentistry background — so there was a huge learning curve. In the beginning, I was working full-time as a TV producer and spent my nights taking open source chemistry classes online. And my morning commutes were filled with business and startup audiobooks.
I built the first version of the website on a free template from Shopify by drag-and-dropping product photos that I took on my iPhone. Looking back, it looked pretty terrible, and even the first formula of tablets tasted pretty bad. My long-term boyfriend (and now co-founder) completely redesigned the site and homed in on the brand.
While creating the formula that we use for Bite today, I tried hundreds of different ingredients — I bought two tablet presses, then bottled, labeled and packed every order myself. I’ve revamped the formula countless times, making small tweaks and improvements each time. We’re constantly iterating.
Where there any surprise costs that caught you off guard?
Fulfillment costs were a slap in the face. I had been packing and sending all the orders myself, and hauling all the packages to the post office in the back of my little Prius. When we grew to the point where that no longer made sense, we started looking into fulfillment companies where they package and ship orders for brands. It was mind-blowing to me how expensive this was.
Our margins took a hit and the transition was not easy. We have since adjusted to this expense, but I’d really advise anyone starting a company to look into fulfillment pricing and build this into your margins right off the bat.
I understand you used a credit card to help the business. What was your card of choice, and why?
When Bite went viral, I was still working full-time in TV and had all of Bite’s finances linked to my personal accounts. This is super typical for a single-member LLC but that meant all the money that was coming through Bite was getting mixed in with my personal finances — plus I only had my personal credit card to use for business expenses.With the sudden volume of shipping expenses and online payments, I was getting flagged with fraud alerts all over the place and hit my credit limit almost immediately. This meant I had to push everything to my debit card — which also almost immediately got shut down due to fraud alerts. I would recommend to anyone just starting out to get a company account and credit card set up before you actually need it.
I use Chase for my business savings and checking accounts and have the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card. I honestly chose Chase in an act of desperation. Bite was going viral and I needed to get the company money out of my personal account and get a credit card with a much higher spending limit. Chase was near my house at the time. They took me as a walk-in and set up my account right then and there.
I’ve been really happy with them so far and have had nothing but good experiences with their customer service. They pulled through for me at a crazy time. The credit card I signed up for was interest-free for the first year and their rewards programs can be tailored to your business needs, which has been great.
We’re debt-free and have been very disciplined with our spending and profit along with our loss. I believe in being scrappy in life and as a business. I think it forces us to be creative and operate in an intentional way.
What are the types of unique expenses that go into running your business?
We are sustainability-centric and work with very specific materials and ingredients that must check all the boxes of our increasingly long list of “must-haves.” High quality and sustainable materials cost more but are a necessary expense for our business.
I started Bite as an advocate for sustainability. I was not trying to start a company, rather to create a change. That means listening to our community, hearing their wants and needs and then finding ways we can make that happen.
We use the very best ingredients and they cost a lot, both in man-hours and materials. Recently, we reformulated to completely eradicate the use of palm oil. We had been using a small amount of Ecocert palm oil but after our customers asked us to look into the impact of it on rainforest deforestation, we realized they were right and eliminated it from our tablets entirely. As far as I know, this will make us one of the only brands of toothpaste on the market that contains no palm oil. It was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor but unquestionably worth it.
Please explain where you are now with the business — in a steady plateau or expanding?
We’re expanding. We are growing month over month and are in the process of developing more new and innovative products. We’ve restructured from a single member LLC to a C corporation and hired our first new team members.
Our goal is to be the most sustainable oral care company on the planet. We want to inspire people to question their everyday routines and realize how much one person can make a difference.
See related: How can I improve cash flow for my business?
OK, now for some advice — what have you learned about borrowing money and what would you recommend to others who are just starting out?
We’ve been lucky. Because we are an online business, our payouts come almost immediately. This means there are only a few days between someone paying for our product online and the amount being deposited into our bank account. This has allowed us to grow without the need for funding or borrowing money.
This is important to me as I want to be able to spend money in ways that align with our values, and I don’t want to have to convince investors or a bank why I think it’s the right thing to do.
My advice: Know your why. Building a business is hard, all-encompassing work. Having a reason and a mission you can fall back on when things get tough is extremely important.
I have a list of things I can do to kick my butt back into gear when I feel overwhelmed or feel like giving up. I watch Plastic Ocean (a documentary on plastic pollution) or I go for a run on the beach and pick up trash along the way — anything to reset, re-energize and remind myself of my original cause and mission.
Your mission can be financial independence, introducing people to a new cuisine, anything — but know it and know how to reactivate your passion for it when things get crazy.