Eric Cope is the founder of Smile Squared, a toothbrush company that gives one toothbrush to a child in need for every toothbrush sold. In the interview below he shares where the idea for his business comes from, his influence by TOMS shoes, and how he stays inspired.
The gallery shows photos of children from their first dental clinic in 2010. One is of the kids brushing, another is when Eric held a "spit sack" as the kids were brushing, and the lead image is a snapshot of Eric.
4 Questions with Eric Cope, founder of Smile Squared
1. How did the idea for he business come about?
To begin with, my wife and I didn't start out going to Guatemala in 2010 with the intention of starting a business. Our son was born in Guatemala. We went with Buckner International (based in Dallas). During this trip, we participated in a dental clinic. We saw many kids with preventable and poor dental health. It was explained to us that many of these kids didn't even own a toothbrush. It was shocking to think that something we consider such a basic necessity, was in reality a luxury item for many of these kids.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
We really the model of TOMS Shoes, 1 for 1, and the idea that things we purchase can make a tremendous impact on someone else. Smile Squared is a simple solution to a problem we saw: provide toothbrushes to children in need in a sustainable way.
The 1 for 1 movement is living out the Golden Rule and "Love your neighbor." So when you buy for yourself, think of others too! This is a simple way to do this in our daily lives. We love that such a small product can make a big difference.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
The children and our mission inspire us. Later this month, we are going back to Guatemala to help with a dental clinic and give out toothbrushes. Buckner International has sent pictures of the children in Mexico that live near a dump and have received dental care and our toothbrushes. It is a great reminder to keep working to help children! We also just donated to International Justice Mission to put our toothbrushes in their aftercare kits. IJM's mission is to eliminate human trafficking and slavery. We are honored to help these organizations.
Also, the people that we have met along through Smile Squared inspire us. We find so many people who connect to our mission and are trying to do good in the world.
The feedback we receive about Smile Squared definitely propels me -- each week I hear from someone in a giving organization we have partnered with, from a retail prospect, or just from a friend. I appreciate getting emails and reading blogs/articles from customers who get that we are more than a toothbrush company.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
After we put the kids to bed and I have few minutes to myself, I love to read. I love reading about and hearing other success stories. We have been amazed on how many social enterprises, blogs, writers who devote themselves to making this world a better place. Also, I love the mountains, and try to embark on a climbing trip when I'm able. For me, this does wonders.