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Success Story Podcast

Lindsay McCormick – Founder and CEO of Bite | Building Mission-Driven Companies

By September 15, 2023September 25th, 2023No Comments

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About The Guest

Lindsay McCormick is the Founder and CEO of Bite, a trailblazing brand in sustainable oral care. Her journey began in 2016 while working as a TV producer on HGTV’s “House Hunters.” Lindsay, fueled by a passion for sustainability, invested $6,000 to create eco-friendly toothpaste alternatives. Today, she leads Bite, a multimillion-dollar company committed to eliminating plastic waste from personal care products. Lindsay’s transition from TV producer to sustainable entrepreneur, her impactful Shark Tank appearance, and her dedication to a plastic-free future exemplify her entrepreneurial spirit and environmental commitment.

Based in Southern California, Lindsay revolutionizes personal care with Bite’s plastic-free, cruelty-free products, including viral toothpaste tablets. Her story showcases how small brands can drive big change, emphasizing the importance of embracing discomfort as a founder. Lindsay McCormick’s legacy lies in her relentless pursuit of a more sustainable world, one innovative product at a time.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 — Intro
  • 03:10 — Lindsay McCormick’s Origin Story
  • 07:29 — First Side Hustle Iteration
  • 13:00 — Realizing Product Viability
  • 18:50 — Scaling Amid Influx of Orders
  • 26:05 — Shark Tank Offers & Fundraising Views
  • 34:13 — Sponsor: My First Million Podcast
  • 35:23 — Sustainability in Product Launch
  • 40:50 — Prioritizing Sustainability in Business
  • 44:11 — Expanding Beyond Key Product
  • 48:20 — Launching New Products Seamlessly
  • 50:58 — Secrets to New Product Success
  • 53:38 — Lessons for Changing Customer Habits
  • 57:15 — Advice on Building a CPG Brand
  • 58:12 — Lindsay’s Closing Thoughts
  • 1:00:00 — Connecting with Lindsay Online
  • 1:00:21 — Lindsay’s Definition of Success

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From Surf Instructor to Eco-Conscious Entrepreneur: How Bite Founder Lindsay McCormick Followed Her Passion to Build a Mission-Driven Oral Care Brand

Picture this.

You’re floating in the crystal blue waters of Malibu, gazing up at the beautiful Santa Monica mountains. The sun kisses your skin as you bob gently up and down with the tide.

As a surf instructor, these were the types of days Lindsay McCormick got to experience regularly.

While teaching lessons in the idyllic beaches of Malibu, Lindsay’s love and respect for the ocean only grew stronger. The sea seemed to beckon her, whispering there was more she could do to protect the planet.

And that calling would ultimately shape her destiny as an entrepreneur.

You see, during her time as an instructor, Lindsay started to notice a disturbing trend.

More and more plastic waste was washing up on shore – plastic that would endanger wildlife and never biodegrade.

The problem was staring her in the face. And Lindsay felt compelled to do something about it.

In this deep dive article, I’m excited to tell the origin story of Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of the eco-friendly oral care brand Bite.

Through Lindsay’s journey, you’ll discover:

  • How paying attention to your everyday experiences can spark million dollar business ideas
  • Why you should relentlessly experiment until you create the ideal solution, even if it requires learning entirely new skills
  • How going viral unexpectedly can make or break your business in an instant
  • Why organic growth and passionate customers enable you to stick to your core values as you scale

Let’s dive in and learn from this unconventional entrepreneur’s success story.

From Beach Bum to Business Founder

Lindsay’s path to founding a business was unconventional right from the start.

Rather than follow a traditional career route after college, Lindsay’s priority was spending as much time in nature as possible. And preferably catching as many waves as she could along the way!

So in her early 20s, Lindsay moved to the surfing mecca of Malibu, California. There, she worked as a surf instructor, sharing her love for the ocean with students each day.

During the summers, you could find Lindsay in her happy place – floating offshore, waiting for the next set. But she couldn’t spend all year hanging ten. When the weather cooled, Lindsay headed inland to the mountains.

She became a snowboard instructor at Bear Mountain, another chance to play outside while making a living.

Lindsay reflects:

“In the summers I would spend time as a surf instructor in Malibu and in the winters I was a snowboard instructor at Bear Mountain. It’s about two hours in between and it was because I loved being outside, I loved nature.”

For someone so passionate about the environment, these gigs were a dream come true.

But after years of playing outside, Lindsay was ready for a new challenge. She wanted to put her college degree to use and pursue a media career.

Specifically, Lindsay aimed to produce nature documentaries spotlighting environmental issues. What better way to combine her interests?

So at 29 years old, fed up with the instability of seasonal work, Lindsay took the leap.

She landed an entry level job as a TV producer in Los Angeles. The pay was just $600 a week and lacked benefits. For a major city like LA, money was tight.

But Lindsay was thrilled. This was her chance to break into the industry and start working toward larger creative goals.

Little did she know, the demanding schedule of this new job would plant the first seed for her future startup…

The Pivotal Moment: Toothpaste Meets Trash Can

As an assistant TV producer, Lindsay traveled frequently for work. She was constantly booking flights, packing toiletries, and living out of hotel rooms.

During one exhausting week of back-to-back shoots, Lindsay found herself rinsing out a near-empty travel size toothpaste tube before throwing it in the trash.

She recalls the critical moment:

“I had just tossed out that little travel tube in my trash can. I heard it thunk at the bottom of the trash can. And I was like, that’s a pretty substantial piece of plastic I just threw out. And I’m doing this every other week.”

Just like that, the reality hit her.

With her passion for the environment, how had Lindsay not realized sooner the waste created by these tiny toothpaste tubes?

She was contributing to plastic pollution constantly through her travels. And she could no longer justify it.

Lindsay became obsessed with finding plastic-free alternatives. But the market lacked suitable options…

There were toothpaste tablets, but they came in plastic packaging. Or contained ingredients Lindsay wasn’t comfortable using daily.

For someone passionate about both environmentalism and oral healthcare, the choices were unacceptable.

Lindsay saw a gaping hole in the market. And she became determined to develop an alternative herself.

But the journey from conception to finished product would require an enormous amount of grit, experimentation and perseverance.

This was uncharted waters for Lindsay.

Fortunately, she would tap into her Entrepreneurial spirit along the way…

An Experiment Gone Right: Lindsay Invents the Eco-Friendly Toothpaste Tablet

Lindsay had zero experience formulating oral care products. Where many may have given up, Lindsay leaned into the challenge.

Her experimentation process was exhilarating, humorous and sometimes gross:

“At first it’s curiosity but then you kind of get further and further into it…Now I’m calling my friends who were dentists and dental hygienists asking about toothpaste.”

But learning oral care formulation on her own wasn’t enough. She also had to figure out how to produce this toothpaste tablet she envisioned.

Again, Lindsay took an unconventional approach:

“I actually went on Reddit and looked up how you make drugs. I assumed someone making drugs in their living room would know how to make tablets in small batches!”

With persistence, Lindsay’s eureka moment finally came.

After dozens of lackluster tests, she created a toothpaste tablet she truly loved. It was plastic free, used natural ingredients and actually made her mouth feel clean!

This was it – the solution she’d been seeking.

She couldn’t wait to get feedback from others who cared about sustainability.

Lindsay had poured endless energy into developing this product. She hoped people would be as excited about it as she was.

So Lindsay decided to sell her new toothpaste tablets online…

From Etsy Side Hustle to $200k in Sales Overnight

Lindsay needed a way to sell her new toothpaste tablets online and test the market.

This was in the early days of Shopify and Etsy, when iPhone photos were totally normal.

Lindsay cobbled together her first online store using the meager resources available to her.

She snapped some iPhone shots of her homemade toothpaste. Wrote basic copy describing the product and it’s eco-friendly qualities. And launched her odd little Experiment for the world to see!

It may sound crazy, but the janky little store worked.

Lindsay’s unconventional toothpaste tablet was brand new. Nothing else like it existed. And it scratched an itch for eco-conscious shoppers.

Slowly but surely, Lindsay made her first few sales to strangers online.

Then, she caught a lucky break.

Women’s Health Magazine featured Lindsay and her toothpaste tablets in a Facebook video. And the video instantly went viral.

Within 48 hours, Lindsay’s business skyrocketed from a hobby to over $200,000 in sales!

She remembers the overnight explosion:

“My phone started going crazy. Sale after sale after sale. I realized Women’s Health had put up the video without even telling me. It was at 2 million views in days. We did $200k in sales just that first 48 hours.”

What would you do if your side hustle instantly brought in a quarter million dollars in revenue?

For most aspiring entrepreneurs, that question is just a fantasy.

But for Lindsay, this staggering viral moment was her new reality.

Overnight, she went from selling a few tablets on Etsy each week…

To fielding hundreds of orders from enthusiastic strangers who demanded this new plastic-free toothpaste.

Talk about manifesting overnight success! This was the affirmation Lindsay needed that she was onto something big.

But growing 200X in sales within days also meant MAJOR growing pains…

Overwhelmed by Viral Success: Lessons From Scaling Too Quickly

Imagine the chaos unfolding in Lindsay’s life at this moment.

She had been cooking toothpaste tablets on her stove and shipping orders from home.

Now, thanks to one viral video, she owed customers thousands of tablets. WAY more than she could reasonably make herself.

Like most businesses that gain massive traction quickly, everything was breaking:

  • She didn’t have a manufacturer that could mass produce her product.
  • She lacked an automated system to fulfill hundreds of orders.
  • Customer service became completely overwhelmed almost instantly.

Despite being thrilled her idea resonated, Lindsay now faced immense pressure to meet demand and support these new customers. It’s a classic case of “going viral too soon.”

But looking back, Lindsay is grateful for surviving this trial by fire:

“It grew up to this gigantic pterodactyl that was trying to rip my face off! I had to figure out how to manage and not get everyone mad.”

Some key lessons from her viral experience:

Communicate constantly.

Lindsay sent frequent updates to buyers about delays, refund offers and her progress finding a factory. She aimed for radical transparency. This built trust and loyalty despite hiccups.

Learn manufacturing fast.

Lindsay relentlessly called and visited suppliers to find one who could mass produce her tablets, a daunting task for a unique product. Don’t be afraid to ask for help scaling.

Embrace role fluidity.

Overnight Lindsay went from inventor to customer service rep to operations manager. Be ready to pivot focus daily and wear many hats during hypergrowth.

Scale sustainably.

Viral success led to big decisions about financing, production and hiring. Lindsay stayed committed to eco-friendly choices, rather than chasing growth at all costs. Know your values.

In the end, Lindsay succeeded by listening to customers, adapting rapidly and staying true to her vision.

She could have easily sold out to investors or abandoned her eco-friendly mandate in the name of growth.

Instead, she scaled thoughtfully and turned her overnight viral success into a real business.

After the initial whirlwind, Lindsay officially founded Bite toothpaste.

With proof that consumers craved plastic-free oral care, she was ready to transform Bite from novelty to household name.

From Scrappy Underdog to Established Household Brand

Think of the biggest brands in oral care. Names like Colgate and Crest probably come to mind.

These giants have dominated store shelves for decades. Their marketing budgets are in the billions.

As a small startup, Bite was the quintessential David up against Goliaths of the oral care world.

Lindsay had to get creative in how she captured market share against these titans.

Here are a few strategies that fueled success:

Product innovation – Bite constantly improves upon existing products. Their bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste bits stand out from hyper-competitive categories.

Education – Bite builds trust by educating consumers on ingredients, sourcing and sustainability via content. Lindsay personally writes in-depth blog posts to share their “why”.

Community – Early fans were loyal evangelists. Bite nurtured this community with excellent customer service and brand interactions.

Authenticity – Unlike giants with generic branding, Bite stays edgy and approachable. Lindsay’s personality shines through.

Purpose – While big brands pay lip service to being green, Bite’s sustainable ethos is inherent to their products.

Adaptability – Bite rapidly evolved from toothpaste niche to full oral care brand. But the mission stayed the same.

By competing as the anti-giant, focusing on relationships and honing its purpose, scrappy Bite carved out a niche.

In just a few short years, Bite became a leader in eco-conscious oral care. All by putting Lindsay’s original values into action.

But the new challenge was how to expand the brand beyond its oral care roots…

Expanding the Mission: Turning Bite Into a Lifestyle Brand

Oral care was a competitive arena on its own.

Some may have suggested Lindsay stay in her lane and be happy owning the niche.

But she envisioned something bigger.

Lindsay knew that once you identified a core consumer pain point – in sustainability and health – extensions into new categories made sense.

She explains the vision:

“At first it was just Bite Toothpaste Bits. But then we expanded into other oral care. And I was thinking…why only oral care? Why not make BETTER products across categories?”

Lindsay noticed consumers increasingly wanted to know why certain ingredients were in products. And why certain packaging was used.

They craved radical transparency from brands.

This was the perfect time to educate consumers and expand Bite’s purpose into new arenas.

Lindsay also had a secret weapon that led to successful category expansions…

Customer-Driven Innovation Fueling Growth

Many founders in Lindsay’s position may have let ego drive product releases.

They might develop new offerings in a silo, hoping to dazzle customers.

But at Bite, every major product expansion was instigated directly by customer feedback.

Before diving into a new category, Lindsay asked questions like:

  • What everyday products do our customers complain about?
  • What options are they desperately seeking?
  • How can we innovate based on their frustrations?

She refused to release a new offering without indications that customers wanted it.

For example, Bite’s surprisingly successful natural deodorant was sparked by customers asking for a plastic-free option.

This innovation philosophy led to products perfectly tailored to demand.

Each new offering had a tribe eagerly awaiting it. This led to instant sales traction and validation.

Too many founders avoid asking actual users for input until products tank. But at Bite, customers are part of the innovation process from the start.

This approach ensures money isn’t wasted on ideas that flop. And it generates immense customer goodwill.

Now Bite offers oral care, deodorant, skincare and much more. Their community rallies behind each expansion.

In a world filled with meaningless choice, Lindsay found growth through purpose – by truly understanding consumers and creating solutions.

But as a mission-driven brand from inception, she faced another challenge…

Staying True to Your Values During Explosive Growth

From two products to twenty, Bite’s growth since inception has been astounding.

They are now a leader in multiple categories. But with growth comes pitfalls.

During Bite’s rapid expansion, Lindsay remained vigilant. She refused to jeopardize the brand’s core values for quick gains.

When asked about avoiding this trap, Lindsay responded:

“Keeping sustainability at our core guided our decision making in positive directions as we scaled. I’m glad I didn’t start any bad habits when we were young.”

Here are a few ways Bite stayed on mission despite market pressures:

  • Said no to cheap synthetic ingredients, even if they boosted margins.
  • Kept manufacturing local to reduce environmental impact. No overseas production.
  • Packaging is reusable, compostable or recyclable across all products.
  • Ingredients are natural, ethical and certified organic when possible.
  • Launched a carbon-neutral shipping program to offset operational emissions.
  • Maintained excellent customer service and interactions as the company grew.
  • Refused to compromise on their “why” when raising capital. Bootstrapped instead.

Make no mistake – staying committed to sustainability with investors pounding down your door is HARD.

But for Lindsay, it was non-negotiable. It’s why customers rallied around Bite.

Growth is exciting, but values are paramount. They enable you to scale impactfully.

Unfortunately, many brands lose their way in the name of rapid expansion.

By never compromising on her vision for a mission-driven brand, Lindsay created a rarity – values-led growth. She transformed Bite from passion project to legacy brand.

Key Takeaways From Lindsay’s Journey

If you’re inspired by Lindsay’s story, you may be wondering – what lessons apply to my own goals?

Here are a few key takeaways any aspiring founder/entrepreneur can learn from:

Passion to Business Starts With Problems, Not Eurekas

Lindsay didn’t concoct a fanciful new product from scratch. The spark was her visceral reaction to plastic waste she encountered daily.

Look around your everyday world. Pay attention when you say “Someone should really solve this problem!” That’s often a promising business idea staring you in the face.

You Can Learn to Make ANYTHING…So Just Start

Lindsay lacked both business and chemistry experience. But she taught herself the skills needed to create toothpaste tablets from scratch.

When you have a vision, don’t let surface-level “deficits” like lack of experience or resources stop you. If this college dropout could fabricate oral care products in her kitchen, you can figure it out too.

Go Viral ACCIDENTALLY, Not as the Goal

Overnight viral success was neither Lindsay’s goal nor focus. She wanted to make a quality product. The hype followed.

Too many entrepreneurs today obsess over going viral or getting press. Make something great that helps people first. The rest follows.

Lead By Listening to Customers

Lindsay let genuine customer feedback, not projections, guide Bite’s evolution. She turned user insights into successful new products.

Build trust through exceptional service and listening intently to your community. Then customers become your best innovation resource.

Impact & Income Do NOT Have to Be Mutually Exclusive

Lindsay built her business around environmentalism – not the easiest route to profits. But by sticking to her values, she carved out a niche and stands out in a crowded market.

Don’t buy into the idea that purpose and profit are at odds. Your values can be a competitive advantage if you build a community that shares them.

Tuning Out Critics Helps You Stay True to Your Vision

From pricing to ingredients to branding, Bite made unconventional choices that went against “expert” advice. But it allowed them to stand out.

You’ll face endless criticism and questioning as an entrepreneur. Be firm in your convictions. Let haters fuel you.

Organic Growth Enables Flexibility

As a bootstrapped company, Bite grew steadily by reinvesting revenue. This organic growth allowed Lindsay to stay in control of decisions.

Money is a tool. Make sure fundraising supports your vision, not warps it. Retain flexibility by scaling sustainably.

Keep Evolving & Adapting

Bite started as toothpaste tablets, but is now a full-fledged brand making waves in oral care and beyond.

No matter how successful your core business, keep pushing boundaries. Stay scrappy. Never stand still.

Lindsay’s story proves that an entrepreneur’s passion and purpose can transform problems into successful brands.

If you feel called to start a mission-driven company, take that first step. Start small, but stay true to your values.

The world needs more passionate makers and founders like Lindsay focused on doing good.

With the right mindset and spirit of service, your idea can make an impact too. The rest will follow.

Now get out there and start something that matters!

What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategies for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.


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Alyy Hash

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