As the CEO of a direct-to-consumer eco-friendly toothbrush, Frank Prather wears many hats as he grows his company. Frank tells The Industry Leaders why bootstrapping is best and how his company is on a dual mission.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
When my son was born, I was inspired to launch a business that was both family and environmentally friendly. So, after over a decade in television, I pivoted my focus to building an eco-friendly, direct-to-consumer toothbrush company. After some napkin sketch ideas, I started developing ToothbrushMe.com into a viable company.
What kind of work does your role involve?
We're still an early stage, bootstrapped company, so as CEO, I wear many (ok ALL) of the hats. My big push right now is looking for creative ways to expand our reach. However, my day-to-day life involves everything from marketing to customer service to social media management to order fulfilment.
What gets you excited about your industry?
While everyone brushes, oral care is an afterthought for most, especially the replacement of old toothbrushes. And when folks do replace a toothbrush, it's another chunk of plastic in a landfill. So the dual mission of helping people improve their oral care while also reducing plastic waste motivates me every day. Plus, the opportunity for us to create additional biodegradable/compostable products as we grow is really exciting.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Growth on your own terms takes time. That advice helped me to realize that solid companies take years to build. An "overnight success" is 5, 7, even 10 years in the making, so stay focused, work hard, and be patient. I'd recommend bootstrapping for most people, even though it's tougher and extends your "success" timeline. The benefit is that you can chart your own path and grow the business the way you see fit.
What's the best way to support aspiring leaders in your field?
I've had various people reach out to me for advice, particularly when it comes to developing a product they have in mind. I'm always happy to share what I've learned through my experience and point them toward other resources that might help them. It's important to me to see everyone succeed; however, they define that word. I'm just grateful when I have something worth sharing with others.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I follow many other oral care and direct-to-consumer companies on social media to see what they're doing firsthand. That's been the biggest source of learning and inspiration for me.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
The most challenging situation for us was trying to find a factory to produce our product. We had this great design and a little seed money, but many manufacturers don't want to take a chance on a small first order from an unknown company. It took us months to partner with a manufacturer that would work with us AND fit all of our criteria.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
In 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High', Jeff Spicoli saved Brooke Shields from drowning and spent the reward money hiring Van Halen to play his birthday party. Since we lost Prince, I'm a man without a musical artist to squander my money on, so I'd pay off some family mortgages, take my son on a trip to Legoland, and invest in real estate. But a sizable chunk would go straight into ToothbrushMe.com. I'm a bootstrapping advocate, but hey, if you give me free money, I'm happy to accelerate a bit!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I start and finish my day with my family. I always read with my son in the mornings, make him breakfast, and take him to school. Once I'm done working, we have dinner as a family, play games, have dinner, watch movies, etc. There's nothing more important to me than family, so it's easy to leave the rest of the world behind and focus on them.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
My hope for this industry (and really all industries) is to improve culture and the quality of life for employees. Four day work weeks, flex time, paternity leave, and better wages are all basics I'd like to see rolled out to create a better work/life balance. I know this will lead to higher productivity and a much better customer experience, allowing companies to grow along with individuals.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I love the book Discipline Is Freedom by Jocko Willink. It communicates how being disciplined allows you to accomplish everything you want and opens your life up.
For podcasts, I highly recommend the Enjoy Success Podcast with my good friend Jeff Baietto. It's a great combination of how people achieve success and incorporates a lot of gratitude and heart.
How should people connect with you?
I'd really love it if people checked out www.ToothbrushMe.com, even if only to read about our family and earth focused mission. As for me personally, I'm all over Instagram at @frankprather and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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