Brian Mays is using toothpaste to give back to his community
The New Yorker is the founder and CEO of Smile Natural, which helps others while creating a healthier lifestyle
When Brian Mays combined holistic dental hygiene and philanthropy, he produced Smile Natural Toothpaste — a company that uses toothpaste to give back to the community.
Based in New York City, the Smile Natural team recently donated school supplies to students living in New York’s Lois Pink Houses public housing community – a deed that helps families in need past the normal first of the year school supply drive.
“Living in New York, I’d heard of the Pink Houses. They’re said to be one of the roughest housing projects here and were recently featured on the VICE network. Many of the kids living there go without access to necessary school supplies, so I wanted to make a special donation to them,” said 28-year-old Mays. “It’s easy to just cut a check to an organization, but sometimes, a lot of people are still left out. I wanted to make sure 100 percent of the donations went directly to families. Seeing the looks on the kids’ faces as we gave them gift bags of paper, pens, rulers, geometry sets and several other items they need for school, was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.”
While the organic ingredients (coconut oil, peppermint oil, cacao, activated charcoal and more) aid in Smile Natural’s uniqueness, it’s the investment in the community that sets this brand apart. For every purchase, a donation is made to a worthy cause.
“My first month in business, I donated 100 percent of the month’s sales to purchase school supplies for a Baltimore, Maryland, school in need. I’d recently learned that the middle school students there were lacking important materials, so it just made since to give them the donation,” Mays said.
Smile Natural has also raised enough money to award its first of many $500 scholarships to a high school student who shares the company’s love for giving back.
“Our scholarship is a little different in that we don’t focus on GPAs or grades, but we recognize students that go out of their way to give back to the community,” Mays said. “Our scholarship recipients may not be the best students, but we want to honor their work in philanthropy, in efforts to promote and encourage this characteristic in students early on.”
Reading about the Black Panthers’ commitment to community development was the inspiration behind incorporating the element of giving back in his business.
“Reading about them really encouraged me to take ownership in making sure the community is taken care of.”
Mays also attributes some inspiration to his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, which highlights uplifting the community in its motto, as well as his parents.
“My parents raised my siblings and I to be grateful for everything we had. We didn’t have much, but it was instilled in us to give to others when we could. It’s always been a very gratifying feeling to be able to help someone else out.”
Mays never thought he’d start a toothpaste company, “I just took something everyone needs and made it healthier and more meaningful.
“It’s funny,” he added, “how things come full circle. I at one point wanted to be a doctor. I laugh when I think about how I’m still helping people with their health, just through their teeth.” One of his favorite parts of running the business is being able to use the marketing skills he learned as a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara to promote the company.
Research on fluoride and his dissatisfaction with existing toothpaste brands led to him take matters into his own hands and create a healthier alternative for everyone.
“I started to research fluoride and its harmful effects and decided to stop consuming it altogether,” Mays said. “Fluoride is found in most toothpastes, so I first just tried to switch to a natural brand. I tried out a popular natural toothpaste, but I hated how dry it made my mouth feel afterwards, so I started making my own. I combined a few quality, natural ingredients that made my mouth feel clean and eliminated that dry feeling. I let a few friends try it out and they loved it. That was the start of Smile Natural Toothpaste.”
If Mays weren’t making his original toothpaste by hand, he’d be a strategy consultant.
“I’ve learned so much on this journey and I’d love to one day help other entrepreneurs with their business models.”
Until then, Mays said, he will continue whipping up his must-have, natural toothpaste and helping out those in need along the way.