Up until 2019 Natalie Quail worked as a tax lawyer in Central London. One day, she woke up and decided to follow her dream, so set up SmileTime, a bleach-free teeth whitening brand set to improve people’s confidence and encourage them to share their smile. Now her brand has sold over £1million worth of at-home teeth whitening kits, and is set to change the face of teeth whitening for ever.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
SmileTime was started in late 2019, pre-pandemic. As I’d seen at home, and through my parents working as Dental professionals for so long, good teeth whitening is very expensive. SmileTime was born to be the answer to that, and provide affordable, safe and effective teeth whitening solutions for a wider market, so people would feel more confident in sharing their smile.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Both of my parents are in the Dental world, so ‘good teeth’ is a genuine passion that runs through my family. However, I was working in law before, and had a steady income – everything parents want for their child! One day I just gave in, and told them I really wanted to start a business that changed the face of teeth whitening and made it more accessible for everyone. Thankfully they’ve been very supportive, and have shared in my celebrations as the business has grown.
How did you achieve awareness?
I’ve put a lot of work into the brand’s social media, as our target audience is roughly 18-24. Digital marketing, influencers and affiliate marketing, coupled with some great press, have really helped to put SmileTime’s name on the map.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
In the last 18 months, SmileTime has made £1.1milllion worth of sales from an initial investment from my own savings and from family, of just £30,000.
What are the key successes?
Our key successes have definitely come from press recognition. We’ve been supported and really positively spoken about for overcoming supply chain issues during the pandemic (by the BBC), and fighting through those limitations, as well as WWD supporting us for ‘democtatising’ oral care. These have certainly helped us reach our target of over £1million in sales within the first 18months of trading.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge undoubtedly was, when COVID hit, our Teeth Whitening Kits were all being produced in China. As imports and factories started to be impacted by the pandemic, we had to change our supply chain fast. Luckily we had a plan B, so we just had to implement that, and luckily our sales kept flowing in, as the kits are ‘at-home’ and very easy to use. Trying to hire the right people has also been difficult at times; trying to create the right team who understand my vision for the brand, and have the expertise to help the brand grow.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Plans are really starting to take shape now, as we’re going into final negotiations with a leading nationwide health and beauty retailer (keep your eyes peeled for an announcement on our social media soon). After that, the sky’s the limit.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
The best and biggest thing I’ve learned so far, is not to be afraid to fail. In fact, fail as fast as you can, because when we fail, we learn. We force ourselves to pick up and push forward. Being an entrepreneur is a balance of being one step from success, and one step from failure at the same time. You just have to push yourself forward towards your goals, and away from the negative.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
My top tips would be:
Always be willing to learn, and listen to others guidance (not necessarily to take it!)
Hustle and don’t be afraid to ask for things, as nobody is going to do that for you
Use your network, as these are the people who will help you build and expand
Make your job your vocation, because starting your own business is a life choice, rather than a job you take on
Make time for headspace, to reflect and see the big picture – this could make or break the success of your company
As a female founder, you have to figure out your exit strategy and how long you’ll be committed for – if the answer is not ‘as long as it takes’!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
My parents, who came to the UK from South America, and grew their successful dental business from scratch
My partner Nick, who also came to the UK from abroad (Aus). He’s incredibly strategic and very supportive of my ideas
Phil Knight (founder of Nike), because his story of founding the brand is so inspiring, as for a decade the brand struggled, and his lateral thinking never got the credit
Marcia Kilgore (founder of BEAUTY PIE), I would love to have her as a mentor, as I’ve followed her since I went to Bliss Spas as a child, and her journey founding more and more successful businesses is fascinating
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I’m not sure who said this, but it gives me strength to do things for myself and my business every day: back yourself, because if you don’t nobody else will
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
YouTube: @SmileTime https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpXAJisfH4GvIJaMo-qJO1Q?view_as=subscriber