Joe Brennan launched Smiles for the People LLC, an online company that sells biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes to individuals and dentists and then donates to people in need worldwide.
Brennan, who lives in unincorporated Dundee Township in Kane County, near Carpentersville, said since the company's launch on Feb. 26, it has donated the equivalent of 350 toothbrushes to a dental charity in Argentina that provides care to children living in poverty around Buenos Aires. This means the company's first donation to Todos Juntos was made in cash, which provides dental checkups and services to kids who otherwise wouldn't have access to a dentist, said Brennan, 22.
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He's hoping that consumers who purchase this most basic everyday item can have a role in solving the oral health crisis around the world, he said.
"That is the incentive -- the idea that I can play a tiny part in transforming the way consumers interact with products and, if done effectively, I can enable consumers to play a part in helping people lift themselves out of poverty," Brennan said.
A self-described humanitarian, Brennan said the experience of creating this business has provided him with an education he never anticipated.
"I have had to learn every component of starting and operating a business, and in the process I have gained tools, knowledge and relationships that I wouldn't have been able to get in quite the same way in a grad program," Brennan said. "I definitely could have taken a job with another company or gone back to school right away, but I chose to start Smiles now because I believe there is no time like the present when you have a passion for something that has the potential to make the world a better place."
The company sells its original adult brush, made from bamboo with a biodegradable handle, for $5.95, and discounts are provided for larger quantities. While the company operates online now, Brennan has plans for its future.
"Ultimately, we would like to market the product to socially and environmentally conscious retailers, but that will be a process that unfolds over the next several months," he said.
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