Eva Sadej, Floss Bar's Founder on how she got the idea to start floss bar
“Are you a dentist?” “No” “Then how did you create Floss Bar? What inspired the idea?” I get this question often and it is a good one. People do not usually step far outside their field of expertise when they launch a new business.
I’m just a person. I studied Economics at Harvard. I go to Wharton Business School. My experience is in operations management and macro investment at a large hedge fund. I have no medical background.
Floss Bar was inspired by my need to take care of my partner. The story is not tragic. Dentists have inconvenienced me, but none have harmed me. Rather, that story is simple, light and humorous:
All of my friends know that I have a great sense of smell. Subtle smells others do not notice bother me. Being meticulous about my own hygiene, I was pushing my partner too much. He already had reasonable hygiene for a guy, but every 3 months there would be a bit of tartar in the top teeth of that adorable toothy smile that would absorb red wine, no matter what cool new toothbrush I got him.
Attempting to manage his dental care was a mess. He has Canadian insurance. If he went to a dentist in NYC, he would be paying $220 a pop out-of-pocket ($880 a year) or I would be buying him what he considered a forced gift. I tried getting him a Groupon in NYC, but none of the times available at the discount dentists worked for his busy schedule.
Eva & Stuart
At Floss Bar's launch party
So, if I wanted to avoid the late night purple smile, I had to understand the times of year he would be headed home to his mom in Toronto and discuss with her the possibilities of getting him an appointment. Pretty embarrassing for everyone involved. And impractical. He is a banker, his mom is a successful executive in Canada, and their dentist has a waiting list miles long. The man-power spent on this basic activity was a solid waste of time.
From this experience, I was convinced that there is a hole in the market for people like him and people like me: busy professionals who need times that suit their schedules and care about appearance enough to go more frequently. I did not know how to fix it, but I was intrigued by the business problem. So, I researched the laws, the market surveys, the industry breakdown, the companies in the space, etc.
As part of my search, I found that the problem is much bigger. It is a problem the majority of Americans are facing. My self-suiting business now became a social mission, and I worked harder on the ways I could find to reduce costs and pass on the benefits to the consumer.
After a phase of research, I talked. I talked and talked and talked to anyone who would listen to me. I had bad ideas about how to execute because I knew nothing about the space as an outsider. Quite honestly, at the beginning I wanted to train nail salon people how to clean teeth. It made very little sense (and was illegal). I stumbled upon so many painful conversations.
The most useful people were those who told me no or gave me a hard time or ridiculed me. While it burned, they had the best ideas.
The second most useful were those who had no idea what to do, but who encouraged me and lifted my spirits. I find that love is just as good as ideas, because love gives you the positive energy to be creative on your own,
After 40 or so conversations, I made a pitch deck and brought on some teammates. The team has had a rotating cast of characters, and I’m happy Jay has stuck it out with me.
My advice for those starting out is:
- Lean in to the pain. The most difficult conversations are the ones where you learn the most.
- If someone says it cannot be done, ask why. Keep trying to objectively understand the obstacles. Because you may find that they are not even real.
- Take care of yourself. Half the battle is maintaining a strong and sharp mind which can tolerate the journey.