It's a Matter Of...A Smile
Inspiration in the Power of a Smile with Cody + Julian LevineMay 05, 2021 BeautyMatter
May 05, 2021
Inspiration comes in many forms, and acting on an inspired moment is often the spark that sets entrepreneurs on their path to creating amazing things. Inspired by the power of the smile, brothers Cody and Julian Levine co-founded oral health brand Twice, along with musician Lenny Kravitz. At first glance, Twice might be perceived as yet another celebrity-backed millennial DTC brand, but as you peel back the layers of this brand it is about much more than selling toothpaste.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:08]: This episode is presented by Eco Soap Bank, a global humanitarian non-profit that’s working to save, sanitize, and supply recycled soap with hygiene education for the developing world.
Julian Levine [00:00:28]: Hi, I’m Julian Levine, co-founder of Twice.
Cody Levine [00:00:31]: I’m Cody Levine, one of the other co-founders of Twice. And to us, it’s a matter of a smile.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:43]: Inspiration comes in many forms and often when you least expect it; you just have to always be looking. I’m Kelly Kovack, founder of BeautyMatter. Acting on an inspired moment is often the spark that sets entrepreneurs on their path to creating amazing thing. Brothers Cody and Julian Levine were inspired by the power of a smile. They are two of the co-founders of Twice, an oral care brand that at first glance, might be perceived as yet another celebrity-backed, millennial D-to-C brand. But while those things are true, the brand launched direct-to-consumer and musician Lenny Kravitz is also a co-founder. But as you peel back the layers of this brand, it is about so much more than just selling toothpaste.
Cody and Julian, thank you so much for taking the time today to chat about all things oral care, and more.
Cody Levine [00:01:47]: Yes, thanks for having us.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:50]: Yeah, so oral care is sort of the family business for you guys. Your father, Jonathan B. Levine, and your mother, Stacey Levine, were the innovators that brought the concept of Smile Care to beauty shelves in like 2002 with at home and on-the-go teeth whitening. And I know while oral care might be in your DNA, you both had careers before getting into the family business, so to speak. So maybe we can start with you each sharing a little bit about your background, just to set the stage for what you’re doing today with twice.
Cody Levine [00:02:34]: Yeah, absolutely. So for me, this is Cody, growing up we were surrounded by oral care, as you said, but we were never forced to go down the dental route. Neither of us went to dental school; we actually both went to Cornell. I studied finance and entrepreneurship and ended up, actually, in advertising. I realized in college that I wanted to help brands tell stories, and I find myself at BBDO New York, which is a global creative agency. We were working on everything from Super Bowl ads to Olympic campaigns for big Fortune 500 companies, and I absolutely loved it. I was kind of the young digital strategist who spoke the millennial language, as the resident millennial, and was helping creative teams and clients and agency team members understand the digital landscape, understand social media, understand integrative storytelling with a new generation at the time, which was us millennials.
And then from BBDO, I ended up going in-house, actually at Live Nation, in the music space, helping brands build deeper roots in the music industry, teaming up with musicians, sponsoring festivals, doing activations, building integrated campaigns for brands like Budweiser.
And then from there, I went to work at an agency called Giant Spoon, which is more of an innovative, media, creative agency. When I was there, the team had just done the first branded podcast for GE called “The Message,” which was really, really cool. I helped a couple brands launch some cool campaigns there, and really honed my desire for telling stories across mediums and leveraging the innovation, the rapidly changing landscape of media and creative coming together.
For me and my background, I wanted to be able to apply that to eventually something that we were able to build ourselves. I loved helping brands grow, but there’s nothing like building your own brand and being the steward. So, that’s kind of my background in marketing and branding and storytelling.
Kelly Kovack [00:04:22]: So you’re the creative side of the equation. Julian, what’s your background?
Julian Levine [00:04:28]: I’ll try to have a little creativity, but focus…
Cody Levine [00:04:31]: He’s very creative, he is.
Julian Levine [00:04:34]: Hi, this is Julian. Like Cody mentioned, we both went to Cornell together, overlapped for a year, I was a senior, he was a freshman. I got to introduce him to college life, which was fun, and also was focused on finance, accounting, and entrepreneurship. Out of school, I went actually to San Francisco and joined a small M&A firm focused on small consumer companies, helping basically private equity companies sell great consumer brands to other private equity companies. After a few years in San Francisco, came back to New York, where we grew up, and worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch doing investment banking on a broader scale, working with both private and public companies, still focused on consumer, just absolutely fell in love with that industry in general. After being a banker for enough years, I transitioned to becoming an investor at a company called Stripes Group where I got to work with and talk with entrepreneurs, founding teams, every day, and help certain companies grow into an advanced stage of their lifecycle and really provide growth capital.
All of those experiences really helped build the building blocks for me to get comfortable beginning a business, really thinking about how we can improve people’s lives, and of course that didn’t just happen naturally, we had a bit of a passion building up inside of us. But yeah, a lot of my background is in finance and strategy and growth.
Kelly Kovack [00:06:02]: Yeah. So did you guys always know you wanted to start a business together? I think there’s a lot – you can plan into it, or you know, you both had sort of these amazing career paths. So it’s interesting that it’s kind of – everything is about right time, right place. You were both in the right place and time in your career that you went ahead and did this, but was that always the master plan?
Julian Levine [00:06:30]: No.
Kelly Kovack [00:06:31]: Resounding no.
Cody Levine [00:06:34]: No, it definitely wasn’t. The beautiful thing is our family being really close and the work that we’ve done as a family on the non-profit side, it was always passion for us. Our parents started this foundation that brings full-service dentistry to underserved communities, and when we went on our first mission together, it was always something that brought us close – closer, and what really unfolded was this completely next-level thought of hey, how can we do more work? And ultimately, us teaming up together, I think was – it was a natural progression, but I don’t think it was in a master plan.
Julian Levine [00:07:08]: No, there definitely was no master plan, but like Cody is saying, this mission trip that we had, this experience helping our dad and three dozen other dental professionals provide care to this community, and seeing their result of providing care to a community that has never had access to it and really understanding and witnessing the life-changing power of a smile, Cody and I were like, hey, this is our legacy. Our parents have dedicated their lives to the smile, and in this really amazing fortuitous way, we basically found our purpose; we found our opportunity.
Kelly Kovack [00:07:48]: So can we talk about your approach to oral care is very different and inspired by your parents, but your parents were known for sort of the whitening, kind of first-generation, I guess, oral care meets beauty. And yours is sort of inspired by their work, but kind of very different. And the story is really an amazing founding story, you know, people try and create authentic stories, but yours is sort of the real deal. I’d love for you to share it. I mean, we kind of touched on it a little bit, but it really was the impetus for launching your brand. So unfold the whole story for us, if you will.
Cody Levine [00:08:25]: Absolutely. Well, I guess we’ll rewind back to 2012. I went on a trip with my mom and dad, Julian was still banking in San Francisco, and we went to Rwanda, and we were one this trip to meet a woman who was part of Foundation Rwanda, which was set up after the genocide in ’94 to help women of the genocide get back on their feet. And this one woman, her name was Aga, and her four front teeth were knocked out by the butt end of a machete during the genocide. And we went there to meet her, and with dentures that we had made in my dad’s office, we went to meet Aga and provide her a new smile. She used to sing in the choir; this mark, it turned her life upside down, as you can imagine. And we go out there to meet her in one of seven dental offices in the entire country; to put it into perspective, there’s 14 million people in Rwanda, and there’s seven offices. We grew up in New York City, or outside of New York City, and in Manhattan, on a ten-block radius, you’re going to find seven offices. So the access to care is non-existent.
We’re working in this one small clinic, and I’m in the corner looking over my dad’s shoulder, and he’s fixing the teeth, he’s fixing the bite, and he puts in these new teeth, and Aga picks up the mirror, and she smiles in the mirror for the first time in 18 years. And this rush of emotion, this wave, takes over everyone, and that was the start of our foundation, and it was the first time I had personally experienced, like Julian said, the power of a smile; the emotional side of dentistry, how you can change someone’s life in an instant by giving them a smile.
And I tell you that because that was really the first experience that unfolded a series of events, where Lenny Kravitz, who is our third business partner, Lenny lives in the Bahamas in northern Eleuthera and he had heard about the work we had been doing.
Julian Levine [00:10:17]: And is a patient of our dad’s.
Cody Levine [00:10:18]: A patient of our dad’s for ten-plus years, and we built a very cool friendship and relationship over the years. Lenny also cares about the smile and understands the importance of oral health, and he had seen in his hometown some of his folks, friends, community members not having access to a dentist and unfortunately having issues and complications. He had one friend who had an infected tooth and was putting ground cracked pepper in a hole in his mouth and rolling up a little matchbook and covering it as a cap. So Lenny had seen firsthand like oh my god, I need to help my people, and Lenny says to our dad – this is about five, six years ago, he says, “Doc, can you come help my people? Can you come down to the Bahamas?” and my dad notoriously has always tried to fit a 15-pound dumbbell in a 10-pound bag. He just loves doing things that fill the soul, and there’s always an endless supply of exciting ideas and things to do.
And so my dad said absolutely, and he says to his team in New York City, at his practice, he says everyone can get a Christmas bonus, or we can fly down to the Bahamas and we can treat Lenny’s hometown. And everyone’s like, hands up, let’s do this. And really the experience in the Bahamas, we set up a clinic in the heart of town, literally across the street from the church in a converted pre-school, and with a team of 25 dental professionals the first year, we set up a full-service clinic, treating people for cleanings, even whitenings with Glo’s products, to full reconstruction and dentures. We were meeting patients who, not too dissimilar to Aga, had been living in pain, physically, emotionally, around their smile. And when they came into the clinic, they might have been hesitant at first, but they left with an incredible lust for life and confidence and energy that honestly, it lit up the town, it lit up the team, it lit up the people, it lit us up.
And it was those stories of the people that we were meeting, that very quickly became family, that really inspired us to say, wow, when you can improve people’s health through products and services, you can improve their overall health long-term.
Julian Levine [00:12:31]: Yeah, and I think what we really saw was this idea of beauty and love and energy around the smile, right? I mean, the dental industry doesn’t get enough love. These people are heroes and champions and they can transform lives in an instant. This wasn’t just one mission, right, we’ve now gone back to Eleuthera every year, of course barring COVID, but after the second year of going down and hearing the stories from this community that very quickly became like family, we couldn’t help but wonder how we could try to give back to this cause, and create a brand that very much could be a social impact brand and really represent the beauty of a smile and the power of a smile and tell these rich stories, and be able to not only do missions in the Bahamas, but everywhere. I mean, oral health is a silent epidemic. Everybody has a story behind their smile, and they never get told.
So what a powerful opportunity for us to be able to create a brand around that. And like what you were getting at in the beginning, our parents built their business around whitening innovations and science that really was developed in our dad’s dental practice, and for us, especially as more of the millennial consumer being just bombarded with wellness and ways to live a happier, healthier life, in oral care, we saw an amazing opportunity to really upgrade the formulations and focus on what we’re really introducing as oral wellness, and thinking about how people can really improve the health of their mouth and the health of their bodies by ensuring that they are using the right ingredients, right? This is an industry that’s kind of like five years behind typical beauty evolution, or food and beverage evolution. And so we really got so excited on this mission, with Lenny, really seeing our purpose before our eyes to be able to create the next generation of oral care products that give back, that are really focused on the right things. So, yeah, as it relates to our story, that’s it. We were just totally inspired by the smile.
Kelly Kovack [00:14:32]: It’s interesting, because you know, over the past two to three years, maybe four years, the entire oral care category, from the dentist’s office to the modernization of that, to the sort of cleaning up of the oral care category, there’s been this massive reinvention of the category, both through a millennial lens, there’s a lot of D-to-C concepts, everything from toothpaste, which is the obvious, to teeth straightening. It’s really amazing, and I don’t know, I’ve become slightly obsessed with the whole category, because I find it really fascinating how behind the times it’s been, and how the innovation has really gotten traction. So I’d love to get your take on what’s been happening in the category, and how Twice fits into this new category dynamic that is kind of unfolding.
Julian Levine [00:15:27]: The category has been particularly interesting, like you mentioned, over the last five, six years. I mean, crazy to think that our parents truly pioneered – you know, they were the first oral care brand in Sephora. They were a teeth whitening company sold at Nordstrom and department stores and really started to bring the smile center stage and into the beauty conversation. Since then, like you’re alluding to, there has started to happen a lot of innovation, and a good amount of it started with the patent on Invisalign expired, and a lot of folks could start doing aligner therapy and straightening teeth direct-to-consumer, tele-dentistry. A lot of global macro themes have really helped pioneer innovation in this category. We get really excited about what’s happening, because I think a lot of people are finally starting to pay attention to this category. Variety is the spice of life, and now there are a lot of different brands and product offerings. I think what gets us the most excited is having a real understanding of dental health. It’s real easy to kind of hop on a trend, how charcoal toothpaste has absolutely exploded over the last four years, but having a really in-depth understanding of science and the body I think gives us a really exciting edge as we think about formulating and innovating on products.
But overall, I think it’s kind of just the beginning for oral care, clean oral care, oral wellness as we call it, almost hasn’t even begun. It’s still natural versus traditional; there isn’t even a third category yet, that’s really what we’re looking to create. And all of the interest and excitement that’s getting generated from those businesses, like Tend, like Smile Direct Club, like Candid, where they’re promising brighter, straighter teeth, for us, we get really excited about the health conversation, and in a way, COVID has certainly helped that conversation become amplified.
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I think it’s a really interesting approach, and I would agree, COVID has made us all not take our health for granted. In this perception that people have become more focused on their health, we’ve certainly seen it fuel the growth of clean beauty, and I’ll be honest with you, what shocked me, like for years, I was like, how on earth are deodorants being cleaned up before oral care? I mean, this is something you put in your mouth, and how is a deodorant clean and oral care isn’t? So I mean that, in sort of this whole kind of clean, wellness meeting beauty focus, that always shocked me. And to your point, I think people sort of focus on fresh breath, white teeth, kind of these cosmetic benefits, but you know, if you talk to any sort of holistic doctor, they talk about sort of how the mouth is kind of where it all starts from a wellness standpoint. So how are you starting to have this conversation? Because it’s not an easy conversation to have, but once people get it, it’s like a lightbulb goes off.
Cody Levine [00:19:30]: Right. Dental health and oral care has long been reactive, right? You go to the dentist, traditionally, when you have a problem: you have pain, you have bleeding gums, you have a cavity. Taking it into a proactive world, focusing on prevention, is almost retraining the mind of what the role of oral care is. Seeing more holistic dentistry and holistic thinking around health and wellness, right, around probiotics and gut health, we look at brands like Supergoop! in the sunscreen space, who are having conversations of, don’t just put on sunscreen when it’s sunny out, right, put it on every day, because every day is focusing on prevention. And for us, it’s a very similar construct, where we’re bringing oral care and hygiene and toothpaste and brushing your teeth into a proactive, preventative conversation, and when you start to understand okay, I know the gut microbiome, there’s bacteria I need to balance. Well, the oral microbiome has seven billion bacteria, and when it’s out of balance, if your mouth is more acidic, we need to alkalinize your mouth, we need to create a more homeostatic environment where good and bad bacteria can be balanced. And what happens when that happens? You’re going to have a cleaner mouth, you’re going to have better health, and better overall health.
So when you start to talk about the role of the mouth being well beyond just whitening your teeth or freshening your breath, and you’re talking about pH balancing, you’re talking about vitamin infusion in your products and what role that plays in your mouth and in the rest of your body, then people say, oh wow, I didn’t really think of toothpaste that way, I thought it was just about washing away what I had for dinner. It’s really crucial to know that hey, before you go to bed, what you’re doing is helping reset your mouth and putting it in the right environment where you’re able to create long-term health.
Kelly Kovack [00:21:27]: Are you guys partnering with any brands that sort of help you tell that story?
Julian Levine [00:21:33]: From a partnership standpoint, we’ve created a program of actually dental professionals.
Kelly Kovack [00:21:38]: Oh, cool.
Julian Levine [00:21:40]: So less a company and more the industry. We started it in the beginning of COVID, about a year ago. We’ve got just over 3,000 members now, and we found that we really align. Everything Cody just said really aligns with where the dental profession, where this next generation of dental professionals want to pledge their allegiance or be able to support and help grow. We’ve been really excited to grow this program and have them help us spread this awareness and information, because when we talk to people about what’s unique about Twice, or what’s our PoV, what’s our philosophy and we share this, they’re like, I have never thought of toothpaste like this before. I have never thought of my mouth like this before. To your point, what is that phrase? What is it that’s going to help us get there? We’re working on some exciting things for the future, and I think as we develop our platform and grow beyond toothpaste, it becomes even more obvious what our PoV is.
Kelly Kovack [00:22:43]: So I want to talk a little bit about your relationship with Lenny Kravitz. Today, it’s this bizarre trend that’s cropped up, where you get a group of celebrity investors, you leverage celebrities as co-founders, and it’s almost this way of growth-hacking a brand at start-up, but your relationship with Lenny is totally different. In reality, it ties to your social impact mission. So can you share a little bit about your mission and how that relationship works? Because it is really different, and it could very easily be put in that other, I’ll get a bunch of Instagram likes, but it’s not that at all.
Julian Levine [00:23:22]: Yeah, it’s a delicate balance, for sure, telling our story without it kind of sounding like you mentioned, like a traditional celebrity-endorsed brand or something like that. This couldn’t have been more organic if we tried. For us, it was this mission, like we talked about, and it was Lenny’s infatuation with the dental office. When Lenny comes to New York, his first stop is our dad’s office – no joke. He’s looking over our dad’s shoulder and asking him what he’s working on. Lenny has a gorgeous smile, and they’re all his teeth; he takes incredible care of his mouth and his health. So when we were talking about this opportunity to grow really this next generation brand that gives a voice to the power of a smile and that really helps people, through our service, gain access to our care, and through our products, achieve a healthier mouth and body, he was all in. He saw, not only in his own life, but in his own backyard, the impact of a healthy smile, how you can change somebody’s life. Our aspirations for this business are as big as it gets. Being inspired by the power of a smile and knowing that everybody lives with this problem, and that we can help so many people, I think that’s really what got us all super excited to do this together.
It’s funny that we’re recording this now, we’ve kind of been in the trenches, particularly with Lenny, over the last few months as we gear up for some really exciting launches later thig year. It’s great to work with someone like him, who has such enormous influence, and whose heart is in completely the right place, and so deeply believes in our mission and philosophy, because he really can help move mountains and create the brand and business that we so deeply are excited about doing.
Kelly Kovack [00:25:11]: Mission and purpose are increasingly important, and for some, it has kind of become this requisite box checking for brands, and I think one of the things COVID also brought to life is a curtain was pulled back on those brands that weren’t really walking the walk. Consumers have made it clear that they expect more from brands than just buying products, and they don’t want them to just focus on shareholder profits. And there are many ways that brands can kind of fulfill on this consumer demand, but you described Twice as kind of a social impact company. Can you share a little bit about what that means to you and how it impacts how you run the business?
Julian Levine [00:25:51]: Yeah, absolutely. We break impact down in a few ways. From a service standpoint, given how we got started and our reasons for being, we partner with Global Good, which is a family foundation, to provide care to people without access. Our main missions are in the Bahamas, and a big part of the reason why we created our program, our Twice Pro Team of 3,000 dental professionals, is so that we can activate dental professionals in different communities to give back in their own neighborhoods, and really, really create impact at scale. So that’s probably what I’m most excited about. Beyond that, of course, we’re donating toothpaste on all of our missions, we’re educating people, and so as it relates to service, we’re doing everything we can to hold true to that, especially as we grow. It’ll be really exciting to watch that impact rise.
As it relates to our products, we source our ingredients globally, we make it in the U.S. We wanted all of our ingredients – we’re one of the first brands with our contract manufacturer to make sure all of our ingredients were vegan and gluten-free and non-GMO and cruelty-free. Surprise, most toothpastes don’t check all of those boxes. From a responsibility standpoint, we really wanted to be modern in that. And also, from a packaging standpoint as well, toothpaste notoriously is not recyclable; it combines aluminum and plastic and as a result, can’t be recycled. So we use a plastic, it is 100% recyclable, we’re continuously, in market, trying to push, frankly, manufacturers to make these products more sustainably because we know that’s how change will really happen. So I think from a product standpoint we’re always trying to think, how do we make this where we deliver on performance and efficacy and health and all of that good stuff, but also sustainably.
And from a mission standpoint, I mean, we’re in business to try to make the world smile, and so with a mission like that, everything we do always comes back to purpose.
Cody Levine [00:27:50]: Yeah, and I think for us, being able to have that north star, and to be able to deep down, know why we’re building what we’re building, because we’re able to see the faces and the smiles of the people that we’re able to help. And one of the most empowering and inspiring parts is when we leave the Bahamas, or leave any clinic or any work we’re doing, the work is never done. There’s always more people to treat, there’s always more work to be done. And even the team members who join us, they leave, and they cry, because they just want to do more, they want to keep helping. For us, it fuels us, because we’re not a brand that will just donate a percentage of profits, but we act on it.
The vision of being able to bring more of our team on missions in the Bahamas and around the world, it’s core to our DNA, and I think it’s just authentically us that differentiates us. A brand can partner up with a non-profit and do great work, which I think is fantastic. For us, I think it’s so deeply engrained that we’re always looking towards the next one, where we know we can just continue to be evolving and pushing our why forward and bringing more people on the journey.
Kelly Kovack [00:29:04]: Your family is clearly very entrepreneurial; it must be in your DNA somewhere. Do you think that being in business with your family – so obviously the two of you, but by extension of your parents’ foundation, your parents as well, do you think that gives you competitive advantage? Like family businesses are really cool, but they’re your family at the end of the day, and you want to stay friends. Running a business is tough.
Cody Levine [00:29:32]: Yes. I totally think it is. Our dinner table conversations are about ingredient labels and formulations and innovation and future products, and we all love it. We thrive in it. Our dad is our Chief Dental Advisor and he formulates our products, and our mom can sell ice to an Eskimo and knows the oral care industry like the back of her hand. It’s just so inspiring to be surrounded by them and knowing that they’re in our corner. We’ve been operating our business as a family brand, and I think there’s a lot of power in that. When we got started, trying to talk to manufacturers and source products, it’s not easy, especially if you’re a small fish in a very big pond. We were clawing at the ankles of our manufacturers for quite a while to get their attention. We had to figure out our own way, but leveraging the experience from our family, I think has been a beautiful thing for us.
Julian Levine [00:30:30]: Yeah, I think the family dynamic definitely really helps you appreciate the journey and recognize that it is a journey. How many times are we bombarded with these enormous headlines of companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars and selling for billions of dollars and all of these incredible success stories. For our parents’ companies and for Twice and for doing this together, it’s great to live it and experience it together. Their experience certainly helps us manage the highs and lows, it’s certainly great to share success with those you love. And it’s great, because we can get really angry with each other for an hour, and then we’re perfectly fine.
Kelly Kovack [00:31:09]: So are you guys still primarily D-to-C?
Julian Levine [00:31:13]: You know, we are Omni-channel. We’re in just about 1,500 CVS stores.
Kelly Kovack [00:31:18]: Oh, I didn’t realize that.
Julian Levine [00:31:20]: Yeah, we were introduced to them through their innovation group to bring new and exciting brands into CVS through their CVS Launch program, and actually launched with them through COVID, in July of last year. Retail is going to be a really big part of our future, super excited about that. But D-to-C is core. It’s, for us, a great way to educate and share our story, which we’re continuously looking to improve and get better at. So we love D-to-C, we’ll always be loyal to it, but I think COVID has certainly opened our eyes to the power of other e-commerce platforms. We launched on Amazon late last year; retail is not dead.
Kelly Kovack [00:32:00]: I agree.
Julian Levine [00:32:01]: The majority of purchases in our category have been on a shelf. So it’ll be a big part of our future.
Kelly Kovack [00:32:06]: So you guys have a little bit of time behind the business at this point, and to your point, Julian, it’s so – I kind of feel, I don’t know, the past five years, success has really been predicated, for some, on these crazy valuations and the amount of money you raise, and in some ways, the narratives of these stories are all about marketing the next raise. They’re not even grounded in reality in many cases. I’m starting to see a little bit of a shift of kind of, I think the reality sunk in that these CPG beauty companies, they don’t really scale like a SAS tech product. So I think people are approaching fundraising a little bit differently. I think a lot of these investors are looking for a little more traction, but that being said, you’re building kind of a family business. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs kind of contemplating a wellness or beauty brand? I guess what I’m trying to get at is there isn’t one way of launching these brands, and it doesn’t require a boatload of venture capital to do it.
Julian Levine [00:33:20]: Right. Yeah, I mean, I think for me, when we launched toothpaste, right, it’s like, it’s toothpaste, everybody can use it. I think some of the best kind of founding advice is just to really be specific, to really target that niche in a very powerful way to speak to a consumer, a specific consumer, because as much competition there is, whether it’s oral care or beauty, and lord knows there’s a whole lot of competition in beauty, there’s always an opportunity if you’re speaking in the right way to the right person and doing it powerfully. So maybe it’s less of like taking a shotgun approach, and more of really targeting and being very specific as to who you want to create your brand for, and architecting everything – every little thing – around that.
Cody Levine [00:34:09]: Yeah, and being able to take learnings fast and not being afraid to make edits and change and pivot based on those learnings. In two and a half years, I think we’ve definitely taken a lot of learnings and made adjustments and improved. We didn’t raise millions of dollars out of the gates, we’ve been a bootstrapped start-up, and that has its pros and cons. It enabled us to be nimble and to make those pivots, almost on our terms, and to really position ourselves, now, for where we want to take our brand and the industry. So it takes time, while you still have to move fast. So it’s an interesting process.
Kelly Kovack [00:34:56]: So just in kind of wrapping things up, what excites you about what you’re doing and what’s the future for Twice? What does success look like for you guys?
Julian Levine [00:35:06]: I think what excites me, personally, the most, is the opportunity to innovate in this space. We’ve talked a couple times about how oral care is a little bit behind from a lot of other industries. We definitely have the buck from our parents, who have two dozen patents on oral care products, around innovation, and thinking through the lens of oral wellness and improving the health of your mouth and your body. There’s a lot of really exciting things that we can introduce to the category, some that are better-for-you versions of what exists, and some that do not exist and deserve to.
So I get really excited about introducing newness, and after this two and a half year amazing learning that we’ve had really evolving beyond just toothpaste, Cody and I, we’re all aligned on the mission. We can’t wait for COVID to end and to be able to – our last mission, I don’t know if we mentioned this, our last mission we had 110 volunteers, we treated 1,200 people in seven and a half days.
Kelly Kovack [00:36:04]: Oh my god, that’s amazing.
Julian Levine [00:36:06]: Yeah, it’s grown enormously, and the opportunity, like we mentioned, is huge in the U.S., huge. We have 3,000 dental professionals chomping at the bit to do a mission in their hometown. So I’m excited by all of it. We’re driven by the right reasons, at least we believe, so a lot of opportunities for us.
Cody Levine [00:36:26]: Yeah, and I think the opportunity to modernize the conversation, growing up around science as sons of a dental expert, and also being millennial consumers and understanding what products can do for your health, we wanted to bring those worlds together. Growing up, our dad was lecturing on oral systemic medicine, which is the connection between the mouth and the body, and it long has been quite academic, and being able to bring that center stage and into the front, and have people really have a different conversation around the daily products. Toothpaste has long been the same thing over and over, and I think when it comes to toothpaste and other products to really shift the perspective of what role this product plays in our life, it gets me really excited, because education is key, it’s hard, it takes a long time, it sometimes is expensive, but at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to help people improve. So the ability to educate, I think, gets me really excited.
Kelly Kovack [00:37:26]: You know, I think it’s really interesting, and kind of an offshoot of this reinvention of the category. I live in Manhattan too; I think we often take for granted our access to things, and especially access to oral care, just a regular dentist visit is out of reach for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t have dental insurance. If we think about kind of solving so many of the problems we have in our country, it’s about prevention and being healthier. So there are, I think Quip and Hello have come up with these solutions to insurance to make it accessible. I think all the work you’re doing is so amazing, because I think a lot of us, and probably a lot of the people who are going to hear this, kind of take that for granted.
Julian Levine [00:38:14]: Yeah, they absolutely do. And again, I think that’s what really made these missions so powerful. When you see somebody leave a dental chair in tears, and hugging and kissing a provider, you’re like wait, what? I don’t think I’ve seen that in New York City, right? The more research we did following that mission in 2015-2016, the more that we learned the access to care is borderline nonexistent, even in the U.S. And when you learn – when you take it one step further and discover truly the connection of the mouth and the body and how inflamed gums, which 70% of Americans live with, can contribute to some of the biggest chronic diseases we know of today, you’re like holy cow, wow. We can really help a lot of people here, if people are more educated about this, because all too often, and we hear this when we talk to people about Twice, they get educated about oral care when they have to spend thousands of dollars on a dental visit, right? So access to care is a big part of our reason for existing.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:17]: Well, thank you so much for sort of sharing your story. You know, my inbox is kind of full of brands, and I had a chat with you guys before this, and I was like we have to do stuff together, and hopefully this is just the first of many collaborations, because I think the conversation of wellness and health and wellness and the intersection of how beauty meets health is so interesting and so dynamic, and oral wellness is one piece of the equation. So hopefully this is the first of many conversations with you guys, and I can’t wait to see your product innovations, you have to share them with us first.
Cody Levine [00:39:56]: We’ll give you the first look.
Julian Levine [00:39:58]: You’ve got it.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:59]: Alright. Thank you guys for taking the time this afternoon.
Cody Levine [00:40:08]: Thanks for having us Kelly. Thanks so much.
Kelly Kovack [00:40:10]: For Cody and Julian Levine, it’s a matter of a smile. Oral care is the Levine Family business. Doctor Jonathan B. Levine and mother Stacey Levine were the innovators that brought the concept of smile care to beauty shelves in 2002. And now their sons are building on that legacy with the launch of Twice. Cody and Julian saw the emotional side of dentistry, the ability it has to change someone’s life overnight by giving them a new smile while on missions with their parents’ Glo Good Foundation. Oral health is often taken for granted, but access to a dentist for preventative care is out of reach for many, even in the U.S. Twice has a bigger mission than selling products; they’re committed to changing the way people take care of their teeth and educating on the mouth-body connection to wellness, all while helping others along the way, and they’re just getting started. So in the end, it’s the matter of a smile, and that’s what matters. I’m Kelly Kovack.
Julian Levine [00:41:16]: Hi, I’m Julian.
Cody Levine [00:41:17]: And I’m Cody. To us, what matters is a smile.
Julian Levine [00:41:20]: A smile has the power to change lives. A healthy smile is the key to living better and feeling better.
Kelly Kovack [00:41:33]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com, and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.
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