We had the good fortune of connecting with Camille Varlet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Camille, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I come from CPG, have always loved consumer products, as well as health and wellness and problem solving. I saw an opportunity to make a difference in the oral care category and I jumped on it. I’d learned that bad breath affects over 100M people in the US alone, and that there are no products on the market today able to solve this problem. I knew that if I figured out how to bring to market a product that actually worked, I’d not only be impacting the lives of millions of people, I’d also have the foundation of a successful business.
Many people don’t realize how widespread bad breath actually is and why products today don’t work. Whether from food, drink, coffee, dry mouth, tonsil stones or other oral care conditions, the source and cause of odor are sulfur compounds. If you don’t remove these sulfur compounds, then you haven’t gotten rid of the bad breath. Products today can’t get rid of them. And I’d found a way we could clean these sulfur compounds away…
Things I took into consideration when first deciding to pursue this idea: size of market, is there a real and true problem, what’s the white space, how can we differentiate ourselves in an ownable way and solve this problem.
These gave me the initial data points to continue. Then, I tested various elements of the product and business to understand whether my business and product would create real value to people, and of course be profitable. I tested as much as I could, everything from value propositions, claims, business model, pricing, name, brand, packaging, and product, before deciding to move forward. All my learnings were used and impacted every single aspect of the brand and product.
And of course, I modeled this out financially, created a forecast and a growth strategy to understand the amount of capital I’d need to launch, hit certain milestones, and continue to grow the business.
So this all means that I did the due diligence on the business idea to better understand the opportunity and then validated as best I could that the brand, product and business I was creating would be solving a widespread problem, something people wanted and would be willing to pay for, with a sustainable business model.
Finally, I had to ask myself the most important question of them all: am I passionate about this business and will I be excited to work on, think about, pitch and talk about this brand every day for the next multiple years of my life. The answer was: yes!
This is how Mouth Off was created. And now we have the first and only product of its kind: a dissolving gum that gets rid of bad breath in under 60 seconds, versus just hiding it momentarily like all other products. We have a patent-pending on the format, and the formula dissolves as you chew in your mouth, so you don’t need to spit it out (we love how convenient this is), which also means it won’t create litter on the sidewalk (won’t ever be a black dot like those other gums that didn’t dissolve). The formula is also plant-based, sugar-free, no artificial sweeteners or flavors, and no colors or plastics. We launched DTC, and it’s available for purchase at mouthoff.com.
It’s now been 2 months since launch. I couldn’t be happier to finally be bringing people affected by bad breath a solution that truly works in a non-stigmatized manner. Without having to worry about bad breath, I hope people will have the confidence to live their lives without holding back, be their best selves, and Mouth Off!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Mouth Off is the first and only product able to eliminate bad breath in under 60 seconds, thanks to our dissolving gum product. Our patent-pending formula is activated as you chew, to bind to, deactivate and clean away the cause and source of odor: bad breath molecules (aka sulfur compounds). Other products on the market today can only hide the bad breath molecules with a flavor that will fade after a few minutes, leaving the person with the same bad breath molecules they started with.
Whether from food, coffee, drinks, dry mouth or another health or oral care condition, bad breath comes down to sulfur compounds, and we’re excited that Mouth Off finally has a product that delivers on its promise to help the millions of people affected: getting rid of bad breath. We’re able to provide efficacy and disrupt a category that has seen almost no innovation in decades.
Our formula dissolves in under 60 seconds as you chew because that’s all the time we need to get the job done! This means the product is convenient, no need to spit it out, portable and can be used anywhere.
The dissolving formula is also ecofriendly: gum is considered to be one of the top sources of litter on the sidewalk. Just look down next time you’re walking: all those dots you see are gum that doesn’t dissolve.
Finally, the formula is made with today’s consumers in mind, so it’s plant-based, sugar-free, no artificial sweetener or flavors, no colors or plastics (many gums have plastic in the gum base). It also works and it tastes great!
We launched 2 months ago, after over 2 years of working on the business. Dissolving gum that is plant-based, with no sugars or artificial sweeteners and no plastics hadn’t been done. We spent months on R&D, getting the product to chew properly, to taste good, ensuring our active ingredients weren’t compromised without a lot of ingredients that go into traditional gums. This was the first challenge.
The next challenge was finding a manufacturing partner who would be able to make it and scale the product. We needed someone with the proper equipment, who would be willing to take on a startup brand and had capacity. And all this was happening during Covid19, to add to an already challenging task. We had a very hard time finding that partner; it actually took almost a year to find them. I overcame this challenge through perseverance and building relationships. I must have emailed, spoken to, called over a hundred potential partners. And followed up. And reached out again, and again, and again. In the end, what made the biggest difference was knowing where we could be flexible in our specifications (as an example, the type of packaging we used), the ability to brainstorm and figure out a way to work and execute within the capabilities of the manufacturer and finally find a partner to agree to make our product.
In those 2 years, we not only worked on the formula and setting up the supply chain, negotiated agreements and exclusive partnerships with ingredient suppliers, etc but also tested as many aspects of the brand, product and business as possible to get feedback, iterate and make decisions based on this available data to maximize our chances of success at launch. We tested everything from the name, the concept, claims, branding, price, packaging. And now that we’re in market, we continue to test.
I also found the right partners not only to help me manufacture, but also to help build the website, fulfill, create content, design the packaging and get us launch ready, to name only a few.
A lot goes into launching a business. Saying it’s hard is an understatement. It’s also incredibly fulfilling and energizing. First few months traction and momentum are great. We’re selling online, have been seeing repeat customer orders and subscription signups, and have already had to put in an order for our next production run. And we’re about to start working on our next flavor!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m in NYC. Covid has made things a bit challenging, but taking that out of the equation, a visit from a close friend would involve a visit to the high line, meals at multiple restaurants including to my favorite pizza spot (Marta), the Frick, a walk in central park, drinks on a rooftop, and visiting a jazz club like Dizzy’s.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout goes to ERA, the accelerator program I participated in last year. They not only became investors very early on, providing capital that helped develop and get the business ready for launch, they also gave and continue to provide support and guidance every step of the way. They say pick your investors wisely. Well- I’m glad I picked ERA.