The Vulnerable Return to Bride Brite

The Vulnerable Return to Bride Brite

It’s been a big year for our team – filled with exciting accomplishments and transitions – and we want to keep you in the loop.

I sat down with writer Alexis Benveniste to talk about some big business decisions we’ve made and challenges we faced along the way.

1. What inspired the beginning of Bride Brite? 

Bride Brite – the concept before the name – was always an idea. In August 2016, when I first started dating Ryan, my now husband and co-founder, he was at Columbia Dental school and I was a Columbia Master’s student. I was drinking at least two cups of coffee a day and treated myself to the occasional glass of red wine after a day at the library. Needless to say, my teeth were stained. When I’d whiten my teeth with traditional strips, I would feel my enamel being scraped away. My gums were inflamed and my teeth were too sensitive to tolerate cold drinks. 

In March 2019, Ryan and I got engaged, and I was eager to commit to a pre-wedding beauty and self-care routine. I had a vision. I wanted to look and feel like the best version of myself on my wedding day. I was surprised by how easy it was to find skin and hair products that worked for me, but how difficult it was to find a good teeth whitening routine. Getting your teeth professionally whitened at the dentist is intense, painful, time consuming and pricey, and no matter what I tried at home, it didn’t work.

In response to these failed attempts, I challenged Ryan to help me create an effective and convenient solution that would work well for sensitive teeth. He took it on with excitement and confidence, meeting with leading experts in teeth whitening, attending lectures and scheduling meetings with people who really understand the product side of the industry. Ryan used his dentistry connections and resources to find and choose the product design and craft an enamel-safe formula that works well on sensitive teeth.

2. When did you know Bride Brite was going to work?

The lightbulb moment happened during the pandemic in 2020. Without the pandemic, Bride Brite would have just been an idea. It gave us time to create the business we have today. We were set to get married on May 24 that year, but like many others, our plans quickly changed. I value positivity and silver linings, so it felt natural to launch our advanced teeth whitening kit on our original wedding day. We wanted to make the most of an unexpected curveball. We named it Bride Brite – a product designed by a dentist for his bride. 

3. Why did you start with brides and expand to grooms? 

The idea came from both of us, but Ryan was responsible for the details and conversations that ultimately led to the creation of the product. For me, achieving wedding-white teeth went beyond the superficial. I knew I would feel more confident if my smile was brighter. Very quickly, Bride Brite became so much more than a product.

Social media was crucial in our beginning days. It helped me connect with strangers – other “Covid Brides” who became customers and ultimately, friends. We provided comfort, support, and stories for one another. We started as a community of brides going through the same unknown process – making difficult decisions in uncharted territory and rearranging wedding plans during a pandemic.

Initially, Bride Brite was our only product. We often marketed it by saying that Bride Brite is for everyone, and everyone deserves to smile just as bright as a BRIDE’s on her wedding day. But we quickly realized we needed to expand to succeed, and decided to focus on grooms since weddings traditionally focus on the bride but grooms deserve self-care, too. That’s how Groom Glow came to life. It was the perfect masculine version of our first Advanced Teeth Whitening Kit – black, sleek, with a logo that shows a tuxedo-shaped diamond inside the outline of a tooth. 

We launched a Couple’s Bundle as soon as we launched Groom Glow. It felt like a natural decision to make and wasn’t too much of a lift from a product perspective. The bundle allows shoppers to choose two kits of their choice at a discounted rate so the couple can experience the wedding prep process together.

After we launched Groom Glow and Couple’s Bundles, we made a decision that ultimately led to where we are today: We stepped outside of our niché. We chose to offer our same proprietary formula with a new non-bridal design called BRITEN: BRITE Teeth in TEN Days. We worked with our manufacturing team to create a new concept. We created the first All-In-One Bundle, featuring both our Advanced Teeth Whitening Kit and our new Sonic Electric Toothbrush with smart-vibration technology. 

Now, we have a product line that includes our Advanced Teeth Whitening Kits (Bride Brite, Groom Glow, BRITEN, BRITEN All-In-One Bundle) and our on-the-go products including BlingBRITE on-the-go Ring Cleaner and StayBRITE on-the-go teeth wipes.

4. How did your experience as a bride and bridesmaid inform product development?

I am very well-versed in the wedding space. I’m married, but I’ve also been a bridesmaid 10 times, I’ve been to numerous bachelorette parties and showers, and I’ve attended more than 20 weddings. Technically, I’ve been a bride more than once – to the same man, Ryan, but we had a two-part wedding because of Covid.  

Being a bridesmaid sparked my interest in expanding and offering on-the-go products. The StayBRITE on-the-go teeth wipes and BlingBRITE on-the-go ring cleaner became hits at every bachelorette party, bridal shower and bridal suite I attended. Our friends and family loved that they didn’t have to worry about sipping red wine because they had easy on-the-go teeth whitening wipes. Brides also loved that they could brighten up their rings on-the-go after their rings got dirty from vacations, hand sanitizer, lotions, and makeup.

One of the things I love most about Bride Brite is the quality of our packaging. As soon as you open your package and reveal the box, you feel the luxury in its design. It is a gift that you will actually use. There’s a reason why people are adding it to their registries on Zola. I want the bride to feel special the moment she opens the box, and I feel like we achieved that with the product design. The wireless feature enables a convenient whitening experience, and the brush-on whitening pens allow for a precise teeth whitening gel application.

5. Have you always known that you wanted to start your own company? 

Growing up, I saw how hard my dad worked. He’s an entrepreneur and a big role model in my life. He’s never “off the clock.” He provides steak and seafood for hotels, restaurants and home delivery. He’s been in this space since the ‘80s. He had previous roles as CEO and president at his former companies, and he launched a new business, Farmers & Fishermen Purveyors, with my brother in 2019.

I’ve always admired him, but I knew at a young age that the family business wasn’t for me. I wanted to find my own passion. With a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, I dreamed of opening a pediatric private practice. I always saw an entrepreneurial future for myself, though it looks different than I initially imagined. 

Having an entrepreneurial family has its pros and cons. I’ve been able to see what it looks like to grow a business from the ground up, and that’s invaluable. I value the entrepreneurial work ethic, drive, creative problem solving and go-go mentality that’s needed to succeed.

On the other hand, at the beginning of this journey, I felt like work talk consumed all aspects of my relationships with family, with Ryan and even with my friends. As a husband and wife team, it’s important for both of us to make a conscious effort to separate work from our personal lives.

6. What has been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of launching your own company? 

The most challenging thing is having faith that you are making the right decisions along the way. When you’re carving your own path, it often feels like you’re making up the rules as you go – because you are – and that can be both intimidating and exhilarating. I’ve come to realize that every business has obstacles and hiccups, and I’ll be the first to admit that Bride Brite has experienced small business growing pains.

I can easily recall every “wrong” decision I’ve made or I can take a step back, look at it and learn from it. Taking time to reflect, pivot, and come up with creative solutions helps the company come out stronger in the end. 

The rewards make the challenges worth it. When you start your company, every milestone is exciting and should be celebrated – from sales and product launches to partnerships and retail orders.

7. What was your first big win?

I feel like our first big achievement was on our launch day. We had a smooth, successful launch and were voted the number one product of the day on Product Hunt. From there, the most rewarding experience has been good reviews or emails and DMs from happy customers. (By the way, as a small business owner, reviews, emails and DMs go such a long way and are more appreciated than you may think.)

Another big moment was when we landed a purchase order with FabFitFun. As an entrepreneur, it’s surreal to have your product integrated with a business you normally interact with. From purchase orders with Anthropologie, Bloomingdales, Saks, Von Maur, and Zola to two features on Good Morning America, each opportunity is celebrated and appreciated. They inspire us to keep pushing and dream bigger. 

8. Did your wedding planning experience mirror the experience you’ve had building a business from the ground up?

You know the scene in Mean Girls where Tina Fey’s character asks people to raise their hands if they'd been personally victimized by Regina George? Well, that’s how I feel the bridal community would respond in regard to unsolicited advice. Everyone has an opinion, and many are not afraid to give it, whether you ask for it or not. 

Running a business, like planning a wedding, comes with thoughts and opinions. I’ve been positively influenced by some, but in retrospect, I regret listening to some of the others. I do believe everything happens for a reason, though. When we first launched Bride Brite, we entered the crowded space of beauty and oral care with a niché market. This is what allowed us to stand out initially. But as we tried to grow, we often got push-back from potential partners and opportunities because of our name. We’d often hear: “Your target audience is too small” or “Love the story, love the product, but our consumers aren’t brides.” 

9. When did you decide to rebrand?

We made the shift on Valentine’s Day this year, February 14, 2023, when we landed our first feature on GMA with Tory Johnson’s Deals & Steals segment. We did our backended legal work to be able to do business as (DBA) BRITE Brands in the oral care category, and we thought this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with GMA was the perfect time to announce our rebrand to BRITE Brands. The sale was amazing. We sold out of StayBRITE wipes and the BRITEN All-In-One Bundle within one hour of airing on GMA. 

10. Do you regret rebranding?

Other peoples’ opinions had been building up, and rebranding seemed like the natural “next step” for us, but in my gut, I wasn’t confident about the decision to rebrand. I began to have imposter syndrome, trying to compete with the “big guys” in this space.

I don’t regret the change because I think it was inevitable. I would have eventually given in to the noise. I had to try something new, fail and learn from my mistakes. With this mistake, I grew to appreciate the niché of our business so much more. We envision Bride Brite being the company that’s recommended by bridal stylists and wedding planners. We have a great relationship with David’s Bridal, Bloomingdales and Zola and we’d love to build more connections in the bridal space. I learned that just because our niche is a niche does not mean there is not room to grow. 

With that being said, the last six months have been hard for our business. Direct-to-consumer sales have been lower than ever. Our return on ad spend has been terrible. Our social media following and engagement has decreased. Our customers are confused, and with the change, I became confused, too. 

The intent was to expand our target demographic, but I believe the rebrand led to a plateau followed by a very slow summer. Social media is crucial for an ecommerce business. When we changed our handle initially, we lost tags and followers, and our content was not pushed out through algorithms.

When we first announced the name change, we were being congratulated by our friends, followers, and other businesses in the space. Yet, I don’t think that any of us knew what it meant for the future of Bride Brite. In retrospect, we changed the name to BRITE Brands before we were ready – before we had a clear business plan, outlining the pros, cons and trying to navigate ways to better prepare for the transition.

11. Will you go back to your original name?

Bill Gates once said, “It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” We had created something that worked, and our failure began when we decided to change.

The decision to go back to our original name, Bride Brite, is one I am not taking lightly. What would others think? Does this company have a clear track? Why limit to the niche market? It’s the noise – both inner thoughts and external judgment – that clouded our clear business plan. I’ll be the first to admit, the judgment of others obviously affects me, but I won’t let one bad business decision ruin the fate of Bride Brite. 

We are reclaiming our name and putting an emphasis on rebuilding our Bride Brite community. This experience has taught me so much. It’s important to stay true to who you are and follow your instinct. When we made the change, my instinct told me we were doing a disservice for our branding and loyalty. Now, more than ever, I am ready to change the name back to Bride Brite and come back to space stronger and more open-minded. My hope is that our Bride Brite community will see that we are staying true to our initial branding and loyalty to our niché market.

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