The former cancer surgeon is the founder of Dr. Brite—a start-up natural personal care brand that sells oral care, skin care and pet care products—and she’s also the winner of the 2017 Tory Burch Foundation Pitch Competition.
Only in its second year, the fashion designer’s competition attracted more than 800 entries this year, all female entrepreneurs who wanted to secure one of 10 coveted “fellow” spots. The fellows receive a grant, intensive coaching and then the opportunity to pitch their product and company to a panel of judges comprised of business investors and the famed designer herself.
Dr. Sabo’s story of being mom and one-time cancer surgeon who started Dr. Brite to ensure “effective products free of harsh chemicals could be affordable” won the judges over.
The road to Dr. Brite’s began in the bathroom. While her son was brushing his teeth with natural toothpaste, she was shocked to see that not every ingredient was as safe as she wanted them to be.
“I was shocked at the ingredients…I knew that I had to do something,” she told Happi in a phone interview.
So Dr. Sabo and her sister Pooneh Ramezani, a dentist, spent about a year developing and formulating productsbefore launching their first SKU—an al- natural teeth whitening pen.
Dr. Sabo has parlayed her surgeon’s precision into rolling out her brand; the Irvine, CA startup used Instagram as a launch pad, and is already a Certified B Corp. It also has EWG and Leaping Bunny status.
Dr. Sabo told Happi that prior to the launch, she and her sister spent time reaching out to key communities and influencers about healthy living, building up 5,000 Instagram followers before the product debuted on the social media network.
By the time the company exhibited at Natural Products Expo West this past March, there was already a lot of buzz, she said.
Today Dr. Brite has more 13,600 Instagram followers, who she described as “very engaged.”
Currently, Dr. Brite’s line of an-all natural, EWG verified personal care products includes oral care (toothpastes and mouthwashes for adults and kids as well as whitening pens), skin care (cleanser and toner), and pet care products too.
The company, which is not using a contract manufacturer, plans to use The Tory Burch Foundation funds to help scale-up production at its own facility, according to Dr. Sabo.
The $10,000 in grant and $100,000 investment are arriving at a great time. While Dr. Brite SKUs are sold online in holistic product shops, as well as in local Whole Foods stores, distributing is ready to taking off. In fact, the firm recently signed a deal airport concession operator OTG to launch in 45 airport boutiques across the US (Dallas and La Guardia and in New York were the first on the list). Dr. Brite products can also be found on Target.com and Urban Outfitter’s online portal too. “And they want us in their stores,” Sabo told Happi.
Dr. Brite has grown 300% since its launch, according to Dr. Sabo, who kept sales figure close to her vest, but found it hard to keep contain her enthusiasm for what the grant and investment means for her brand.
“I left a surgical career to launch something that is very near and dear to me,” said Dr. Sabo. The award, she said, proves that “this is a scalable and viable business. We are doing something that is valuable.”