Enterprise

A couple’s passion blossoms into bamboo toothbrush firm

ecosmiles

Ecosmiles founders Atiff Ibrahim Khalid and Natasha Lakhani during the March 31 interview. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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Summary

  • When Atiff Ibrahim Khalid and his wife Natasha Lakhani took a trip to Thailand in November 2019, their entrepreneurial spirit was born.
  • As an environmentally conscious couple, they were awed by how in a world choking with plastics, the Thai people were using Bamboo in everyday products to make their little space in the globe better.

When Atiff Ibrahim Khalid and his wife Natasha Lakhani took a trip to Thailand in November 2019, their entrepreneurial spirit was born.

As an environmentally conscious couple, they were awed by how in a world choking with plastics, the Thai people were using Bamboo in everyday products to make their little space in the globe better.

“We got inspired by a trip that we made to Thailand. We saw these people making utensils, toothbrushes and home appliances from bamboo,” Mr Khalid says adding that the positive impact of the switch to the eco-friendly material was evident in the pristine beaches.

The couple knew they had to utilise their new found knowledge to improve their environment and after doing some research, last year founded Ecosmiles Limited, a company that manufactures biodegradable toothbrushes using bamboo and DuPont bristles, which are made out of nylon but can biodegradable under certain conditions.

So far they have invested Sh5 million into the company which has a factory in Vipingo, Kilifi and an office in Parklands, Nairobi.

The toothbrushes are stamped out of bamboo with a specialised machine, according to different sizes.

They source bamboo from Globe Tech, a company that grows bamboo commercially in Kilifi.

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“Every bamboo cut down is re-planted and excess material is used to heat up the factory,” says Mr Khalid.

Their toothbrushes are beautiful artistic pieces in themselves but for good oral hygiene, Mr Khalid advises they should be replaced after every three months.

Demand has been rising as they step up their online marketing. They have increased production from 1,000 toothbrushes when they began, to 10,000 pieces per month to meet orders as word spreads about their products.

Mr Khalid says they are forced to import the bristles (from China) as locally few factories make them and the ones that do, sell them costly.

“Our toothbrushes have BPA-free nylon bristles, which are effective in removing plaque and tartar without damaging the gums,” says the Bachelor of Commerce graduate of University of Nairobi.

Their toothbrushes Sh299 for adults and Sh249 for children.

Besides toothbrushes, the couple also makes organic toothpaste tablets, which they store in recyclable glass jars and biodegradable boxes on mint and coconut flavours.

“They are free from fluoride, SLS and glycerine,” says Mr Khalid.

Fluoride, SLS and glycerine are some of the toothpaste ingredients long blamed by activists for harming the environment.

Mr Khalid says they source the toothpaste tablets from Thailand but plans are afoot to localise production in the country once they get appropriate machineries.

“All our toothpaste tablets are made from organic ingredients such as coconut oil and xylitol. If a child swallows he or she will be safe. They do not have preservatives or additives.”

They also make teeth whitening products from charcoal and coconut powders with 300 grammes going for Sh399.

Another product that they make is organic dental floss made out of starch. It goes for Sh299 for 30 metre.

They also make cotton buds out of bamboo sticks and biodegradable cotton. For 100 pieces, it cost Sh199.

He says they are in the final process of finalising a deal with Goodlife Pharmacy that will see their products displayed on their countrywide outlets.

They are also targeting Carrefour Supermarkets in the country.