The world of dentistry was built into Tammy Sofer's DNA. Her grandfather was a dentist and her father practiced as an orthodontist but Sofer was not 100% sure that world was for her, that is until her first day of Dental Hygiene school. She was skeptical that studying to become a dental hygienist was the right fit until she went through her first clinic day with patients. Interacting with people and being able to offer them treatment to help maintain good oral hygiene ignited her passion. Sofer remembers thinking, "I went home excited because I knew I had found my calling." As it turns out, Tammy Sofer's calling would contain more than one path, serving as a dental hygienist and later, becoming the creator and founder of the Toronto-based business, SimplyFloss.
SimplyFloss is a reusable, string-free dental floss made from 100% medical-grade silicone for a soft and stretchy flossing experience. The colorful and convenient flossing tool helps solve the age-old dilemma of why a great majority of people don't floss frequently - it's hard to do and it hurts. As a dental hygienist for 25 years, the most frequent complaint Sofer heard from patients is that they hate to floss. SimplyFloss is designed to loosen and remove food debris easily, safely and without the discomfort often caused by conventional string floss.
Sofer explains her motivation behind creating SimplyFloss, "I know how important flossing is to our overall hygiene and had been determined for some time to find an easier way to floss that would make it feel like less of a chore. SimplyFloss is not only gentler on teeth and gums, its dual-loop design means no more cutting off your finger circulation. It's just a better way to floss – no strings attached!"
Sofer's idea for SimplyFloss has inspired long ago when, as a dental hygienist, she had the wonderful opportunity and experience to go on a mission trip to Guatemala with the non-profit, Kindness in Action which provides dental health services in the developing world. She and her team traveled into very remote villages to provide basic dental care for the children living there who had no access to regular dental care. The team of 20 dental professionals traveled every day to a different village. They faced several challenges while on the road including rough, mud-filled roads, not to mention language barriers, areas without electricity, and a lack of basic supplies. However, they were able to set up mobile dental units even if it meant with no running water and used flashlights to see into the children's mouths. Sofer recalls, "We did what we could to give them a healthy mouth with what little we had, and they were incredibly grateful, giving us hugs and big, freshly cleaned smiles."
The trip to Guatemala left a lasting impression on Sofer, leaving her filled with gratitude for life in Toronto but she also realized how so many of the children's extreme dental issues could have been avoided with simple flossing. For the next few years, the notion of finding a simple solution to encourage flossing nagged at her, leading her to eventually start SimplyFloss.The goal that Sofer kept in mind was to make a flossing solution that was simple to use. She aimed to solve complaints that her patients often had while using traditional dental floss, such as pain, cutting off finger circulation, shredding of the string floss, and getting floss stuck between teeth if it broke off.
In developing SimplyFloss, Sofer initially looked into resourcing from an existing manufacturer. However, the product they offered didn't meet Sofer's standards and they were not able to make the modifications Sofer directed to truly make an effective floss. After finding dead ends with manufacturers, Sofer decided to invest in designing her own proprietary molds which allowed her to tailor the product to her custom specifications. Sofer wanted to be sure her product would be solving the various barriers to flossing and making everyday flossing an easier habit for all. The string is great for guitars, but it can be tough on teeth and gums. SimplyFloss' silicone design glides gently between the teeth, doesn't shred, and has easy-to-use loops for the fingers that help users easily grip and maneuver the floss back and forth. Its silicone design also means it can be used for multiple flossing sessions when rinsed with warm water before and after each use. Parents will especially love SimplyFloss for its ready-to-use convenience and the fact it comes in six classic colors for kids to choose from. The products allow parents to help instill flossing from a young age. Sofer says she spent numerous hours, while still practicing as a dental hygienist, researching the most effective product. She didn't want to have something that would just be a marketing gimmick. "We tried and tested multiple versions of the product determining size, characteristics, and different approaches with the intent on making it easy and comfortable for users," Sofer shares. After several sample trials, revisions, and designs that included a few later updates, Sofer was happy with the SimplyFloss products that were developed.
Not only did Sofer put a lot of thought into the products but she also wanted her business to have a distinct brand personality. Fun, lighthearted, and engaging branding and marketing is something you don't often associate with the dental industry. The industry in its marketing approach is predictable and lacking originality. Dental products focus on the medical or scientific aspect, for example, toothpaste products that like to establish credibility with the stats that, "9 out of 10 dentists recommend...". Other dental products, such as toothbrushes, only tout their features, "soft, medium or hard" brush heads, if they can reach or get in between teeth. Then there are dental products that like to boast the cosmetic benefits, like a brighter smile, or the promise of being able to get up close to people without fear of bad breath or having something in your teeth. For SimplyFloss, Sofer was intentional to have a unique brand personality from the start."Flossing is not a fun topic to talk about. My patients used to cringe anytime the subject came up and it's definitely not a subject you talk about when you're out to dinner with friends! So, with SimplyFloss, I wanted to have a little fun. I wanted to take away from the dread associated with flossing and bring in a modern and fresh vibe."
SimplyFloss accomplished that with products that have interesting names such as: "The OG," the lead product designed for Daily flossing, for normal to the moderate spacing between teeth. Then, there's the kid-friendly "The Mini," a shorter and thinner version for smaller mouths, and the "Rescue Me" which is intended to help those who often deal with stubborn food getting trapped.SimplyFloss also expresses a fun brand personality through its social media. Their Instagram feed @simplyfloss keeps their profile colorful, bright, and informational. They like to keep things cheery and clever, as is illustrated with their recent Star Wars-themed,"May the Floss be with You" post.
Sofer believes there is an opportunity within the dental industry to modernize and make dental hygiene attractive to younger audiences. The younger generations appreciate solutions that not only help them maintain overall healthy lifestyles but that are also conscientious of waste. SimplyFloss is a product that is reusable multiple times before it's no longer needed, making a practical product as well.
Since starting SimplyFloss, Tammy Sofer has shifted her career, no longer practicing as a dental hygienist to focus on her growing business. When she was practicing, Sofer had attended industry tradeshows and has been able to showcase SimplyFloss at the conference for the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association and the Dental Hygiene Professionals Organization, with plans to attend future conferences. "I realize how valuable conferences are for a new business. It's where you can meet other industry professionals, and learn what's new in the market. We'll definitely be adding to our list of trade events to visit," Sofer shares.
Even though Sofer no longer practices one-on-one patient care, she's discovered that through SimplyFloss she can still accomplish her goals of educating and bringing oral health awareness to people. "With SimplyFloss I have a larger platform to help people learn how to care for their teeth and to encourage flossing. If using SimplyFloss can get more people to floss more frequently, then I've done a good thing for other dental hygienists and dentists, too! I can still make an impact in my field. I do miss the daily interaction with patients but I'm happy that in a way, I'm still changing one smile at a time."
The founder of Simplyfloss has simple yet great advice for other entrepreneurs or those thinking of starting up a business: "Go for it!" She encourages those with new business ideas to be completely open-minded, especially if someone is willing to give free advice. Sofer also emphasizes how important it is to work with like-minded people that come from different backgrounds, "It's great to find someone who shares similar views that can also bring creative and unique ideas to the business, but also talk to those who will challenge you to think to see things from a different perspective."
Tammy Sofer is proud of what she's accomplished so far and excited for the future, "I am a very strong believer in how well SimplyFloss can help people make their dental hygiene routine simpler and more effective. I worked hard at developing my product and my business and hope it can be in homes all across the world. I'm even looking forward to sending SimplyFloss back to developing countries such as Guatemala, so my vision of supporting people's oral health all over the world can come full circle."
When Sofer is not trying to get everyone, she knows to use SimplyFloss, she's spending time at home with her husband and three college-age children, along with her sweet Cavachon, Skylar. Sofer is kept on her toes with her business but she adds, "My kids like to keep me on my toes in other ways as well, so staying in shape and trying to eat healthy has always been especially important to me!"
Sofer is excited about the future of Simplyfloss with plans to grow her business. "As we continue to develop our following, we plan to introduce additional products that compliment SimplyFloss' approach to simplicity and effectiveness in personal oral hygiene products. I'm going to keep to my vision of changing one smile at a time!" explains Sofer. Tammy Sofer is the perfect example of how, just because a person is not in their original career path, it doesn't mean you can't still have the same impact you originally set out to do. For more information about SimplyFloss, visit www.simplyfloss.com