Rhaelyn Gillespie and Jessica Sheppard are both Entrepreneurs and the Founders of Mintier, a company that produces oil based breath mints which contain no sugar.
They both met while working at ClearCo and left the company to focus on building their startup which has grown into a success story.
In our interview with both Founders we explore their origin story and the value proposition of their company Mintier.
Hello Rhaelyn and Jessica. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. Firstly, please give us an overview of your backgrounds, and the events that led to you becoming business partners?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: We both met working at a tech startup in Toronto called ClearCo (formerly Clearbanc), where we were working long hours, having tons of coffee, and handfuls of mints at a time. There was an unlimited amount of mints in the office, which was pretty custom at the time in startup offices! It never occurred to us that while we were having handful after handful of these mints, we still never really achieved that fresh breath feeling. This led up to one day when Jessica got stuck on the GoTrain. Just by chance, she turned the pack of mints over to read the ingredients, and there it was. Sugar was the main ingredient, and it turns out that most mints and gum are actually over ⅔ sugar and/or sugar alcohols. When she got home she looked up the effects that sugar has on breath and oral health, and it all finally made sense. Sugar feeds the oral bacteria in our mouths that causes bad breath, so really these mints were just making bad breath even worse. She brought the idea to me and we knew that we had to make a mint without sugar or sugar alcohols but really had no idea where to start.
Why did you both become entrepreneurs?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: We were very interested in entrepreneurship and both our father's always had "side hustles" actually. While working at ClearCo (Clearbanc), we learned the potential that ecommerce brings to consumer-packaged-goods businesses these days. We heard a lot of inspiring founder stories on a daily basis, which always motivated us in our work. It wasn't until finding a true problem, and creating a true solution that we decided to pursue the route of entrepreneurship together. It was time to bring something new, fresh, and exciting to an otherwise tired and boring category.
What key challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journeys to date?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: Where do we start?! This idea was about 2 years in the making from the time Jessica realized that mints are over 2/3 sugar, to the countless iterations of developing Mintier, naming the company, joining an accelerator, launching a Kickstarter to have enough funds for our first line-run.
We are firm on the fact that everything is "figureoutable", and we've been very intuitive in the business so far, but that also comes with challenges. From managing cash flow on a bootstrapped budget, to accidentally ordering our labels in the wrong orientation which resulted in us hand labelling our first few thousand units, it's been a definite rollercoaster. With that said though, we wouldn't have it any other way. We get to have fun together, creating content, growing the Mintier community, hearing how Mintier helps customers with their confidence, and working with retailers across North America who love that we've created something so unique.
Being the world's first anything isn't always an easy sell, but people are really responding to our uniqueness, creativity, and are excited to finally try something that gives them fresh breath on-the-go.
Has either of your entrepreneurial journeys been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: ClearCo (Clearbanc) was cofounded and led by Michele Romanow, which was a major reason why we both wanted to join the company in the first place. She's an inspiring leader to say the least, and instilled in us the values of moving fast, obsessing about our customers, and thinking bigger.
These were transferrable skills from our time on the sales team at ClearCo to launching our own business. Also, the VenturePark Labs accelerator program we were a part of was led by Arlene Dickinson. We love Dragon's Den so these two business leaders have been extra inspiring for us.
The accelerator really helped us lay the right foundation to grow a business, as well as learning so much about the consumer-packaged goods category. It helped us develop a great network of like-minded entrepreneurs who we still network with today! How would you describe the unique value proposition of Mintier when compared to other breath mint products in the market?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: Mintier is the only breath mint that doesn't give you bad breath. No seriously, we took out all of the sugar and sugar alcohols from mints after learning that sugar feeds oral bacteria and makes bad breath worse.
By being oil-based, we don't need any sugar or sugar alcohols and instead have only six clean ingredients that are known for their oral care properties. Mintier keeps you confident!
Who is the target market of Mintier and what’s been your marketing strategy for reaching them?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: We've learned that bad breath is a universal problem, so it's been amazing to see so many different people try Mintier and love it right away. We do find that women are loving it because they are generally a bit more aware about better-for-you products, oral care properties, the link between oral health to gut health and overall health. They really resonate with our founder story.
What are Mintier’s future plans for growth and expansion geographically?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: We can’t believe the growth we’ve already experienced in our first 3 months in business. Primarily, we’ve had people find us on Tiktok and Instagram from across North America and are ordering directly from our website. We’re going to continue building out these channels as it’s a crucial part of Mintier’s community and close feedback loop with our customers. We’re also in about 70 stores already, and are adding more to the list on a weekly basis from businesses reaching out to us directly. As a result, we are finding more retail partners wanting to stock Mintier on their shelves!
Lastly, what advice do you have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to start their own business?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: Do it. Start now. Don’t delay.
The best thing we ever did was jump in and learn as we go.There’s no amount of preparation that can ensure you have no speed bumps along the way. The roller coaster of entrepreneurship is inevitable, but the amount you will learn as you execute is imperative to your growth.
We plan, strategize, and execute very quickly, but more importantly, we iterate and pivot even quicker.
Also, leverage your network and pay it forward. We reach out to founders in the space to ask questions, connect, and learn on a weekly basis. We also pay this forward by being open books with new founders looking to learn from us!
Before concluding the interview, is there anything else you would like to add?
Rhaelyn & Jessica: A few highlights along the way of our journey have been the magnitude of creating something that is a first of its kind product. It’s no easy feat reinventing the archaic breath mint industry to bring customers something new, and that actually works. Once they try it though, the immediate feedback we get is, “it does exactly what you say it will.”
We also want to stress the risk that jumping in full-time was for us. We both quit our full-time jobs on the same day, which was the same day we went and picked up our first 5,000 Mintier bottles. From there it has been an absolute sprint, and we’re almost completely sold out already while organizing our restock. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is such a fun ride, especially with a cofounder that is sprinting in the same direction as you. Thank you both for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you all the best.
Rhaelyn & Jessica: Thank you.
This interview was originally published in Issue 11 of The Business Anecdote magazine. You can read it at https://www.thebusinessanecdote.com/the-business-anecdote-issue-11