A pioneering new pilot project has been launched that aims to tackle the UK’s digital skills…
Veteran Paratrooper and business owner, David Hutchings, along with his wife Jenny, an estate agent, are pursuing a plastic-free lifestyle. In their move to reduce household plastic use they realised that toothbrushes pose some of the biggest difficulties – from forgetting to buy new ones to the problem of sourcing bamboo brushes on the weekly shop. To address such concerns they launched The Pearly White Company, creating a convenient plastic-free version of a product people can’t live without …
David Hutchings left the Army in 2013 at the rank of Lance Corporal after seven and a half years’ service as a Paratrooper in the Infantry. His decision to leave came when, he says, ‘I was at a point where I suddenly wanted more from life. I wanted to be earning more money and I felt that 26 was a young enough age to get out into the world and make a new start. I loved being in the Army for the time I was, but didn’t really like the restraints it puts on you in terms of being able to start a business – and I had aspirations beyond the Army.
‘During my resettlement, I did a four-week intensive tiling course, as I wanted to go into a trade. This was something I knew was in demand and would mean I had a trade under my belt.’ Things then took the first of several different turns, however. David continues: ‘My first job after leaving the Army was working as a labourer, building playgrounds. To be honest I didn’t really mind the job as I was working with some old civilian friends and we had a good laugh, but the work itself was extremely hard and a bit of a shock to the system!
‘Following on from that first job, I got a position at a local housing association, installing bathrooms – where I got to use my tiling skills. It was on this job that I really put the effort in to learn new skills and trades. I realised that, if I was to achieve my goal of starting my own business, the more I could do the better! After that, I worked for a company that specialised in making good residential properties after an insurance claim, say from a leak or fire damage. It was at that point I decided I could do things better myself, so I decided to set up my first company doing property maintenance. That was nearly two and a half years ago now and I haven’t looked back since.’
However, it wasn’t the last career change David was to make and, in November 2017, he and his wife, Jenny, set up their newest business, The Pearly White Club, selling bamboo toothbrushes. He is, he says, currently wearing two hats – as co-director of both First Choice Property Solutions and The Pearly White Club.
Make sure you choose the correct course for you. It’s the only chance you get before becoming a civilian to change the trajectory of your whole life
Asked to tell us more about the inspiration behind The Pearly White Club, David says, ‘The idea came from a desire to start a useful business that we could be passionate about. Plastic pollution is something we have been alarmed by following media reports in recent years, and reducing the use of plastic in our own life is something we have been working on. Couple that with the frustration behind forgetting to change our toothbrushes regularly and The Pearly White Club was born. It offers a bamboo toothbrush subscription, which sees subscribers receiving a new brush every six weeks.’
Commenting on what running this innovative business involves on a day-to-day basis, David continues: ‘In a nutshell, running the toothbrush business consists of setting up and maintaining adverts on social media, following up on any leads with media or bloggers that might want to feature the brushes, continuous social media interaction, building and engaging with followers, receiving orders online, preparing the brushes to be posted out and delivering them to the post office, maintaining our subscribers and their orders, managing stock levels and budgeting.’
Although undoubtedly kept busy with not one, but two, successful businesses on the go, Davidsays, ‘I love the freedom. It’s a really great feeling to know that no one else is in control of my destiny and – succeed or fail – it’s all on me. The only downside is lack of time; I run the property maintenance business in the day and, after doing invoices and quotes in the evening, it’s then time to start work on the toothbrush business. Jenny and I are happy to put the work in, though, as we know it will help us achieve our goal of being semi-retired by the time we are 40, so we can concentrate on making an impact on the world through plastic reduction (hence the bamboo toothbrushes).’
Talking about how his time in the Army has impacted on his subsequent civilian work, David says, ‘I would say that my confidence was massively improved by being in the Army. In addition, basic things like being presentable, punctual, professional and reliable are probably the main things I have carried through to life as a civilian.’
Civvy street is undeniably a different world, though, and David continues, ‘In my Service job I was pretty much at the bottom of the ladder and now I’m my own boss. The two are incomparable. I’m far happier now than when I was serving, but I know we are all different so that may not be the case for everyone.’
Looking ahead to what’s next for The Pearly White Club, things are looking very positive: ‘We’ve just launched children’s bamboo toothbrushes to get them started young. We believe that, to make a difference, it is really going to be down to our kids to make the big changes, and we hope that just making a small modification like changing your toothbrush will prove an effective small step in the right direction. The Pearly White Club offers different subscriptions to suit all families, with packages tailored to the number of people in the household. We are also looking at other useful bamboo alternatives to everyday items to sell in the future.’
CLEANING UP THE ENVIRONMENT
Pearly White Club toothbrushes are made from Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) regulated moso bamboo. This takes just a few years to decompose, grows incredibly quickly (at a rate of around a metre a day!) and is even certified panda-friendly – because they don’t eat it and it doesn’t damage their natural environment.
When creating the bristles, The Pearly White Club puts teeth first. The only fully biodegradable bristles come from animal hair, which aren’t as good for your teeth – or those of the animals! The bristles on Pearly White Brushes are made from Nylon 6, which is BPA (bisphenol A) free, decomposes faster than other nylons and is the most effective material for keeping your teeth clean. It also means the toothbrush is 100% vegan friendly.
With David and Jenny considering it high time we all made a change to our plastic toothbrush habit, The Pearly White Club created a unique proposition: the UK’s first eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush subscription service, helping people clean their teeth and save the planet at the same time. It’s estimated that 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are used worldwide each year, with the average person using around 300 toothbrushes throughout their lifetime. In the region of 80% of that plastic ends up in the sea, and then takes more than 1000 years to decompose.
David and Jenny’s business works like this: once subscribers have signed up, a fresh new biodegradable toothbrush is delivered to their door every six weeks, so they will never again forget to change a frayed and bacteria-ridden old brush. So, whether you like the soft brushes recommended by dentists or popular medium brushes, there are different sizes for children and adults, and brushes in different colours, so nobody gets mixed up.
HELPING THE HOMELESS
As well as helping the planet, The Pearly White Club is committed to helping people. For every subscription set up, it donates a toothbrush to New Hope, which is a homelessness prevention charity, providing practical and emotional support to homeless and disadvantaged people in Watford.
Getting back to the basics of resettlement, as mentioned above David used his ELC to do an advanced tiling course. ‘I just wanted to learn a trade that I could start doing straight away as a civilian (plumbing or electrical type jobs need far more training, and I didn’t want to get out and still be doing courses before I was good to start working). As far as your own ELC is concerned, make sure you choose the correct course for you and not because it’s what your friend is doing or told you to do. It’s the only chance you get before becoming a civilian to change the trajectory of your whole life.’
Asked what advice he’d like to give to other Service leavers going through resettlement and career transition, David is quick to respond, again placing great emphasis on the importance of using your ELC wisely: ‘Make the most of your ELC. You will kick yourself if you get out and didn’t make the most of what was available to you. You don’t get anything for free in civvy street, so it really is a great way to get ahead and learn a new skill before leaving.’
As for self-employment, as someone who is running two businesses simultaneously, David is a good man to go to for some sound guidance: ‘If you are thinking about starting up your own business, then the one piece of advice I would give is to be prepared to go above and beyond your competitors. The chances are you won’t be the only one providing the service or product that you are, so you really do need to put everything into it as no one is going to come knocking on your door asking to buy from you. It’s hard at the start but if you put in the effort you will soon reap the rewards.’
Words to really get your teeth into …
Pearly White Club subscriptions for one person are priced at £30 per year, or £3 per month. The subscriptions are discounted with each additional person added. Find out more at www.pearlywhiteclub.co.uk
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