Michelle Hurd interviews Tom Pellereau in advance of him speaking at Dental Showcase October 2019
QU. What have you been doing since winning the apprentice back in 2011?
Since the age of 6 I’ve wanted to be an inventor. I love solving problems and making life easier. Since winning The Apprentice my life has totally changed. In 2012 Lord Sugar and I launched the STYLFILE range in Sainsburys, then Boots, then Tesco. We then launched a range of ‘trim-without-the-ping” nail clippers and a hole baby nail clipper with a safety spy hole in the top so that you don’t clip baby skin by mistake. During this period, I got married and have since had two amazing kids.
Then in 2015 a makeup artist asked me to invent a way to quickly clean and dry makeup brushes as they contain so many bacteria. After many failed attempts, I happened upon the idea of spinning the brush to open the bristles, as I coincidentally had a motor device on my desk. This was the eureka moment as not only did this spinning clean brushes, but it also dried the bristles, leaving brushes bone dry. The STYLPRO has been an incredible hit. It launched us into Australia, USA, India, Japan, Thailand, the Middle East, France and Germany. We couldn’t keep up with the demand. The business doubled in 12 months, then doubled again 12 months later.
QU. What was the inspiration for your latest innovation, the StylSmile?
Being a kind of public eye inventor, people come up to me and ask me to invent things. Something I kept being asked about was peroxide-free whitening. I’d personally started to notice in photos how my teeth were not as white as I’d liked, and it seemed to be getting worse, especially when standing next to my wife, who has amazing teeth. But I just love coffee and chocolate – there are worse vices!
After a lot of research, I wondered what if we put blue light technology, which is known to whiten teeth, into the toothbrush head. We could then add whitening agents into a toothpaste and do a little bit of whitening every time you brush. A slow and steady, tortious vs hare approach. You have to brush your teeth twice a day anyway, so why not do a bit of whitening too.
For the last two years I’ve been obsessed with turning this idea into reality. It’s been an incredibly complex project and has taken ages but I’m a perfectionist and premium state of the art inventions are not easy.”
QU. So how does it work?
Teeth whitening happens when stains are removed from the tooth enamel, or when the colour of the layer underneath the enamel is changed. By combining PAPtech in the toothpaste, blue light technology and sonic vibrations in the toothbrush, STYLSMILE Whitening Experience aims to do both.
PAPtech: The STYLSMILE toothpaste contains ‘phthalimido-peroxy-hexanoic acid’ or PAP, a non-toxic, hydrogen peroxide-free whitening agent, proven to whiten teeth. PAP also has anti-plaque and long lasting anti-bacterial benefits. The STYLSMILE toothpaste, tastes just like regular toothpaste and contains everything recommended for healthy teeth and gums. It can be used as your daily toothpaste and also with the accelerator tray, meaning you only have one tube to worry about.
Blue light: To accelerate the PAPtech, the STYLSMILE toothbrush includes blue lights in the bristles to whiten with every sonic stroke. It's very important to note, this is NOT UV light. STYLSMILE uses blue light, which is proven to accelerate or energise whitening, without the dangers of UV. For best whitening results, I’ve also included a blue light accelerator tray which can be used for 15 mins twice per week.
QU. You’ve mentioned that this was your most complex project. Were there any particular challenges you faced with bringing this product to market?
Yes, both the toothpaste and the toothbrush were huge challenges.
Creating the toothpaste was incredibly problematic as whitening agents love mucking up other ingredients and I really wanted to avoid using hydrogen peroxide as many find it causes them pain and/or sensitivity. Add to this the challenge of then getting the taste, texture, thickness, sweetness, colour and consistency right. Lord Sugar accused me of trying to poison him with one sample! My lab is filled with tubes of failed toothpaste, there is no wonder I believe it’s the first time it’s ever been done!
For the toothbrush, putting blue lights, a removable head, sonic vibrations at the tip (but not the handle!) and stopping water or toothpaste getting inside was near on impossible.… it’s been a long project, but I’m so proud of the results. I tell you, brushing your teeth with this tooth brush is so cool, especially at the mirror in low light.
QU. Evidence-based dentistry is very topical. What research do you have in support of your innovation?
At the start of the project we approached the ASA about their preference for teeth whitening evidence. They advised us that consumer trials were best. In an independent consumer trial of 43 people, conducted by Ayton Global Research, a leading trial specialist, almost 9 in 10 felt their teeth looked whiter in just four weeks. On average participants teeth were 3.5 shades whiter after 4 weeks. For 1 in 4, their teeth were 5 or more shades whiter. 9 in 10 also said their teeth felt clean and that the kit was easy to use. 95% said that they loved how the STYLSMILE looked which was also really satisfying as so much had been invested in the design as well as the functionality of this product.
QU. What has been the reception from dental professionals to your innovation?
When I first met CTS Dental Supplies, I was really worried. I was so concerned that I might be laughed out of the boardroom. I mean the dental industry has been looking after consumers’ teeth for decades, who was I, some Apprentice winner, turning up with my latest innovation. And at first it was really tough, teeth whitening is a tricky area and I was put through my paces, however as I presented the background, the idea, the market and the test data, the room lifted. Then came the questions, question after question about fluoride, claims, age restrictions, abrasive levels, taste, battery life, vibration levels … As a geek I love talking about these things it was such a relief.
Since then I’ve been absolutely blown away by the team at CTS, my exclusive partner, and the response they’ve had from the dental professionals to whom they’ve presented the product. We are currently doing a special dental professional-only introductory offer. For £62.50+VAT dental professionals receive STYLSMILE and FREE STYLPRO. CTS have been delighted with the initial response.
QU. Professional whitening is a popular treatment for dentists. Is your product a complement or a rival?
No. It’s very important for me to say, if patients want white teeth fast they need to speak to a dental professional who can administer up to a 6% Hydrogen Peroxide based gel. This is a fantastic and well proven treatment. The STYLSMILE is not trying to replace it. The STYLSMILE is for people who either:
- 1. Would like to gradually whiten their teeth
- 2. Would like to maintain the whiteness attained after a professional tooth-whitening treatment
- 3. Are under 18 years of age and therefore can’t use hydrogen peroxide for legal reasons
- 4. Are sensitive to hydrogen peroxide and do not want to experience the pain/discomfort of a professional tooth whitening treatment.
QU. You’re lecturing at Dental Showcase in a couple of weeks. Can you give us some insight into your presentation?
Yes, I’m giving talks on Thurs 17/10 (12.30-13.00), Fri 18/10 (12.15-12.45) and Sat 19/10 (12.15-12.45). I’ll be talking about my experience on The Apprentice, what it’s really like, and telling a few stories and anecdotes. I will then go through how I invent products and try to give as many tips as possible. If you’ve ever had an idea that you would like to bring or know someone who has, please let them know. I will then be touching on the STYLSMILE and answering any questions. Most importantly I will be giving away free STYLIDEAS gifts, so please do come along!
QU. What’s scarier? Presenting to a room full of dentists at Dental Showcase or Lord Sugar?
Ooh. That’s a good question. Can I let you know after the presentations? Hopefully the dentists would like to be my business partner too!
QU. Does the StylSmile toothpaste contain all the other ingredients necessary for healthy teeth and gums? i.e. contains 1,450ppm fluoride as per the DoH guidelines in ‘Delivering Better Oral Health – an Evidence-Based toolkit for prevention’.
Oh yes. The STYLSMILE toothpaste, tastes just like regular toothpaste and contains everything recommended for healthy teeth including 1,450ppm fluoride. It can be used as your daily toothpaste and also with the accelerator tray, meaning you only have one tube to worry about.
QU. Does Lord Sugar use your StylSmile products?
Absolutely. He has been so supportive on this project. In fact, we had a focus group with leading UK influencers and him on his luxury super yacht in London last May!!
QU. Where can users buy your products?
CTS Dental Supplies. CTS are currently running a limited special dental professional only introductory trial offer where for £62.50+VAT dental professionals can get a STYLSMILE and STYLPRO (normally £189.98). Please contact your CTS Rep, call on CTS on 01737 765400 or come to stand F11.
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