Purchase. Use. Discard. Repeat.
That’s usually how it goes with personal care staples like cologne, toothpaste and that cute new makeup palette from Sephora you just had to have. But budding Chicago businessman Antoine Wade soon realized how wasteful and environmentally unfriendly the personal care industry can be, particularly when it comes to deodorant. So, he did something about it.
Que the birth of Switch Fresh, the market’s first replaceable deodorant that reduces up to 96 percent of disposable waste compared to traditional deodorant bottle designs. The inventive new system encourages individuality by offering a variety of unisex scents and even allows consumers to personalize their own bottles.
As an art major in high school, Wade said he was fascinated with the concept of deodorant and soon began sketching his own designs. He dreamed up his unique Switch Fresh model after disassembling a traditional deodorant bottle and seeing that it was only half full with product. The other half was taken up by the plastic twist mechanism used to lower and raise the deodorant.
“I thought, if I can get rid of this twist mechanism at the bottom, then I can design a product that’s completely full of deodorant,” Wade told Atlanta Black Star. He did just that by putting so-called “gliders” on the sides of the bottle to easily maneuver the deodorant up and down.
Like California-based grooming service Dollar Shave Club, Wade said his patented design allows customers to purchase his reusable deodorant bottle(s), or “shuttles,” just once, then order the desired replacement cartridges to be delivered on a bi-monthly basis. The cartridges currently come in two sizes: the standard 2.5 oz. and a larger 5-ounce cartridge, according to the company’s website.
This not only makes Switch Fresh eco-friendly but cost effective, too, as the company is able to produce the standard 2.5 oz. for just $2.50, Wade said. Going to the store to purchase deodorant can run the average customer upward of $4, depending on the type of deodorant needed. All in all, a 2013 report indicated that men and women collectively spend an average of $18 billion on deodorant and antiperspirants each year.
“The [store] price is a little bit higher I think because they’re selling the same plastic over and over again,” Wade said.
He likened the traditional half-full deodorant bottles to purchasing your favorite bag of potato chips only to find out it’s full mostly of air. Even after the product is all gone, Wade said, the deodorant bottles are perfectly fine, so why throw them away just to waste money on a new one?
“I’m not pretending to be this super eco-friendly guy who always recycled or always cared about his carbon footprint,” he explained. “But, it was brought to my attention how much waste we were discarding for no reason at all. I knew there had to be a better way.”
Switch Fresh offers a variety of unisex scents, ranging from the light fragrance of apple and gardenia to the more robust scents of vanilla and sandalwood. Looking for an all-natural option? No worries. Switch Fresh offers chemical and fragrance-free deodorants, too.
Wade said he grew up using women’s deodorant as his mom was a single mother and could afford to buy only one deodorant stick for the entire house. Powdery-fresh Secret was her antiperspirant of choice and the Switch Founder said the love for softer scents stuck with him.
“What we wanted to do was create a product that was gender neutral,” Wade said, adding that about 29 percent of men actually use deodorant marketed for women.
In an effort to provide consumers with even more options, Switch Fresh offers a dual-ended shuttle where users can pick a scent for day and one for night. The only drawback, however, is that consumers aren’t able to “smell before they buy” like with traditional deodorants, so Wade had to offer scents most customers were already familiar with.
About a month ago, he started a soft-launch campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where customers can put in pre-orders for Switch Fresh through the end of March. He said the platform has allowed him to further advertise his product while also gauging consumer interest. Before stepping out on faith to launch his own company, however, the budding entrepreneur worked for a very famous cousin of his — Chicago Bulls shooting guard Dwyane Wade.
From million-dollar partnerships with Gatorade and the Jordan brand to Lincoln automobiles, Antoine Wade said he got to see first-hand how successful entrepreneurs and business execs conducted themselves while working with Dwyane Wade’s Wade Enterprises. Interacting with top-tier businessmen over the past 11 years, he said, showed him how companies organized meetings around their brand(s) and gave valuable insight on the importance of attractive product visuals, getting your product out there and measuring how consumers receive that product.
Moreover, Wade said he drew inspiration from watching the success of his basketball star cousin, who he said has snagged notable victories both on and off the court.
“Just to be around those guys and soak it up and be a sponge to learn how they started their companies, how they dealt with difficulties and how they’ve survived and grown … has been so inspiring to me,” Antoine Wade told ABS.
So far, the Chicago businessman said sales for his Switch Fresh product have gone pretty well, with as many as 120 supporters raising more than $3,300 to help kick-start production, according to the Indiegogo campaign page. Most sales have come from the Midwest region of the U.S., but Wade said he’s also received pre-orders from all over the world, including Canada, Germany and London, to name a few.
Though lofty, Wade expressed confidence that his company would reach its $40,000 goal by the end of the month. Switch Fresh is slated to have a full product launch by end of spring.
While the company is on the road to becoming a household name, Wade said there are a number of goals he hopes to accomplish in the next few years. For one, he wants Switch Fresh to be 100 percent waste-free by 2017. Right now, the only waste the company produces comes from the cartridges the deodorant sits on, but the CEO said they’re working on developing biodegradable cartridges to further reduce waste.
In an effort to revolutionize the way deodorant is packaged, sold and received, the Switch Fresh CEO said he also wants to give customers the ability to further personalize their deodorant “shuttles.” The deodorant bottles currently come in a variety of colors and designs, but Wade said he’s in the process of designing an online platform where consumers can upload photos and designs to customize their Switch Fresh shuttles. He told ABS the company also is in talks with other brands about licensing opportunities for consumers to further personalize their bottles with favorite sports team or company logos.
“Our lives are designed around the things we love,” he continued. “We have different mementos on our walls, on our screen savers, on our phones to remind us of people we love or places we’ve visited. So, I wanted to add that same element to our bottles.”
Three years down the line, Wade said he hopes to have made a dent in the personal care market with his revolutionary deodorant and has plans to begin offering a number of other personal care items.
“We’re really trying to push the envelope on the way consumers view and receive deodorant,” he said. “We think this is an evolved concept of something that we’ve all used our entire lives. And we think that it can really be something special.”