Pt 2: A Shark Tank Success Story: From Stained Teeth to a Well Funded Company. Best Friends Join Forces with a Shark
With Sonia Hounsell and Joelle Flynn
In Part 2 of our conversation with Joelle Flynn and Sonia Hounsell, the Co-Founders and best friends share valuable advice for women launching product-based businesses.
Sonia and Joelle did not plan on breaking into the oral care industry, but now they’re seasoned experts. After Joelle came up with the brilliant idea for a reusable 2-in-1 toothbrush and toothpaste combination, she partnered with her friend Sonia Hounsell. With experience in product development and marketing, Sonia was prepared for the long haul of bringing a product to market and growing a brand.
Joelle Flynn and Sonia Hounsell officially launched FunkkOFF!® in 2021, eleven years after the idea’s original inception. Designed with women in mind, FunkkOFF!® TeethRefreshers® are the only 2-in-1 toothbrush-toothpaste beauty essential that is reusable 30x to keep your smile fresh & white. TeethRefreshers® come in multiple colors and easily fit into a purse, backpack or jacket pocket for an on-the-go refresh. Their products contain no fluoride, BPA’s, sulfates, or dyes.
After Sonia and Joelle recently appeared in an episode of Shark Tank, they received a major financial investment and were able to grow their inventory and marketing exponentially. FunkkOFF!® has been featured in Travel + Leisure, the LA Times, NBC, Real Simple and ABC.
The art of business partnerships
People often ask Joelle Flynn and Sonia Hounsell what it’s like being in business with your friend. Their answer is encouraging: It’s great, as long as you stick to your strengths.
In the early days of their business, Sonia and Joelle had to do everything together. All decisions were made with each of them weighing in, and they collaborated on every project. It was a whirlwind time, and each of them were raising young children as they made it happen.
Once the business got off the ground and began to gain momentum – and after they appeared on an episode of Shark Tank – Sonia and Joelle began to clarify their independent roles more explicitly. With an increased workload and ever-growing online brand, it was time to divide tasks according to their respective strengths.
Ever-supportive of one another, Sonia and Joelle decide who does what by looking at one another’s natural capabilities. The Co-Founders give us a valuable lesson in supporting one another and respecting the innate abilities of different members of a team. Especially at the executive level, it’s essential to stick to what you’re good at.
Women supporting women
The episode of Shark Tank did a great job highlighting their business. However, it left out something really important: How supportive the sharks are for women entrepreneurs on the show.
Just a few decades ago, women in business did not have access to the same opportunities as men had. Now, investors and serial entrepreneurs are stepping in to bridge the gap and help give women a leg up.
Sonia and Joelle raved about how kind the sharks were as they pitched and explained their business. Sonia says – what didn’t air on tv was their genuine support.
After the sharks initially said no to Sonia and Joelle’s offering, they were stopped on their way out the door – and offered a financial boost in the form of $250,000 from Robert Herjavec. As he put it, his wife Kym would love their product.
Take advantage of resources
Whether you’re launching a product or service-based business, Sonia and Joelle have a piece of insight for you that you won’t want to miss: Take advantage of every free resource you can.
During the process of designing and launching FunkkOFF!®, they took their time to seek out free or inexpensive services to support their goals, starting with their product design. Upon contacting professional product designers to help them create a prototype for the TeethRefreshers®, Sonia and Joelle discovered that product design consultations are usually free. The consult came with numerous pieces of advice that ultimately helped them succeed.
Not only did they receive a free consultation with product designers – the Co-Founders were overwhelmed with how many resources were available to help women launch a business. They discovered grants, investors and professional consults with skilled entrepreneurs available to women looking to become Founders and build their brands.
Ask yourself – what resources are available to help support you? Who could you approach for encouragement and support as you bring your ideas to life?
Enjoy this useful and encouraging episode of The Business of You, featuring Joelle Flynn and Sonia Hounsell.
“What wasn’t aired [on Shark Tank] was how totally supportive they were of women entrepreneurs. They were so kind. I wish that was shown more!”
“As with any founders of an organization, there is an evolution that happens. In the beginning, it was easy for both of us to do everything. We were together on everything. Then as we have grown, you just don’t have time. We have to divide and conquer. Division of labor is a really powerful tool.”
“We have to be a unified force. We talk a lot about priorities and we meet weekly to make sure we’re on the same page.”
“The numbers change and the vision grows, but the plan stays the same and we work equally as hard.”
“Whatever time or money you think it’s gonna take to get a product to market, multiply that by two…or ten. Things don’t go the way you planned.”
“The innovation of a product is the most important thing – to create the highest potential. But if you don’t have the packaging and branding and communication plan, it’s not going to matter. You have to connect with the consumer and make sure they understand the product.”
“We’ve made our own lane, at an intersection between beauty and oral care that did not exist before.”
“Someone can create a similar device, but no one is going to take away our brand or what we stand for. We’re 100% women-owned and that is very powerful. We’re all about being as natural and sustainable as we can. We give back. All of that wrapped up together helps create some protection for us.”
“You really do want to ask people what they think. More than friends and family, because they will tell you more of what you want to hear. Pressure test the idea. Talk to people who will tell you what they think. Do an extensive search on what’s out there and what features and benefits they provide. You want to differentiate.”
Links mentioned in this episode:
Visit the website for Funkkoff at https://funkkoff.com/
Follow Funkkoff Leadership on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/funkkoff
Follow Funkkoff on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/funkkoff/
Find Funkkoff on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FunkkOFF_
Connect with The Business of You
Visit the Business of You on the web
Like The brandiD on Facebook
Follow The brandiD on LinkedIn
Join us on Instagram
Learn more about Branding on The brandiD Blog
Uncover your personal brand
Subscribe to get a FREE copy of “Build Your Brand: The Distinctive Guide to Soul-Based Marketing”
"*" indicates required fields