Nan Elvia is a mother who had horrible teeth and painful problems as a child. Because of that, she has a vision of wanting to help all kids – as well as adults – have healthier chompers… and she wants to do this by building her own brand of oral health products.
Ms. Elvia is bootstrapping two entities herself: Japan Premium Corporation is the parent company in Tokyo with a philosophy of promoting oral health and beauty products to people around the world, while Oralcryst is her brand of innovative natural oral care products.
She travels from Japan to the U.S. to trade shows to promote her products, markets them on a tight budget, and is now seeing some success for all of her efforts. We caught up with this Indonesian-born, Japan-residing, all-American success story during a recent trip to the States.
ISBB: What inspired you to create this company and your unique oral care products?
Elvia: I had a full set of bad teeth when I was a child, with lots of cavities and painful dentist visits. My daughter showed signs of early tooth decay when she was 15 months old and I was worried that she would face the same dental problems as myself.
That was in 2008, when I discovered there were actually many confectionery products that are good for kids’ teeth here in Japan, so I gave them to my daughter as a reward for letting me brush her teeth each morning and night before bedtime.
After I experienced my own success building a fun tooth-brushing routine, I thought of sharing this with many more parents around the world who are facing the same problem with their own children. I did a lot of research on the pros and cons of each functional ingredient, the safety issues of a toddler product, as well as the many current ways to fight cavities from a global perspective, then decided on the current unique formula for Oralcryst Junior for toddlers and children.
How has attending trade shows and conventions helped increase your product’s visibility?
Healthcare and dental trade shows and events are very costly for me to attend from Japan, but they definitely offer good exposure in helping me introduce new products to buyers of the largest retail chains. During my interaction with buyers, I also found out more about our products’ strengths and weaknesses. Other than buyers, networking with other business owners who have been in the market has helped us in areas we never thought of before.
I discovered that it is important to select the category of events you are going to attend. The buyers may not buy the product for their store, but they might buy for their own use.
How have you adapted to work with the big retailers?
One example is the EDI system capability required by bigger retail chains. I thought that the system would only be available when partnering with third-party logistic companies, which can be quite expensive. Then, I was told that I can simply subscribe to an online EDI system with reasonable and affordable pricing.
How do you find stores that will carry your products?
The first store was the hardest to find. I approached all different types of stores, studied their products on shelves, and selected those which best fit our oral care category. We then generously sent samples to let the buyers taste test the products. Only after trying the products were the buyers more open to further discussion.
What has been the source of your greatest success?
My best success stories occurred when the buyers approached me to purchase products after trying them during the events. That helped us get into many regional stores in Texas, New Jersey, and California.
What other small business tips have been helpful to your growth?
Be patient, but be aggressive. Timing is everything in retail business. If you miss the time for a big store’s annual purchases or a specific conference, you may need to wait for another year to try. While waiting, you can focus on smaller shops or social networking.
What flavors are you offering for Oralcryst Junior?
Oralcryst Junior is available in four of the most popular natural flavors for kids: Orange, Strawberry, Grape, and Green Apple. Each pack contains enough of the candies for 8 to 10 days.
Where can our readers buy Oralcryst Junior?
We are constantly reaching out to Japanese markets and small businesses that may be a great outlet for our products. We list and update the availability of where you can buy our products on our websites at Japan Premium Corporation and Oralcryst.