Brittany Stewart has dedicated her career to helping early stage and emerging companies in a variety of industries launch, scale, and thrive.
In 2017, Brittany teamed up with Hamish Khayat to found BURST, with the goal of revolutionizing the sonic oral care industry by providing consumers with affordable, high-quality products. The pair recognized and were disheartened by the excessive amounts that large brands were charging for what he felt was a necessity — good oral health care. They founded BURST to change all that.
Through its direct ship subscription business model, BURST charges consumers a fair and affordable price. Consumers can purchase their first BURST subscription box at www.burstoralcare.com for $69.99, or through a dental professional. This includes the toothbrush, USB charger and one toothbrush head. By offering products through its community of dentists and hygienists, BURST is offering customers a heightened level of information and care, directly from the dental professionals they trust.
Brittany serves as BURST’s Chief Operating Officer. She is enthusiastic about bringing subscription, affordable oral care to families, and excited about the nearly 3,000 hygienists and dentists the company has brought on as brand ambassadors in its first six months.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
That’s a doozy! My family probably contributes a lot to how I see myself and in turn how I interact in the world.
I grew up in a house with four sisters, and my mom is a very independent, strong willed, kind woman. She has four sisters, too. I have at least two dozen female first cousins. Then I went to an all-girls school for high school. So, the story of my life is feeling very comfortable in my own skin as a woman, surrounded by other women, and having my own ideas, thoughts and opinions. I don’t feel I grew up with a strong concept of certain things being “girl things” and certain things being “boy things.” Rather, I grew up with a concept of who and what I want to be in this world absent a lot of the traditional gender norms or biases.
That’s how I want everyone to feel around me no matter your gender or any other factor – comfortable in your own skin. Capable of anything you choose. I try to walk that talk as a leader.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I came into BURST after another ecommerce startup I was involved with; it helped a lot to know that in terms of our financial and reach goals, everywhere we’re trying to go is somewhere I’ve been before. I think I’m more decisive this go around – I know when to trust my instincts, and when to lay back and let someone else take the lead. Having confidence in myself is I think the big game changer that comes from the experience.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
This business has grown faster than any I’ve been a part of before. It can feel like we’re changing the tires while the car is still moving. What has been super rewarding is that I truly believe I have the best team I’ve ever had to get us there, but it can be grueling each day responding to the needs of growth.
We’ve also built this amazing community of BURST ambassadors – dentists and hygienists who recommend our products to patients and friends. The group is made up of around 95% women – watching their passion for what we do and how they support one another has been extremely moving.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
To get the job you want, think about the arrows you need in your quiver to get there. Once you have them, whether that’s experience or a hard skill set, know that you belong at a seat at the table. Hold yourself to a standard that gets you where you want to go and if someone isn’t meeting you on common ground or seeing your value, it’s time to move up and on.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to-date?
If you have a gut feeling about something, you’re almost always right. I’ve learned to listen to that much earlier on.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Lately, not well. But, when I’m doing it right, I usually draw a line in the sand each night – when i say, absent an emergency, no more, this is when I’m done for the night. I tune into my marriage, my dog, my book, whatever it may be and say, I’ve done the workload of two humans today, it’s okay to be done for now. Telling myself it’s okay to stop working is a big one.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I feel like the issues from wage to treatment are different across profession, country of origin, race, etc., and would hard to say globally, because I want to be respectful of those experiences.
What I’ve always felt is that I balance between who people think I should be, because I am a woman, and who I actually am. I feel like I find myself in a lot of situations when there’s some preconceived notion of how women behave in the workplace, or why I’ve had the roles I’ve had. Women are vastly differentiated, complex beings so I don’t like sayings that put us ALL in a bucket of one type of behavior or another. I think that’s intellectually lazy, and it annoys me when someone tries to ascribe my behavior to a female tendency rather than the sound, logical thought process I lend to nearly all business decisions.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
We need to help women better understand opportunities to raise money. Funding is nearly always essential in getting something started. How do we make these resources available? The current and aspiring females I’ve known have faced this as an issue; how do we meet potential funders? How do we get in front of them?
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
This is where I feel quite charmed. I’ve had a lot great of great mentors. Mentorship is a beautiful thing. I have learned a lot about what good leadership is. I’ve learned a lot about the soft skills from a past partner – what it means to be the kind of boss who takes care of your team personally and professionally to get the best out of them. And most recently, we have a group of investors whose guidance and willingness to open doors has been a tremendous catalyst to our success.
I’d say I’m a much better person and leader because of the guidance and help I’ve had along the way.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Right now, I’m really digging Reese Witherspoon. She’s someone who made a terrific career of acting with an incredible mix of roles, and is acknowledged at the highest level for that work. Instead of staying in the comfort zone of acting, she’s expanded beyond that. She’s parlayed her acting into a very successful career as an entrepreneur and producer, and focuses on stories written by women, for women. I think that film is an incredibly impactful art form, and that if women should hear stories, and see who they want to become, people they admire reflected in the movies and books that they watch or read.
Really though, there are so many great female leaders, business people and artists that it’s just an exciting time to for women in general. There are so many more I could name!
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Our team is working toward the goal of paying out $1 million in commission to our ambassador network. That would be pretty badass.
Is it terrible that I want it all? I’d like to regain a bit of life balance in the coming year, and make time for people I care about who have supported us on this journey.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
On the negative side, this is not easier than having a 9 to 5. You will work more. Initially, you will earn less. You will obsess. You will feel lonely. You’ll be a bad spouse. Definitely a bad friend. You will feel overwhelmed.
All of this is normal (for a time). 2x for a female entrepreneur.
Keep going anyway.