Dr. Bill Busch, a dentist whose offices sit discreetly at 2000 Swift St. in North Kansas City, can boast an influence and enterprise that reaches from coast to coast. He created and co-founded TeamSmile in 2005, a non-profit organization that pairs professional athletes with dental professionals to provide free dental care to underserved children.
Teamed with Chiefs’ punter Dustin Colquitt, among others, Busch built the non-profit within Kansas City, early on providing care in Arrowhead Stadium parking lots. “It was a dental tailgate,” says Busch’s wife Natalie. The charity has expanded to major league cities across America.
Managing a thriving practice and overseeing a burgeoning non-profit, he found inspiration in the eyes of his young patients, particularly when encountering sports heroes while having their gums checked.
He thought, if dentists could look and dress like athletes, would patients see them differently? And why shouldn’t medical professionals look and feel as good in their work clothes as professional athletes do in their uniforms?
He incorporated TiScrubs in 2012 with those two insights driving the launch of a premium antimicrobial athletic scrub. The “Ti” in TIScrubs’ is a nod to the periodic table’s abbreviation for Titanium (“because like Titanium, TiScrubs are lightweight and strong”). The scrubs themselves were designed to keep healthcare providers cool, dry and comfortable with a trimmer fit.
“He saw the kids get excited about sports and there were no athletic scrubs in 2010,” says Natalie Busch, TiScrubs’ CEO. “It took a few years to get going. Everything has taken longer than we expected,” she says of finding momentum in the business.
Sourcing fabric and manufacturing was an initial obstacle, until Dr. Busch leveraged his personal and professional network. With help from Title Boxing Club founder Tony Carbajo, the Busch’s identified off-shore sourcing, peppered with local support, and TiScrubs began filling orders.
The company today sells solely to the end consumers, although they got the sales fly wheel going by partnering with medical supply companies. As that model proved, costs of goods and sales didn’t make the wholesale distribution model viable. Today the lion’s share of sales are online, TiScrubs boasting customers in all 50 states; Natalie contends virtual sales don’t erode customer service.
“They literally come by and drop off sizes for our staff to try on,” says Corey Reeder, office manager for the six-staff practice of Dr. Guerschon De Laurent at 2328 Armour Rd, North Kansas City. Dr. DeLaurent’s office practices general dentistry, but Reeder says it wouldn’t matter the nature of the healthcare practice or setting. “People like the style, the material and the quality. They’re also appreciative of the fit. Not like the days when you felt like you were wearing a bed sheet,” he says.
“These offices and hospitals want to look like a team,” Natalie adds. “Once they’ve tried on these fabrics, it’s hard to go back to cotton.”
She is reluctant to say her fabrics are antimicrobial, a claim that has farther reaching implications in the medical profession than today’s fabrics can support. Like much of the athletic wear on the market today, the purpose of its antimicrobial treatment is to keep the fabric smelling fresh all day long. Fabric advancements and product extensions -- under-scrubs, medical Hijabs, scrub sleeves, and more -- have helped increased the firm’s sales volume. Women’s scrub tops’ retail pricing starts at $30; pants at $34.
On the one hand, TiScrubs’ foray into a market of the 20 million Americans who are part of the healthcare industry, the nation’s largest employment sector, holds promise. On the other, competitors abound in the premium scrubs’ category, including start-up Figs, which claimed more than $100 million in revenue in 2018.
And while the Busch’s won’t disclose TiScrubs’ top-line sales, they see a bright future via cross-promotions and broader licenses, including with the major leagues themselves.
Back at the firm’s unassuming corporate offices in a building behind Dr. Busch’s dental practice, Natalie is excited about an imminent collaboration with Scribe. The local artist’s graffiti art adorns the halls of Children’s Mercy Hospital, which will soon be reproduced on TiScrubs. “We think we can replicate it with other hospitals across the country.”
Promising a trunk show in the Children Mercy’s gift shop, employees will be able to order from samples featuring Scribe’s work on TiScrubs. The sublimation, a fabric printing process that will transfer Scribe’s art to the scrubs may be done in Kansas City, enhancing deliveries and ensuring quality control, one of the many challenges facing manufacturers of all ilk, but manifesting themselves in unique ways among textile producers.
“You have to be sure the tops are the same colors as bottoms, that the blue they are used to getting from us is the same blue we are shipping.” Easier said than done when trying to manage more than 2,000 unique items in the firm’s inventory. “We can have 24 different sizes in just one woman’s pant.”
To date, the execution and hands-on management by the Busch’s and a couple of employees has successfully driven the brand and sales. Natalie doesn’t see that changing soon. “Bill has big ideas. He never thinks something won’t happen. ‘No’ is not in his vocabulary.”