Here's How Lenny Kravitz Creates Something Out of Nothing in Business and Art
The style icon and Grammy-winner who ruled the airwaves with hits such as "Are You Gonna Go My Way" and "Fly Away" has a passion project that not many people could have seen coming: a line of toothpaste.
After joining forces to provide free oral health care to people without access or means in the Bahamas, Lenny Kravitz and brothers Julian and Cody Levine co-founded Twice, which bills itself as "the first toothpaste on a mission, the only toothpaste that will unlock the power of the world’s smiles."
I spoke with Kravitz about the invention of this brand and lessons he's learned about creativity, confidence and follow-through that are sure to inspire anyone who wants to make an impact on the world.
Is Twice the first non-entertainment, non-fashion business you've been involved in? How did it come about?
You know, health is another interest that I have, and dentistry is something that I got more involved in and more knowledgeable about because of my relationship with my dentist in New York, Dr. Jonathan Levine, who is my co-founders' father. This all came about very organically. Basically, the Levines were visiting me in the Bahamas, where I live. I told Jonathan the fact that there are so many people here who have no access to dental care. One guy who works with me had a really really bad toothache and infection. And every day, I would see him pouring black pepper into the hole into his tooth and then he’d take a matchbook cover, folding it and stick it in there as sort of a cap to keep the black pepper in his tooth.
I told that story to Jonathan and his reaction was like, "Come on, that can't be!" And I said, “Let me show you because you are not listening to me.” [Laughs] So I took him in my Jeep and we drove through town and I start seeing people on the road that I know. We stopped the car and I’d say, “Hey how are you doing? How's your mouth?” They looked to me very strangely and I said, “Look, this guy sitting next to me is a renowned dentist in New York, and I want to know how your mouth is doing. Are you in pain?” And then all these stories started coming. So Jonathan started doing examinations on the hood of my Jeep in the middle of the road! And that grew into our foundation that provides free full-service oral care and from that grew Twice.
Is there any correlation between how a business and a song come together for you?
I mean, it's all about creativity. You're making something out of nothing -- whether it's a song whether it's a toothpaste company. I found it creatively interesting to re-imagine something that we do every day. We brush our teeth every day, right? I hope that we do at least. And in our research, we found out that over 100 million Americans don't brush their teeth twice a day. That’s very important for your oral health. Oral health doesn't just relate to your mouth; it can affect so many other parts of your body. So that's where the whole thing came about Twice. The toothpaste comes in two unique tubes, one for the morning and one for night, to inspire better brushing habits.
You're a creative person, as we all know. I'm sure you get hit by inspiration a ton of times over the course of the day. How do you know when there's something that you want to put your heart and soul into versus an idea that maybe you put on the backburner?
You just feel it in your gut. I do a lot of things that I want to do. In this case, it felt like it was something that needed to be done because it involves helping other people in my life. That's the most fulfilling thing, and if you can do that while building a successful brand, that's great too. But it really is about service.
Do you have any personal strategies to keep yourself focused on a mission, whether it is business or your art?
Staying focused is not something that I have to remind myself to do. I was raised with a great deal of discipline, from my family and from a very early musical experience I had when I was a member of a renowned boys choir, the California Boys Choir. When I was 11 years old, I sang at the Metropolitan Opera -- it was very intense high-level musicianship that required a lot of focus and discipline.
I've always had that drilled in me, and when I'm interested in something, I automatically just go into that mode. My grandfather taught me at a very young age that it's all about going through the process and hitting each step and completing each step and not taking any shortcuts. It’s very important to finish all of the steps of the task. Until something is complete and feel like I put in my best effort, I don't stop.
Sometimes in life, things hit big and sometimes they don't. Do you have any kind of philosophy for picking yourself up if something doesn't work out the way you wanted it to?
Sometimes, like you say, some things are not going to reach the level that you had imagined. It doesn't mean that it's good or bad, it just means that it has run its course. I've become more accepting of that. Of course, I always wish for something to be as successful as it can be, but if I am enjoying the process, and the process is inspiring, then sometimes for me, that is the reward of the exercise. When you make records, one may be a bigger hit than the other. And for me, the success isn't what happens when you're finished, it’s what happens while you're making it. If I've done what I'm supposed to do and I've expressed myself honestly -- from the heart -- then that was the point. It's the same thing in business.
A lot of entrepreneurs are going to walk into a pitch meeting with investors with their hearts beating out their chest. I don't know how you feel before you walk out on stage or the cameras start shooting on SNL, but do you have any techniques for calming yourself down?
Somehow that dynamic doesn't bother me at all. I thank God because that would be stressful! I usually feel confident about what I'm doing -- not in an egotistical way. If I am doing something that I'm supposed to be doing, then I feel comfortable. And if I believe that I am supposed to be doing it, then I don't have to go overboard to convince people watching me. I believe that people will feel my passion and my belief and my expression.
Do you have a grand plan for Twice? What's your ultimate goal with it?
I believe in this brand, and it is exciting to have the opportunity to design the future of oral care. The goal is to make something that is elevated and clean, something that will get people excited to use in their homes twice a day, something that will make people excited to take better care of their health.