Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a new series about Dr. Amanda Lewis’s entrepreneurial venture. The second article will appear in the May issue of Dental Economics.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I guess that’s where it all started. I was out for an evening with my mother and sister when I noticed something between my teeth. I looked in my small purse and I had just the basics—phone, ID, credit card, and lip balm, but nothing that could help my teeth. I thought, “Why doesn’t someone put dental floss and lip balm in one container? It would be useful and would help people develop a good habit.”
That thought stayed in my mind for years and just wouldn’t go away. But something always stopped me from moving forward with my idea. Therefore, I can’t say what it was three years ago that finally pushed me to investigate my floss and balm concept. My life was pretty busy running my offices and raising two small children. But I’m always up for a challenge.
I found nothing like this product after a brief patent search and internet scouring, so I decided I would try to develop it myself. How hard could it be, right? I sketched out design ideas, found a patent attorney to do a complete search, and even thought of a name: Between Floss & Gloss. My private office space was taken over with various Frankenstein-like iterations of lip balm and dental floss containers that I imagined and created.
As dentists, we have all sorts of tools and lab materials at our disposal to create mockups, which made the prototyping process feel somewhat natural. I started to pursue a patent and searched for a manufacturer. I made a hobby of watching Shark Tank and reading books and articles about start-up businesses and product development. I was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone and realizing the time and money it was going to take to bring this idea from concept to product.
I know many dentists—and I’ve been one—who have taken continuing education courses and left feeling energized, thinking, “This amazing idea I just learned will change what I do. It will impact my team and my patients!” Then the morning rolls around and the fear of introducing change or, worse yet, making a change that is unsuccessful, overcomes the dentists and they say, “Maybe tomorrow.” Or we tell ourselves that what we learned won’t work in our situations. But with Between Floss & Gloss, I decided to follow the adage, “Failure can simply mean that you don’t get what you don’t already have.” So, I embarked on this challenging but rewarding journey.
It’s important to get out and about
The majority of dentists work independently. We’re trained to focus because what we do is microscopic, precise, and—let’s be honest—often lacks excitement. If the process of developing Between Floss & Gloss has taught me anything, it is that we need to open up and be a part of a community and engage with our peers. Every day we work with our teams, suppliers, mentors, and other colleagues. This group can provide us infinite help and ideas if we only share our challenges and concerns. I have two dental offices and multiple associates, but I started with one small office that I bought less than two years after I graduated. Halfway through my 20s and in a town where I had never lived, I knew very little about what it would take to operate a successful practice. I was fortunate enough to meet the right people and I was open to ideas about what it would take to make my practice succeed.
Dentistry generally affords us a lifestyle that includes downtime and travel. I have found it beneficial to make conferences and meetings a part of my travel and leisure schedules. When I connect with other professionals, I always grow in some way, however small or unexpected the growth is. A perfect example was the Principles of Practice Management conference last year, where I met people who not only liked my product, but who gave me ideas for improvement and encouragement to keep working toward my dream!
In the next part of this series, I’ll delve into the stumbles, successes, and strategic partnerships that have made this process humbling, exciting, and enlightening.
AMANDA LEWIS, DMD, graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in 2004 and opened her first practice in 2006. She owns two offices in Central Illinois, where she and her amazing team strive to provide comprehensive care to patients. Dr. Lewis is the creator of Between Floss & Gloss. She and her business partner, Brittney McLaughlin, are open to opportunities, ideas, and feedback. You may contact Dr. Lewis at [email protected] and visit betweenfloss.com.