Portfolio News7/10/14

Uber for your teeth: A founder’s story

Written by Mollie McDowell

Brand

studio dental truck

We stepped into our portfolio company, Studio Dental’s brand new office-in-a-truck parked outside Rock Health HQ to catch co-founder and dentist Sara Creighton between patient visits. Here’s what she had to say about her path from dentist to entrepreneur, the role of design in healthcare, and advice for those who are thinking of taking the ultimate plunge into entrepreneurship. Full disclosure: Sara cleaned my teeth in the Studio Dental truck. I emerged with a gigantic smile—and not because of my new pearly whites.

Firstly, we’re so excited about what you’re doing. Can you tell everyone what Studio Dental is?
Studio Dental is the first dental office on wheels that will visit you at work. We prioritize service, design, and expertise to deliver an unmatched dental experience.

What inspired you to build the first mobile dentist office? What about the dental industry needs to be revolutionized?
Studio Dental was founded with the idea of providing better dentistry to more people. Dentistry is in serious need of sprucing up—the industry is stigmatized as old, smelly, and often times scary. I previously had a practice in North Beach in San Francisco where many concepts for Studio Dental were born—specifically, how we could use experiential design (a truck), beautiful branding, unparalleled care and easy access to encourage—dare I say, entice—more people to get to the dentist. 2 out of 3 people just don’t go to dental appointments, which is crazy to me. As a profession we’re clearly missing something in terms of reaching our consumers—and technology is critical to this. From scheduling appointments online, to texting or chatting online with our office, to digital x-rays and impressions, Studio Dental has a very modern feel.

The other motivator was creating great jobs for young dental professionals. Young dentists struggle to find good work coming out of dental school. Many older dental offices are so outdated new grads can’t even use their new knowledge to deliver modern care. Our goal with Studio Dental is to build a network of dental offices that will provide great job opportunities for young providers.

What has been your entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve certainly been curious about opportunities in the business of dentistry for some time. I built my first practice from scratch while I was still in dental school, something that almost no dentists do anymore. I found the process incredibly rewarding—it was so much fun. And after growing with that practice, I had seemingly learned too much to not put those learnings into more ventures. This is how Studio Dental was born.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your success — and failure! — as a female founder? Any advice?
Interestingly enough, it seems my greatest success and my greatest failure come from the same thought. Who you choose to work with is the most important decision to be made. My greatest current success is undoubtedly the relationship I have with my co-founder, Lowell Caulder. Studio Dental is in every way a better business because of this dynamic. This is a complete 180 from the business I left to build Studio Dental, where my partner and I had trouble agreeing on nearly anything.

The other lesson I’ve learned is to note the value and power of great design. In dentistry, beautiful and modern design is transformative. Identifying and hiring designers, whether they be architects, print designers, web designers, etc. who are capable of delivering superlative products has been central to my success.

As for women wanting to be entrepreneurs? Get started! Now! You’re already more capable than you realize. You don’t need to be older, finish another degree, or get more experience in said industry—just get started!

What are you most excited about for Studio Dental right now? What’s next?
Our first truck is up and running and we’re tremendously excited by the partnerships we’ve established with companies here in San Francisco. These include Bot & Dolly, Dropbox, Square, Airbnb, and Jawbone, among others. Our primary work now is to deliver unbelievable dental services to these employees, and I find this very focused task incredibly exciting.

For the rest of this year we’re concentrating on solidifying relationships with our partner companies, growing and training the initial office staff, and codifying our operations. In the near future, we plan to build out more trucks in addition to traditional brick-and-mortar offices. By creating a network of traditional and mobile dental offices, we hope to make dentistry even more accessible.

And finally, what keeps you going on tough days?
A good night’s rest. Seriously, sleep makes everything better.

Want to hear more from Sara? Get a deep dive with her at “The Uberfication of Healthcare,” panel at Health Innovation Summit this August 21-22 in SF. Don’t miss out. Get your ticket. No really, they’re selling like hot cakes.

studio dental sara creighton interior
Sara works her magic on a patient inside the new Studio Dental truck.

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