In a year marked by capital raises that will make your eyes water, a domestic e-commerce boom, and greater focus on our logistics and supply chains, it was the founders of a luxury cosmetic dental clinic chain that took out the top gong at the 2022 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards.
Melbourne’s Dr Reuben Sim and Dr May Chan - the founders of Dental Boutique - won the major Award last night amidst a diverse community of inspiring founders from all over the country aged under 40, joining an illustrious lineup of prior winners in the process including the likes of ed-tech unicorn Go1’s founders, two-time winner New Aim’s Fung Lam, and serial entrepreneur Tomas Steenackers.
It followed the duo’s most expansive year to date, during which they took their elevated approach to cosmetic dentistry to new pastures - Adelaide, the Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and Sydney - the latter of which recently opened with 19 chairs.
For the judges of the Awards, held last night at JW Marriott, it was Dental Boutique’s ability to reimagine and disrupt a generally traditional service that set the founders apart from a hugely competitive pack.
This was certainly true for Baden U’Ren, Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards judge and co-founder of The Unconventional Group, who said that “great businesses often emerge from personal experience with the core problem”.
“The dental industry can be quite traditional in its approach, and Dental Boutique has completely reimagined the business model by placing the customer squarely at its centre," U'Ren said.
“By reimagining the customer experience, Dental Boutique has brought a fresh set of services to market and opened the doors for targeted training programs and facilities.
“The company has a vision for the future of cosmetic dentistry and has successfully begun its geographic expansion plan, investing heavily and putting in place a set of structures to ensure Dental Boutique remains integral to this emerging field in dentistry.”
Building on pent up demand for their services including porcelain veneers, Invisalign, implants and more, the married entrepreneurs - who also won the Health & Medicine Award last night - invested heavily in new chairs, locations, and people over FY22 in order to take their patient-first approach to new markets.
Speaking to Business News Australia, Dr Sim said the company’s approach to expansion was driven entirely by customer demand.
“We want to be where the patients need us. For example, when we were just in Melbourne, we had patients from Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane flying down to see us - that’s why phase one of our expansion was into Sydney and Adelaide,” Dr Sim said.
“Now what we’ve found is that after opening the Sydney and Adelaide branches that we’ve got a big bunch of people from Brisbane and Tasmania coming in - New Zealand too.”
This approach has put Dental Boutique in good stead according to Awards judge Dr Glen Richards, who knows a thing or two about growing a national business having founded Greencross - the largest pet care company in Australia.
“I love what they’re doing with their brand of dentistry. They have deeply engaged and appreciative customers in that cosmetic dentistry space,” he said.
“They're entrepreneurial yet quite disciplined and deliberate around their expansion plans - moving interstate to Adelaide and Sydney.
“I really do like the fact that they’re expanding the number of chairs by locations and young dentists want to work for them. Importantly, customers want to go there - so they’re doing everything right as a business but more importantly they are still very entrepreneurial and expanding their footprint.”
For Dental Boutique, growth means more than just geographical expansion. In recent months, the pair have been building out their advisory board and hiring to fill senior management positions - new roles Dr Sim hopes will set the company up well as it pursues aggressive growth in 2023.
This includes hiring a national sales manager, a chief marketing manager and a brand manager who came to Dental Boutique from Porsche. Dr Sim says the group is also actively recruiting for a chief financial officer.
These recent appointments mark the beginning of a new era for Dental Boutique, which has been primarily led and operated by the two co-founders until now.
“It’ll be a good change, because we’ve been calling all the shots based on our very limited experience - we come from dental school and you don’t learn how to run a business at dental school,” Dr Sim said.
“By having more people around me, it gives me a lot more certainty to make any decision - and certainty that we’re going to make the right decision.
“When you’re growing so rapidly, making sure that we are well protected and analysing everything before you make a decision is so important.”
Their success is made all the more impressive by virtue of the fact the duo has never raised external capital - growth has been driven by strong positive cashflow and support from banks. This also means the co-founders haven’t had to give up any equity in Dental Boutique.
“We have been able to maintain really good control of where the company’s growing and expanding, without worrying about reporting to a board of directors or anything like that,” Dr Chan said.
“But also bear in mind that sometimes money isn’t the limiting factor - it’s actually time and getting the right people and talent on board,” Dr Sim added.
Young Entrepreneur Awards judge Daniel Cunneen - Corpay state manager, Queensland - said it was great to see a bootstrapped company take out the top title considering the current environment of monolithic capital raises and a pervasive ‘growth at all costs’ mentality.
“As the world shifts from an easy money, growth at all costs, technology is king backdrop, it was great to see Dr May Chan and Dr Reuben Sim demonstrating that great businesses can still be built in mature industries when looked at with fresh eyes and a passion for your profession,” Cunneen said.
“They have created a wonderful brand, built on passion and a robust business model which is likely to yield a favourable future.”
Though it was the Dental Boutique founders who came out on top, there was plenty more unbelievable talent and business acumen on display last night at the 2022 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards.
The editorial team at Business News Australia would like to thank all finalists for sharing their stories with us over the past few months. We received hundreds of nominations this year and being able to speak with such a variety of passionate young founders makes this process a delight for us all.
All of the winners from the 2022 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards:
- Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Dr Reuben Sim and Dr May Chan - Dental Boutique
- Trailblazer: Xavier Orr and Chris Shaw - Advanced Navigation
- Arts & Culture: Nicholas Greco, Filippo Palermo, Michael Christidis and Christian Serrao - Untitled Group
- Digital Disruptor: William On and Rob Hango-Zada - Shippit
- Fashion & Design: Bianca Roccisano and Bridgett Roccisano - Bianca and Bridgett, Booby Tape
- Finance: Alex Harper and Angus Goldman - Swyftx
- Fitness: Michael Ramsey - Strong Pilates
- Food & Beverage: Alex Bottomley and Marcus Kellett - Ampersand Projects
- Health & Medicine: Dr May Chan & Dr Reuben Sim - Dental Boutique
- Hospitality & Tourism: James Carney, Alec Carney and Paul Carney - Gemelli Group
- Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution: Ellie Vaisman and Giovanni Pino - Sourci
- Marketing: Chris Parker - Awaken
- PR, Media & Events: Thomas Fu and Tom Mcpherson - Motor Culture Australia
- Professional Services: Sean Crook and Christopher Makhoul - Neolink
- Property & Construction: Chris Baptista - HOMES by CMA
- Retail & Services: James Mutton - Motorcycle Trading
- Specialist Services: Harry Karefilakis - Kare Group, Ethos Electrical Services, All Steel Designs
- Startup: Matt Anderson and Nic Blair - Midnight Health
- Sustainability & Social Responsibility: Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett - Orange Sky
- Technology: Xavier Orr and Chris Shaw - Advanced Navigation
Click here for a list of all finalists from the 2022 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards.
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