16 years, 125 helpful products & tens of thousands of satisfied customers in more than 70 countries
The best success stories come from people, just like Lynn, who discover a problem and find their own solution on how to fix it.
This is how Dentakit.com was created – out of a need for a hygiene kit for people that get braces. It has since grown leaps and bounds to now include over 100 different products, and many thousands of happy, loyal customers.
In this success story, you’ll learn all about what it takes to start a brand new online business – including the crazy roller coaster of ups and downs – and how if you just stick to it and persevere through the difficult times, you will eventually win.
Tell Us About You and DentaKit.com
Tell us about yourself
I’m a former journalist and technical writer who got dental braces in my early 40s. That experience spurred me to launch a web store devoted specifically to helpful products for people with dental braces and retainers. My husband and I live in Northern California and have two daughters. In my free time, I like to travel, watch classic movies, and play guitar. I also love all things Star Trek.
What does DentaKit.com do?
DentaKit.com specializes in comfort and hygiene products for people with dental braces and retainers. We cater to retail consumers, but also provide patient-oriented products to dentists and orthodontists.
How did you get your big business idea?
Deep down, I had always wanted to start my own business – come up with a great idea and be at least modestly successful. I’d always envied other women who had done it. The trouble was I had no bright ideas — until a few years ago. It’s funny how it came about — not from hours of brainstorming, or from reading piles of books – but from my own practical experience. I had been a technical writer for 15 years, but when dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000’s, many of us tech writers fell into dire straits. I had made a great living doing part-time contracts from home. It allowed me to be with my kids after school. But then the work dried up and hourly rates were cut more than half. Even if you could find work, it didn’t pay very well, or it was only full-time, on-site. Little did I know that deciding to straighten my crooked teeth would lead me to my next career as an entrepreneur!
At age 41, I got dental braces for the first time. The day I got my braces, my orthodontist handed me a little baggie with some supplies: a couple of toothbrushes, some dental wax, and other goodies. I stuffed it into my purse. The next time I ate at a restaurant, I scurried into the restroom with my little baggie. I came out with clean teeth and a wet shirt. I needed better supplies, especially a folding cup. I searched the web for a dental kit and was surprised to find nothing. I asked my orthodontist, but he just shrugged. I realized that if I wanted a functional dental kit, I had to put one together myself. After searching from store to store for a couple of weeks, I finally found all the items I needed, including a decent folding cup. Whenever I ran into a fellow metal mouth in a restroom, they’d delight at the kit I’d put together. That’s when the light bulb went on over my head: I bet other adults and kids could use something like this. I scoured various dental supply catalogues and sent for product samples. I looked at every conceivable type of travel toothbrush, folding cup, and dental pick ever invented. I looked at bags and cases until I was bleary-eyed. It took three months, but when I finally came up for air, I had a really nice orthodontic travel kit. I plugged the numbers into a spreadsheet and found that I could actually turn a profit on this baby! After some creative brainstorming, I decided to call my product DentaKit™. But how was I going to raise the money to begin this fledgling business? I didn’t want to raid our savings, and I didn’t want to borrow money or try to raise venture capital. So I turned to eBay, and became an eBay seller. Ironically, I wound up selling artifacts from the high-tech bust of the early 2000s.
One day, while shopping eBay for some toys, I came across a seller who was offering polo shirts with high-tech company logos. I had seen scads of these shirts in my local thrift stores – they were abundant in Silicon Valley at the time, because ex-employees were dumping them like yesterday’s newspapers. I bought the shirts at “half price clothing day” for as little as $1.50 each, and then sold them for as much as $30 each. I also looked around my house and sold several items that we no longer wanted. Between the thrift store items and our own discards, we raised more than $2,000 – half of what I needed to bootstrap my DentaKit business. It was so easy that I continued doing it for almost a year after I got my business off the ground. Creating my DentaKit business utilized all the skills I’ve developed in my past careers: writing, web design, PR, marketing, and data analysis – not to mention shopping, bargain hunting, and intuition! It all came together in one place, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! Fast-forward to 2021: DentaKit.com has sold thousands of its Braces Survival Kits and has customers in more than 45 countries. The store now carries more than 100 helpful niche dental items and has become a thriving family business. It has also been a great example for my kids. They’ll always remember that mom had a bright idea, used all her know-how, and went for it. If that isn’t a lesson for these crazy times, I don’t know what is.
DentaKit.com website. Web’s leading provider of products for people with dental braces and retainers.
You vs. the competition?
I won’t beat around the bush: nowadays, Amazon is our main competition. It’s difficult to compete with such a large company that has such deep pockets. But DentaKit.com offers something they don’t: personalized service. When customers have a problem or need advice, we answer their queries promptly and make sure that they are happy. I also ensure that our website only carries genuine products acquired directly from the manufacturers. Unlike Amazon, none of our products are dangerous fakes or knock-offs. Our customers trust us, and that’s a big reason why we have so many loyal returning customers.
How do you successfully market your business?
We utilize social media, online advertising, dental trade shows, and word of mouth (pun intended).
How do you attract customers to DentaKit.com?
To help our customers, DentaKit.com features a series of articles about orthodontic care. Our non-retail sister site, ArchWired.com, also contains dozens of pages
DentaKit.com does an incredible job on their reviews.
What do you do to ‘Wow’ your customers?
Buying the right cleaner for a dental retainer can be confusing. We developed a “Retainer Cleaner Finder” wizard tool that helps customers navigate to the best products for their needs. We also live up to our word: we ship when we say we’re going to ship. If there is going to be a delay or if there needs to be a product substitution, we contact our customers immediately.
Lessons You’ve Learned
What are some obstacles you’ve overcome?
You can’t sit on your laurels when you have an online retail business. In time, everything changes: the marketplace, the products, the economy, and the search engines. You need to stay flexible and informed about your niche and the world around you. Be prepared to change course, and don’t let anything discourage you. If you calmly analyze your situation, you will find a way to prevail.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I’ve operated DentaKit.com for almost 20 years. If I could do it again — in hindsight — I wish we’d exhibited at more trade shows and done more advertising early on. Back in the day, Google was easier to deal with and I wish I’d have leveraged it a little better.
What would you say is your secret to success?
Perseverance is definitely my secret to success. There have been many times when Google threw me a curve, or a manufacturer discontinued a popular product. I didn’t let myself get bogged down in the problem; I always looked for a solution. Sometimes you find that change can be the best thing for your business.
Do you have any words of advice?
Know your competition, know your market, and know your customers.
Your Experience with Shopper Approved
DentaKit has over 19,000 ratings, and boasts a 4.7 star average across multiple rating criteria, which takes a lot of hard work to do.
Why did you choose Shopper Approved as your rating and review provider?
Shopper Approved was easy to integrate into my store and offered first rate exposure on Google and other search engines.
How has Shopper Approved helped DentaKit.com?
Trust is important to consumers. The thousands of positive reviews on Shopper Approved has helped us to earn the trust of prospective customers and help our standing in the search engines.
DentaKit.com has been online since late 2001. Our website, ArchWired.com, came online in early 2001.