Community Connections Spotlight: Storybook Smiles
Community Connections Spotlight: Storybook Smiles
Dedicated to serving the community and helping small businesses recover from the economic impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Suddenlink Business has contributed to small businesses by partnering with grant programs such as the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) and the Save Small Business Fund.
Dr. Dylan Patrick is one of the grant recipients from the Save Small Business Fund, a grant making initiative funded by philanthropies and larger businesses, like Suddenlink Business’s parent company Altice USA, to help the small business community during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry with the highest honors, Dr. Patrick, a pediatric dentist, founded Storybook Smiles. With its mission to provide quality dental care to the community, Storybook Smiles not only survived the pandemic, but become a stronger institution in the process.
When Dr. Patrick started, there had been a movement toward corporate dentistry with absentee corporate owners who were detached from what was happening in the clinic. Says Dr. Patrick, “I wanted to have a place where people were placed above profits.” He envisioned a space where families could come in, see a doctor, have a face-to-face conversation, and choose the dental care that best fit their need.
Dr. Patrick also envisioned Storybook Smiles to be a place that would benefit both patients and employees. “It’s a cool culture of teamwork and everyone pitching in. We work really hard but have a lot of fun doing it,” he says. For his team, he strives to create an environment where people feel engaged in what they’re doing every day, and not just clock in and out.
Storybook Smiles aims to reduce the stress of family dental visits. They do this in different ways, as Dr. Patrick describes, “it could be as simple as greeting a mom of four kids with a nice smile and making her day a little easier by turning a stressful experience into a fun-filled time with her family, or taking a child who has been up all night in pain and relieving that pain through different means. We want to be able to serve everyone we can with the best possible care.” This means treating patients as people and not based on what insurance they have or what they can pay. To do this, they work with many different types of insurance to ensure they can treat as many people as possible.
When Dr. Patrick was first starting Storybook Smiles and looking for funding, he approached several banks. In the dental world there are only a handful of banks that fund start-up practices, and Storybook Smiles didn’t quite fit the mold for the typical practice that received funding. Instead, Dr. Patrick worked with a small local bank in Texas where he grew up. Though it was outside of what the bank typically did, the Texas bank worked with him to set up Storybook Smiles and has been a great partner. He advises other small businesses to “look for funding in different places.”
Dr. Patrick attributes building his lasting business not only to reading every business book he could, but also to knowing his purpose. He advises other entrepreneurs to know their “why.” “Everyone says start with the end in mind, but I’m not sure I agree with that 100%. So many businesses pivot and grow as they mature, what's most important is knowing why you exist as a business and how can you serve your customers and patients the best,” advises Dr. Patrick. Knowing your purpose will allow you to evolve with any changes while staying true to what made you start in the first place.
When the Covid-19 Pandemic struck, Storybook Smiles faced many challenges. Though Dr. Patrick considers himself an optimist, it was difficult facing a 6-week shutdown. Following that, they could only see a limited number of patients even as their fixed costs, like rent and electricity, remained the same. In addition, they elected to make purchases such as air filtration units and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to provide their patients with the safest experience possible. In spite of adversity, Storybook Smiles’ core values stayed the same and they adapted as best as they could.
To bridge their cost hurdles, Dr. Patrick and Storybook Smiles relied on the help of grants and loans. With this additional aid, they were able to afford the enhanced safety measures required by the pandemic—on top the basic ones like masks, which used to cost $10 a box and were suddenly $50 a box. Dr. Patrick also educated himself on air filtration and ways to keep air quality clean. As a result, Dr. Patrick decided to invest the money to close off all exam rooms and install glass walls and doors so everyone had their own private exam room. Of the Save Small Business grant, Dr. Patrick says, “the biggest thing was that it relieved some of the [financial] pressure on us for sure…[we could] feel confident making the right choices without fear of putting the business at risk…I [also] appreciate that it wasn't tied to anything and [I did not have] to send in receipts. I appreciate the trust that came with that, it was very helpful.”
Technology was another thing that worked in Storybook Smiles’ favor during the pandemic. Being a pediatric office, Storybook Smiles’ customer base is younger and more technologically savvy. Things like automated appointment reminders, mass emailing, and text messaging helped the practice stay accessible to their customers in any emergency. Unfortunately, the business was not able to shift to tele-dentistry, since the Texas state board of dentistry has a rule that prohibits this. Instead it had one day per week to accommodate patients that had emergency dental needs. Technology aided with the task of rescheduling all of their appointments at the onset of the pandemic. Recently, the practice also started using a program that helps families schedule online. They are now one of few dental offices in Tyler, Texas that lets parents schedule at will, instead of only during office hours, allowing them to conveniently schedule when they have a free moment.
To accommodate the need for increased communication, the company had to upgrade Internet speeds a few times. To do this, Dr. Patrick credits Suddenlink Business saying, “it's never been a problem. It was easy to get someone on the phone and get things taken care of, and it’s good value for money. On the Internet side, I don’t have any complaints.” A reliable Internet connection was key to keeping him connected to his customers even during the pandemic.
As for his parting advice, Dr. Patrick says that small businesses should find a unique market for their services. “There's always going to be people who need washing cars, cleaning houses, healthcare, education, legal assistance – there’s a lot of big markets for people who want to come in and set themselves above everyone else. Find a place where you can set yourself apart. Be kind to people and be useful. If you're kind to somebody and useful to somebody, you'll make it as a business just fine.”
To read more stories from small businesses like you or to find solutions to meet your growing business needs, check out the Optimum Business Digital Toolkit.