Students drill their way into dental entrepreneurship

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Ari Davis
Dentium.Club members from left to right: Zach Estiva, Andrew Bryce, Austin Harrison, Hammad Javed, Mary Wilson and Sam Webb meet south of campus. (Ari Davis)

Six BYU students have created an online teeth-whitening business called ‘Dentium.Club’ as part of the Crocker Innovation Fellowship Program in the Marriott School.

The fellowship brought together students Zach Estiva, Mary Wilson, Austin Harrison, Hammad Javed, Andrew Bryce and Sam Webb. The group represented various academic backgrounds such as industrial design, accounting, computer science, genetics and mechanical engineering. The Mariott School gave the group $10,000 to start Dentium.Club. The funding, along with advice from professors and mentors, helped the students build their business. 

Dentium.Club allows customers to order a tray and putty to make a mold of their teeth, mail the mold back in a prepaid envelope and receive a casting and whitening gel to whiten their teeth at home.

The students had to find a pain point — or common need among their target public — before they could develop a product, according to computer science major Austin Harrison.

“We would go out and interview hundreds of people,” Harrison said. “We would do Qualtrics surveys, Google surveys, in-person surveys, and we even went over to The Village and gave out free food (in exchange for information).”

Students in the group originally planned to market to young mothers. They wanted to measure why babies are crying or make a product to help with nutrition, but it didn’t work out according to Estiva.

“With the amount of time we had and the low level of expertise, we thought it’d be better to pivot,” Estiva said. “So we pivoted from young mothers to young people.”

Estiva said they interviewed over 2,000 young people since March and came to the conclusion that teeth whitening was the pain point the group should focus on.

Customers can order a tray and putty to make a mold of their teeth from Dentium.Club. They mail the mold back and receive a tray to fit their mouth, whitening gel and syringes. (Dentium.Club/Facebook)

The group was also able to find out what people didn’t like about teeth whitening through its research: paying too much and going to the dentist.

Estiva said the business falls under the category of consumer packaged goods, which is a business that sends products to the consumer’s home.

“That’s what consumers are expecting. They don’t want to leave their home anymore. People do grocery shopping online sometimes, and we thought we would just ride that wave right now,” Estiva said.

The start-up has seen success, but has not come without challenges. Finding an idea was just the beginning. The team also had to figure out how to work together in order to manufacture the product.

Estiva said the group was able to find a manufacturer with Dental Services Group, one of the leading North American dental labs. Dental Services Groups is located in Provo, so Harrison was able to make an agreement with them to manufacture their product.

The group had to work together without knowing each other prior to this project. They were assigned together randomly as part of the fellowship. Wilson believes this challenge is common in every start-up group.

“You get together in the beginning … and have some problems,” Wilson said. “Once you get over them, you learn to work together and become a really efficient team.”

Part of becoming an efficient team required determining the responsibilities of the group members. Evista, the team leader, said finding the role of each group member has made things easier.

Group members handle things individually such as marketing, sales, website creation, advertising, public relations and more.

Harrison said the group members were unfamiliar with such responsibilities until now.

“Everybody has to do things they’re not in school for,” Harrison said.

“We’re definitely doing a good job at finding a balance between each other; still finding that everyday,” Estiva said.

The other BYU students who are participating in the Crocker Innovation Fellowship Program were excited to see one of the projects taking off, according to Harrison.

“It was cool to see them rejoicing with us,” Estiva said.

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