After over two decades working as a dental hygienist, Julie Fisher decided it was time to take the plunge and launch her own studio.
Working with our partners at The Women’s Organisation Julie launched The Dental Hygiene Studio earlier this year – Wirral’s very first drop-in dental hygienist studio.
We caught up with Julie to find out the story behind her business and how things are going so far…
They do things a little differently at the Dental Hygiene Studio.
A recent change in the law means that you no longer have to see the hygienist at your own dental practice - you can see a hygienist of your choice anytime, anywhere.
This was a business opportunity Julie didn’t want to miss out on. She says: “With today’s busy lifestyles, it can be quite difficult to book and appointment with the dentist, then wait for another appointment with the hygienist, so we wanted to do things a bit differently.”
As well as booking people in for set appointments, Julie and the team offer walk-ins too. Meaning it will be much more convenient for people to fit in around work, childcare and other aspects of our busy day-to-day life.
|Julie Fisher, founder of the Wirral's |
first drop-in dental hygiene studio
Having qualified as a dental hygienist with the army back in 1996, Julie has long had a passion for helping people with their dental health.
When the dentist she was working alongside announced her retirement last year, Julie found herself at a crossroads in her career.
Seeing similar services open in the North West and with her youngest son due to start high school, giving her more time to devote to the business idea, Julie began to wonder if the time was right for her to take the plunge.
She says: “I was inspired and intrigued about whether or not it would be a possible business idea for me too. I did lots of market research and with the help and guidance of Enterprise Hub, I finally decided it was something I couldn’t put off any longer.”
Things started to fall in place from there.
Julie tells us there’s quite a story behind finding her venue in her home town Wallasey: “My husband and I had been out for a few viewings and having seen nothing suitable we were on our way home. We were sat at some pedestrian lights just around the corner from where we lived and we both looked across at this quite derelict corner shop which had been empty for about 10 years. I said to my husband, Andy, ‘it’s a shame we can’t have that really isn’t it? It would’ve been perfect’.
|Before! The derelict shop before Julie and Andy transformed it|
“I decided to walk round and ask the shop next door if he knew who owned it and if they wanted to sell? He said ‘as far as I know, she’s not interested in selling, but I’ve got her number if you’d like it?’ So, I rang the owner and she said that she wasn’t interested in selling, so I thought that was that. We went on looking for a few weeks but still couldn’t find anything suitable, so I decided to ring her back. To my utter surprise, she said she’d given it lots of thought since our first conversation and she was happy to sell to us!”
Thanks to support from her husband Andy, who is a chartered building surveyor, Julie was able to tackle the building work – not to mention the tree growing up through the brickwork - and create the perfect venue for her business.
|And after! The Dental Hygiene studio today|
And their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed in the community.
Julie says: “It’s been such a transformation that local residents have asked to come and have a look as we’ve been renovating. We have a photobook of the renovations in the waiting room so share our journey with patients.”
|Julie and husband Andy celebrating the opening of The Dental Hygiene Studio|
As with any new entrepreneur just setting out in business, Julie wasn’t without her doubts.
She says: “After 24 years’ experience I’m most comfortable in my scrubs treating patients and although I’ve been self-employed, I’ve never had a business to run. I’ve never been ‘a boss’ before or even had to manage staff.
“Not only that, but securing the funding, doing a business plan, sorting out change of use for the premises and planning permission were all things that needed to be organised. It’s been such an exciting and exhilarating experience so far, but there have been days I’ve wondered what I was thinking!”
Accessing support from The Women’s Organisation, through the Enterprise Hub programme, meant that Julie was able to work with the team of expert business advisors to turn this idea into a reality.
Speaking about the support she received, Julie says: “Quite simply, without the Enterprise Hub programme, I wouldn’t be in this position now. The help and support from the programme is incredible. I walked into my advisor Claire’s office and didn’t know where to start. I was anxious, nervous and quite unsure of myself. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to start doing it.
“Attending various courses helped me to gain more practical knowledge, and Claire and I sat for hours and hours tweaking my business plan until it was perfectly right. With Claire’s help and dogged determination, I was finally in a position where I felt ready to embark on such a daunting process.”
Julie also worked with Enterprise Enabler, Ali McGrath. Julie says: “Ali is a force of nature! Her enthusiasm is infectious, and she absolutely gets things done. Her knowledge, contacts and genuine love for what she does is easy to see. She is funny and kind and reassured me beyond belief. She organised me, advised me and basically I feel she ‘held my hand’ through the whole process.”
What Julie has created with this support is today a friendly, professional and ethical dental hygiene studio, providing patients with an outstanding level of care in a modern and accessible way.
|Julie at work in the studio|
So, what advice would Julie give to someone looking to start a business? She says: “Start-up advice is invaluable. I remember Bernie, who ran a start-up course I attended, said that businesses who take start up advice are much less likely to fail in their first year. I can honestly see why. If I have any concerns, questions or things I’m unsure of, The Women’s Organisation is always my first point of contact!”
Understandably, Julie is very proud of what she’s achieved so far and she explains that the venture has been very family orientated so far, helping her to achieve that work-life balance she’s always wanted.
So, what’s next for Julie and the Dental Hygiene Studio? Julie says: “The plan for the future is to grow into the upper floors of the building to include a dentist, a periodontist and an implantologist to become a specialist centre of excellence. After that, maybe world domination!”
You can find The Dental Hygiene Studio online at www.dentalhygienestudio.co.uk and the team are also on Facebook, twitter and Instagram. If you’d like to get in touch you can call 0151 6397 939.
If you have a business idea you’d like to explore and are based in the Liverpool City Region, then get in touch to see what fully-funded support might be available to you. You can reach us on 0151 706 8113 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.