Meet this week’s WE Magazine Featured Woman in Business Catrise Austin – Cosmetic Dentist, Author, Speaker
Tell us about your business:
Dr. Catrise Austin is a trailblazing expert in the field of dentistry. This 2 time best selling author and award winning cosmetic dentist to superstars such as CardiB, DJ Khaled, Anthony Anderson, Omarosa, Common and more was recently voted as one of the “Top 25 Women In Dentistry” as well as a “2018 Dental Influencer”. Best known as The Queen of Smiles™ she is on a mission to change lives by helping the world achieve a beautiful, healthy, and confident smile. To reach her goal, she offers cosmetic dentistry services like teeth whitening and porcelain veneers; writes
consumer dentistry books; has created her own affordable line of premium teeth whitening products; offers cosmetic dentistry workshops and online smile makeover coaching. Now consumers everywhere can experience a taste of the smile magic that she brings to her patients in her practice from the comforts of their own homes.
Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?
Being a business owner means having the freedom to have your career and financial destiny in your own hands. It’s leadership.
After I graduated dental school I felt like I was speed dating dentists in different dental offices looking for the perfect job match. I was looking a dental practice with a dentist who loved cosmetic dentistry, who was honest, caring, not so stiff like most dentists, and most importantly—someone who I could grow old with. You’d think that in a big city like New York, this would be easy…but actually the pickings were slim. Many offices were unsanitary and the dentists were just in it for the money running their offices like factories. No passion, no true care about the patients. I was miserable!
The lesson that I learned is that if I wanted to be the best dentist that I could be, I had to do dentistry—my way! So in 1998 I decided that not only was I going to start my own dental practice but I was gonna to package dentistry in a different way to make it fun and sexy with the use of celebrities. I build my brand as the “dentist to the stars”! In the beginning, I had no celebrities So I activated the good ole fake it until you make it. But I didn’t really want to fake it, like Coke I wanted to be the real thing. So I hit the all of the celebrity hot spots and networked until lone day….it actually worked!
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I was in PDiddy’s restaurant and there he was, a living music legend who’s records my mom used to always play on Saturday mornings…Isaac Hayes…Mr. Shaft himself! I bravely interrupted his dinner, introduced myself and handed him my card that said “dentist to the stars, and he said “young lady, sit down and join me for dinner”. We bonded so much that that night I became official and got my first celebrity client. And from there with my brand took off!
Isaac Hayes taught me that I had a special gift, a gift to authentically connect with people and make them feel that dentistry could change their lives. It’s not about selling service, Its a feeling. My mission was for everyone to have what I coined as a VIP Smile. A VIP smile is a smile that is so polished and confident that even if you were not a celebrity it’s so powerful and magnetic where you could command any room, you could attract new friends, customers, or even the man or woman of your dreams.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I’d say say that my greatest accomplishment has been building a dental practice from scratch as an African American woman right out of dental school with no help on 57th Street’s Billionaires Row and growing that business for 20 years to the point that I could sell it!
The end goal for a business owner should be to eventually sell it for profit or to pass it on to a family member and create a legacy. I accomplished what many business owners have not done and I’m proud of that!
What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
The best business advice that I would pass on to readers really comes from my favorite quote from Willie Jolley,
“A setback is a setup for a comeback!”
Although this game of business is very rewarding, it is very tough and comes with many setbacks and even failures along the way. Many businesses don’t make it past 5 years. You have to be resilient!
The recession of 2008 almost took my cosmetic dentistry business out!!! Cosmetic dentistry was the last thing on people’s priority list. Business got super tough.
I had to adapt to the situation at hand. I modified my services and went back to basics of general dentistry, fillings and teeth cleanings. I signed up with more insurance plans to attract new patients, watched my budget more, and I was lucky to have an office manager at the time that was willing to fight for the business. She wasn’t afraid of the extra hard work and really rolled up her sleeves with me. That saved me!!!
Here are my tips:
- Utilize local business resources and programs like SBA, NAWBO
- Have a good business support team
- Network and build genuine business relationships
- Know your audience and build a consistent brand with and brand messaging
- Take advantage of social media by using it as a cost effective way to build a community of raving fans, prospects, and customers.
What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
I’d have to say first and foremost social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook. Creating videos and content that educate but also entertain my audience. Then for me, connecting directly with my audience during speaking events and other live events have been successful.
What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
Know how to operate your business better than anyone in your organization! If someone isn’t performing well , tries to swindle you, you’ll recognize it. Or if a member of your team leaves you or you have to fire them, you won’t be in a bind and helpless in your own business.
Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business? If yes, please describe (and include links if available).
I’d encourage business owners to take advantage of resources and mentorships by SCORE
Do you have any new projects coming up? If so, please tell us about it.
In June 2018, I launched my new business which is an affordable teeth whitening and oral care product line VIP Smiles. Now consumers everywhere can experience a taste of the smile magic that I bring to my patients from the comforts of their own homes with my teeth whitening and oral care products. I bring consumers teeth whitening that costs $500 or more in dental offices for less than $100. I bring high end sonic toothbrushes that cost over $200 by the leading brands for less than $125 too. This product line is for the everyday person who wants to get VIP dental treatments and use high end dental products like the stars do without spending the big bucks.
I’m looking forward to growing this product line and taking my brand national and even global. Visit: www.vipsmilesstore.com
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I LIVE to travel! I love exploring new places, cultures, food. I live for music too. I attend lots of concerts. One of the perks of my job is that I have some of super talented entertainers as clients and sometimes I get to have a blast seeing them perform. But on the flip side I also enjoy being at home cooking and watching tv!
What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?
I want to open a small cosmetic dentistry practice in my hometown of Flint Michigan! I think Flint (and surrounding cities like Lansing, Detroit, and Ann Arbor) could use something to smile about.
I want to write a book on: My life and journey…..a memoir!
I’ve written 3 dental consumer books already but people ask me about my life all the time! They want to know how did I get to where I am today. What was it like growing up in Flint? How did I make it with a single mother who was a blue collar worker for GM? How did I make it in New York? What is it like working with celebs? It would be fun to dive deep and hopefully inspire people.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
In 2018 -2019 look out, The Queen of Smiles is coming! I’m coming with more content that will unlock the mysteries about consumer dentistry and all the ways that dentistry can impact your life. Stay tuned for my podcast, webinars and live seminars, and another TV tour/book tour to celebrate my second #1 Bestseller book (The Ultimate Guide To Charcoal Teeth Whitening) nationwide.
What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you (feel free to include the links to your social networks and websites)?