After 17 years in dentistry, I’m proud to say that a career in dental hygiene is amazing! Like never before, dental hygienists have opportunities to chase our dreams in the op, out of the op, and everywhere between. Growth opportunities are increasing, and the sky’s the limit. We can manage and direct clinical teams, lead organizations, and become industry experts, community educators, and change agents. And yes…we can even be entrepreneurs, living dual roles as clinician by day and business owner by night.
An entrepreneur at heart
Jessica L. Woods, MPH, RDH, RDA, has that entrepreneurial spirit and has started not one, not two, but three companies. The Nevada Public Health Dental Hygienist Collaborative is a professional network for dental hygienists working or interested in working in the public health setting. The network brings together experts to offer training, technical assistance, and mentorship. It aims to provide a supportive community for students, prospective public health hygienists, and practicing public health dental hygienists to strengthen their efforts.
Jessica’s inspiration behind this business is knowing that many dental hygienists have the heart to provide care in community-based settings but are stifled by the lack of post-graduate training programs. She developed the collaborative to assist with topics not traditionally taught in dental hygiene school. In this first-of-its-kind program, participants spend five months developing their public health program design and meet with industry leaders to support them along the way.
You might also be interested in: The entrepreneurial hygienist: Changing how care is delivered
Jessica is also the founder and owner of Wild Rind Cheese + Provisions, which creates crafted, cheese-forward platters and grazing tables. She sources only the freshest assortment of domestic and imported cheeses and pairs them with small-batch accompaniments for a unique guest experience. She also partners with a local sommelier to offer monthly wine and cheese pairing classes.
Her inspiration for this business is her love for cheese. Her husband and she used to frequent a cheese shop near their hometown and loved relaxing over a cheese and charcuterie platter and wine. When they moved to a new area, they couldn’t find anything like those simple pleasures of home, so Jessica created it!
Third, Jessica is president and cofounder of Nevada Fertility Advocates. The mission of Nevada Fertility Advocates is to improve the lives of the 1 in 8 Nevadans who struggle with infertility, and to do this through community awareness, legislative action, and employer advocacy to increase access to care.
Her interest in this work stems from being personally impacted by infertility, along with so many others around her. Her hope is that through the organization’s educational and legislative initiatives, others no longer struggle with this devastating diagnosis.
Jessica has been in dentistry for 20 years and still practices clinically one day per week. I took the opportunity to ask her a few more questions.
How has a career in dental hygiene prepared you for business ownership?
My extensive public health experience gave me the confidence to share what I learned with others who are just starting out. Many years of delivering superior customer service to patients in the clinical setting translated into providing that same level of satisfaction to my customers. My involvement in the state hygienist association and the legislative work (passing of SB366 – Dental Therapy) during my time as president gave me the confidence to become involved with other areas of advocacy.
What’s been the most positive aspect of owning a business?
Knowing that I’m supporting other hygienists in their dreams to start their own public health practices, and the flexibility and freedom to pursue things I’m passionate about. Also, I love exposing my customers to new flavors of cheese they may not have considered before.
What’s been the hardest aspect of owning a business?
Funding and time management. It’s hard to find adequate time to devote to the organization and then operate with very few resources. Learning the food industry with no formal training and finding adequate time to devote to the business is difficult, especially when it comes to digital marketing.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I hope the organizations I founded remain sustainable and grow. I would like to find ways to include dentists in the public health project, but there are currently very few public health dentists in Nevada. I hope to someday have a brick-and-mortar cheese store with multiple locations. Finally, my hope is that public awareness about infertility grows, and that fertility coverage is mandated in Nevada.
What’s your biggest takeaway about becoming an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is a lot of trial and error, especially when you’re blazing trails with little information readily available. There’s no one right way to do things, and you must find your own path and niche. Competition is not always a bad thing. Your network is your greatest asset. You’ll put a lot of unpaid time into starting a business and often others may share in your success but don't fully understand the time you spent to get there.
What’s your advice for anyone interested in starting a business?
Get started! And know that you will never feel 100% ready.