Pink wig ladies peddle products at dental shows
by Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH
Phone conversations to Amy Brown and Susanne Talcott often start with, “Now, y'all are the pink wig ladies, right?” You might have seen their retail booth called Dental Giggles at a conference or meeting. It features a large pink umbrella, piles of dental-themed gifts, and Amy and Susanne in gleaming, fluorescent hair.
Amy explains that what has become their trademark started out as a way to capture attention and have fun. “We were at a show in Dallas, and our booth was way in the back. We asked ourselves, ‘What do we do? We have to stand out somehow.' Since our colors are pink, we chose the wigs. Everyone loved it, and now we can't go anywhere without them. We've just booked a dental show in Las Vegas, and the first thing they said was, ‘You have to wear the pink wigs.'”
Dental Giggles sells, well, stuff that makes us giggle. There are suncatchers and nightlights, keychains and jewelry, plaques and pins. There are tote bags and lunch bags with exclusive designs. There are T-shirts with rhinestone-accented sayings such as “Got Teeth?”
They don't sell pink wigs yet, but they plan to have them at some future shows.
Given the attention and word of mouth, it's surprising that Dental Giggles has only been in business for a year and a half. Amy and Susanne are 2006 graduates of the dental hygiene program at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C. “We just clicked as soon as we met. Our classmates thought we'd been friends forever.”
After graduation, the girls were excited to get out into the real world of dentistry. “When we went to our first conference together as hygienists, we enjoyed everything — the courses, the exhibits, the atmosphere,” Susanne said. “We went to our room and said, ‘Oh my goodness, we could do something fun.' We immediately began talking about what we could sell.”
Within five minutes, they had a list of nearly 60 items they could sell at an exhibit booth and online.
Back home in North Carolina, Amy and Susanne contacted a friend of Susanne's mother who is an artist. “She led us in the right direction,” Susanne said. “She helped us design a logo, and now she paints our wineglasses and designs shirts for us. She actually teaches seminars on how to start small businesses.”
Neither Amy nor Susanne had business experience. “We just jumped out on a limb,” Amy said. “We took a risk. We went for it.”
The two did not even take out a business loan. They just pooled as much money as they could spare, designed and bought some products, and reserved a booth at a dental conference.
“Our greatest satisfaction is going to shows,” said Amy. “We love to see the excitement and meet people at our booth. We get comments, we see the customers' enthusiasm, and it feels good. We've put a lot of time and effort into Dental Giggles, and to be able to get that reaction, that people like our ideas, is the best.”
“It's another way for us as hygienists to put a smile on people's faces,” Susanne said. “We've been greeted with open arms at every conference.”
The girls are full of ideas for the company. “It's hard to execute all of our ideas,” Amy said. “We search for artists, and if we like their work, we contact them. Some of them have never done anything dental before. We give them ideas, and they sketch them out. That's how products are exclusive to us. We strive for uniqueness.”
They're willing to design custom items. “We work with bulk customers,” Susanne explained. “Say a dentist comes to our booth and sees something he or she likes. We work with the company or office to design a customized look for each employee and associate. People tell us we make Christmas shopping really easy. We can do custom T-shirts or hand-painted items for offices, schools, and companies.”
There will be great new products for 2009, the girls said. “We want to keep going full force, we have so many ideas. We'll get up in the middle of the night and e-mail each other: ‘What about this?' Our brains are always working.”
Are they making a living?
“No,” said Susanne. “We don't put tons of money in our pockets. At this point the business is still growing, and we reinvest most of the money. We're by no means where we want to be with Dental Giggles.”
At this point, the girls do a show about every other month, hauling their products with a minivan and trailer. “Our longest trip was 23 hours to a conference in Dallas,” Amy says. “We almost got stopped by an ice storm on the way back, but it was my daughter's second birthday, and we just had to get home.”
Besides operating Dental Giggles, both women have families and full-time jobs. Susanne and her husband, Marc, have been married 16 years. Amy and her husband, Kevin, have been married four years and their daughter, Madeline, is two.
“My husband was leery at first,” Susanne admits, “but both our husbands are very supportive and proud of us now. Marc does our Web site for us.”
“My husband takes care of Madeline when I'm gone,” Amy adds. “I never have to worry. When we started this they were both like, ‘What are you doing?' They didn't understand. But then they came with us to a conference in Florida, and they literally sat back and watched the crowd. They'd never seen us in action. We could see them smiling and we said, ‘See, we told you.'”
Amy works full-time for Dr. Lee Nunn in High Point, N.C., and Susanne works full-time for the University Dental Association in Cary, N.C. Both offices have been good about granting time off for travel. “Our dentists and co-workers are just as supportive as our husbands,” Amy says. “Without them, we couldn't take off and go. They could easily say no, but they've never done it. They're great.”
Dental Giggles recently partnered with the National Children's Oral Health Foundation to donate a portion of their proceeds to the NCOHF Toothfairy Campaign. “They approached us, and we're both very giving people, so we're very excited about the opportunity. We invite every dental professional to join us in supporting this organization. Children deserve healthy smiles,” Susanne said.
Dental Giggles will be raffling a gift basket each month at www.ncohf.org, and proceeds will go to the Toothfairy campaign. “I urge everyone to visit our Web site to learn more,” Amy said.
You don't have to wait for a conference to browse the Dental Giggles products. Just go to www.dentalgiggles.com. There will be many new products in 2009, so check back often. And when you do go to a show, just keep an eye out for the pink wigs.