In 2016, Lindsay Wanserski and Bethany Bertrand purchased the dental business where they were employed. Together, they re-established the National Dental Academy, complete with dental assistant educational curriculum.
The National Dental Academy allows participants to become dental assistants in just ten Saturdays. Their academy caters to career changers and stay-at-home parents and others who only have weekends available for education. Previously, their format involved six different instructors meeting with students in six different locations throughout the state. Lindsay and Bethany are so grateful for the clinical teaching team who stuck by their sides through a very rough, uncertain path when the pandemic first hit.
Due to the COVID crisis, the academy had to pivot dramatically. What seemed like a setback at first came with lots of silver linings that improved the success of the business. Bethany began to teach the first four sessions of the program in a live, virtual classroom, which saved them money in the forms of payroll, renting physical space and travel. The academy gained more control over how the course materials are taught, leading to more streamlined and consistent learning. Lindsay said, “We enjoy bonding with the students and are grateful for the personal connection we can now establish with each one of them. We plan to keep our new practices even when the pandemic is over.”
She said switching to the remote environment was scary at first but the benefits outweighed the costs. Now exams and quizzes are all offered online and the program still runs the final six sessions in person. Converting to partial remote instruction wasn’t the only challenge the two owners faced.
When they first started, Bethany and Lindsay knew how to teach and run the program, but they had questions about pay structure, payroll and the “numbers” of running a business. At the annual Wausau Business Expo, a networking event for local businesses, they spotted the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) booth and met Melissa Meschke. Lindsay said, “We’re so thankful there are people like Melissa at the SBDC who are willing to help people like us starting a new business.”
Melissa, the Director of the Small Business Development Center at UW-Stevens Point, helped the new owners with strategic planning, setting goals, billing advice and finding solutions to marketing issues. She said, “Lindsay and Bethany love to absorb information. They are both great at asking questions and implementing new ideas.” From there, the team was off and running.
They added a new employee, Trina Meyer, in March of 2020, to assist with invoicing and billing. In August, their modern dentistry curriculum was copyrighted, and they look forward to possible sales of their curriculum to other academies in the future. Other goals include expanding their program to include different areas of dentistry and working to partner with other dental practices. They would love to set up even more pathways for students to head directly into employment when they finish the educational program.
Lindsay said the most compelling part of the story for her is that they were able to take something as scary as COVID and turn it into the best thing that ever happened to their business. She offered comforting words of advice as the pandemic continues: “Stay positive. We’ll all get through it.”
Accomplishments with UW-Stevens Point SBDC:
- Strategic planning
- Billing advice
- Marketing solutions
- Goal setting