She Strives To Put A Smile On You

By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dr. Kathrin Trelles, who founded a dental and plastic surgery center in Dubai shares some of the highlights and obstacles she faced setting up her clinic.


Entrepreneurship is hard and it’s not for everyone, cautions Dr Kathrin Trelles, founder, Vilafortuny, a Dubai-based dental and plastic surgery clinic.

Every entrepreneur has a dream for business and milestones that mean that the firm has made it big. As long as you’re managing to hit those milestones, your business is a successful one, informs the medical expert. The combination of medicine and business brought out the entrepreneurial streak in Trelles to cater to the surging demand for aesthetics.

The clinic has a range of clientele visiting from across the GCC, especially former residents of Dubai. The centre offers dental laser treatments for gum grafting, gum depigmentation and periodontal disease. With regards to plastic surgery, eyelid surgery has proved most popular.

Trelles’ busines has recently undergone expansion — it now boasts of a dental laboratory and in-house training centre — and its annual turnover recently crossed the $3 million mark.

“It was not an easy way up: self-doubt, discouraging success-to-failure ratios and an extremely competitive environment all posed serious obstacles when I first started out,” said Dr Trelles.

“The obstacles I faced when first setting up the clinic were heavily inspired by my own fear of failure. I kept wondering if my patients would follow me to my new practice or whether the clinic would flounder in its first few years. In time, you come to realize that while you may have the entrepreneurial spirit, questioning yourself is an important part of the process. In fact, asking difficult questions can lead you to important answers.”

Trelles reveals that a major issue when she started out was to pick out a viable location, since with a clinic, location matters more than other factors.

“Ten years ago, the area we had picked out was not as crowded as it is today, but a little market research told me that the area had the right trappings for a residential and commercial boom. When setting up any business, you need to have foresight, and be willing to invest in the research it will take to build that foresight.”

“I have come across everything from stubborn approval procedures to hidden costs to administrative loopholes. It is important to be conscious of change — what might have worked 10 years ago when you first set up might fail miserably short when you’re looking to expand in today’s market,” says the doctor.

The clinic generates an annual revenue of anywhere between $3 million to $4 million through its dental and plastic surgery services, and sees an average growth of 12 per cent year on year.

“The new expansion should usher in exponential growth — our capital investment is quite high and conservative estimates project the revenue will triple over a period of five years, with our break-even point in 18 months,” adds Trelles.

She has made two new investments exceeding $1 million. The first is a fully serviced dental laboratory, equipped with the latest technologies in 3D scanning and CAT CAM machines, and which caters to her in-house needs as well as those of other clinics in the UAE. The second is an in-house training centre for continuing medical education courses and lectures, which is equipped with live HD feeds to dental and plastic surgery theatres.

“Our internal research shows there is a current, growing gap in the market for high-quality education. The dental and medical communities will both benefit from this new training centre, as it is in the process of bringing world-renowned, celebrated speakers, each of whom are respected experts in their fields. The centre will also offer Masters degrees through our affiliations with European universities,” informs Trelles.

She says the key goal of her business is to boast of a high calibre of professional practitioners who are able to offer a full range of services using the latest techniques.

“We’re working towards expanding the dental laboratory into a fully commercial one — this vision stems from necessity rather than commercial drive.
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“The quality of some of the laboratory workmanship in the region is inconsistent which affects both the provider as well as the patients. Remakes cost time and money, and often inadvertently affect the reputation of the clinic. Having control of the value chain ensures the highest quality and an ideal customer experience.”

In terms of the training centre, Vilafortuny is looking to provide continuing education at the hands of globally acknowledged medical experts.

“I’ve travelled to the US, Latin America and many parts of Europe to attend courses and lectures, and have spent over $200,000 learning from these leading professionals, and that’s excluding the cost of travel and accommodation. Dubai has become a hub for business, for luxury, for real estate — why not for learning? I want the region’s practitioners to have a base close to home, while still learning from the best in the world,” concludes Trelles.

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