As the Founder and CEO of the oral care company OTIS, Andrew Lee is dedicated to protecting the health and beauty of his clients’ smiles. There are many, given the quality care that they receive. Lee recently took time to explain more about his Bay Area-based company founded in 2017.
GGBA: Please tell us about OTIS and the service it provides.
Andrew Lee: OTIS Dental provides the same premium-quality custom night guards as dentists, but we’re doing it in an easy and affordable way. With our direct-to-consumer approach, you can skip the office visits and pay 80% less than the dentist mark-ups. Simply use our easy-to-use modeling kit to take your own teeth impressions in the comfort and privacy of your home. Send your impressions to us, and we’ll have your custom night guard made and delivered to your door in just a few days. Our custom night guards are made with premium-quality bio-acrylic materials that are BPA-free, gluten-free, non-allergenic and recyclable. Good for you, your wallet, and the planet. It’s a good thing.
GGBA: Why did you decide to create OTIS?
Andrew Lee: In this current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial conflict, political divide, and environmental instability, I’m sure that everyone is dealing with unprecedented levels of stress. But what most people don’t realize is that this stress is also taking a destructive toll on our teeth. In dentistry, this condition is called Bruxism: the involuntary clenching and grinding of teeth that mainly occurs while we sleep. If left untreated, we’re at higher risk of tooth decay, gum recession, and permanent jaw joint damage—this means a lot of painful and expensive visits to the dentist. Night guards are a non-invasive way to protect against Bruxism damage, but the two current options available come with challenges and limitations.
There are the inexpensive over-the-counter drug store brands, but they come in a bulky, one-size-fits-all design and are made with poor quality materials that result in a poor fit and poor night’s rest. The high-quality alternative is to purchase a custom night guard from a licensed dental provider, but this requires several office visits and an out-of-pocket cost of $500–$900. And, when the custom night guard gradually wears down, you’ll have to repeat the process and pay the excessive out-of-pocket price again.
As a dental hygienist and oral health educator for over 10 years, I’ve found it troubling that the dental industry remains unethically stagnant in making one of the most important dental therapeutics, like the custom night guard, more accessible and affordable to their patients.
From personal experience, I’ve dealt with OTC and custom night guard challenges, as well. Several years ago, I was the victim of a hate-crime that left me in the ICU for two weeks. Upon being discharged, I had developed PTSD that included severe bedtime Bruxism. I can still remember the migraines from clenching so hard, and the grinding caused one of my teeth to chip. I tried several OTC night guards, but the ill-fit and poor-quality materials made it difficult to sleep with them and provided little-to-no relief. When I was finally well enough to work again, I asked my employer (a dentist) if he would make me a custom night guard. I thought, “I’m his employee … he knows what I just went through … I’m sure he’ll take care of me. I mean, the dental lab only charges him $50—I’m sure that’s all he’ll charge me, if anything.” Boy, was I wrong. Instead, he offered a 50% discount, which meant that I’d still have to pay $300. I had no other options, at that point, so I paid the $300.
I eventually resigned from this private practice and worked with other dentists in the following years. Sad to say, many other dentists were just like my previous employer—focused on over-selling and price-gouging their patients, just to meet their annual goals. A few more years went by, and I could tell that I was starting to lose my love for dentistry, so I decided to apply for graduate school. I decided on an MBA program that included a specialization in healthcare and biotechnology. Upon completing the program, I felt something change within me. Something calling me to make a greater impact in the dental industry, and that’s when I started OTIS Dental. Since then, the company has made significant traction, and I was inspired to take the company one innovative step further by inventing a Bruxism sensor technology that enhances the protective function of our custom night guard into a stress therapy device as well.
GGBA: That took great creative vision. Who are some of your role models?
Andrew Lee: I would not be where I am today if not for the love and support from my parents and friends. I would also like to give credit to my dental mentor, Dr. Molly Newlon, who has given me nothing but the best guidance, encouragement, and wisdom to keep pushing through.
GGBA: We’d now like to ask you about the GGBA. Why did you decide to join, and how long have you been a member?
Andrew Lee: I joined the GGBA in the fall of 2019, and it’s been such a blessing to be part of a network that not only lifts you up, but also empathizes with the struggles faced by LGBTQ business owners.
GGBA: How has being a member of GGBA helped your business so far?
Andrew Lee: There are amazing people at GGBA, like Gina Grahame and Michael Gunther, who have provided such a wealth of knowledge and support. I have PTSD, so meeting someone new can be quite a challenge, especially in public. But it was the complete opposite when I met Gina for my GGBA membership interview—the best way to describe it was like meeting up with a beloved family member whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Her personable demeanor and mindfulness to what I had shared with her made the entire experience so easy. It was then that I knew that the GGBA was right for me. Since then, I met Michael who was basically the cherry on top of the cake. His business acumen and mentorship helped put in focus my priorities and what I would need to do in order to grow and succeed.
GGBA: Do you go to the GGBA monthly Make Contact networking events that are now virtual? Have they benefited you and OTIS, and would you recommend them to others?
Andrew Lee: Business has taken up most of my time, so I am not able to attend as much as I’d like to. But that’s what’s so great about the GGBA events: they’re every month, so I can trust that the GGBA will always have another one for me to attend, if/when I’m able. When I do, it’s such a worthwhile opportunity to meet new entrepreneurs who can teach me something new to improve and grow my business, and I can give back by sharing my experiences with others who may be looking for resources and solutions to help their businesses,as well. I highly recommend it.
GGBA: What other advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
- Take everything step-by-step—don’t rush into it.
- Create a chart to help keep track of your milestones.
- You’ll make tons of mistakes, but don’t take them as a failure. Learn from them and pivot.
- Find a group of supportive people who will lift you up. This will be your lifeline during many episodes of self-doubt.
- Know those you’re bringing on board. Your business can crash in an instant if they’re not thoroughly vetted.
- Join the GGBA—you won’t regret it!
To learn more about OTIS, visit https://hellootis.com/