|Say ahhh: Couple celebrates seven years of dental practice success|
|Drs. Drew and Joya Lyons own Smile Savvy|
|Published Saturday, March 27, 2021 11:00 pm|
|PHOTO | ARIEL PERRY|
|Drs. Drew (left) and Joya Lyons of Charlotte are owners of Smile Savvy, a cosmetic dentistry practice.|
Heeding advice against working with your partner, Drs. Joya and Drew Lyons didn’t intend to go into business together. Yet for them, it was meant to be, and February marked the seventh anniversary of their practice, Smile Savvy, Charlotte’s only cosmetic dentistry practice owned by a Black couple.
Smile Savvy was originally Drew’s idea. At the time he was preparing to launch, Joya was pregnant and soon to be on maternity leave but still wanted to work despite few options. To the couple, it made sense to have her join the practice.
“I would say that it’s God-ordained … I felt like all the other doors were shutting because God was letting us know that we were supposed to be working together,” Joya said.
The two found their niche in cosmetic dentistry, a path that allows them to share their passion with others and witness how their services can change someone’s life. Joya observed the impact a patient’s smile could have on their confidence, which in turn could encourage that patient to pursue new opportunities. The positive feeling is one that the doctors and patient share.
“It’s that sensation you get, that instant gratification … when you see what it does for your patient,” Drew said.
The dental duo admits that behind their success lies entrepreneurial challenges, partnered growth and self-discovery. The doctors realized that the best option as a couple was to take challenges head on and learn along the way, using a divide-and-conquer approach.
“Her strengths are my severe weaknesses,” Drew says. Joya chimes in: “and vice versa.” The couple share a laugh that expresses how much they rely on each other's complementary skills.
The key to finding a way for them to work together harmoniously was realizing their strengths. It was through personality tests that they determined what it was they were best suited for; Dr. Drew develops big plans while Dr. Joya narrows details.
“That’s why we work well together, because once we come up with that plan, it’s golden,” Joya said.
While they aren’t locked into specific roles, knowing the realm in which their skills lie has served as a guide to effectively running the practice. They share responsibilities with Drew as CEO and Joya as CFO and administrative leader.
For example, the couple are attentive to patient needs and obtain new technology to make sure their service is comfortable, safe and effective. If they wanted to purchase new scanners for taking impressions, Drew would research what equipment is best suited for the patient, and Joya would determine how to logistically incorporate it into the business.
One big step Smile Savvy has recently taken was transitioning from a traditional insurance payment model to a fee-for-service model, where payment is by individual services, which they found to be more encouraging for patients to get the services they need. Patients can be influenced by their coverage and decide against getting service, even if it’s necessary.
“By removing the insurance, the patient then comes to us initially knowing that we’re not a network,” Joya explained’ … “They won’t be dependent on ‘I’m just going to get what the insurance covers’ versus ‘I’m going to get what the doctor says I need.’”
The doctors have also refined their service mantra. They began their business by connecting with families and children with the intention of providing a positive experience with each visit. Now they’re taking it a step further and encourage each of their patients to “Smile in Purpose.”
“You’re building these smiles for people and you’re seeing their purpose unfold. You see that true person come out and they start to get more daring,” Drew said.
The two have come a long way together. They were both biology majors – Joya studying at Hampton University and Drew at North Carolina Central University – when they met as juniors at UNC Chapel Hill for a dental enrichment program. The purpose of the program was to pique undergrad students’ interest in dentistry.
“So, we get put in the same mock interview group, and obviously it’s a nerve-wracking thing,” Joya recalls. “For me, it was even more nerve-wracking because I’m in a group with a person I thought was very handsome … it was hard to concentrate.”
It wouldn’t be until two years later when the pair fully developed their relationship. On their first day at Meharry Medical School they ran into each other and Joya reintroduced herself. From there, they became study partners, friends, and got engaged during their senior year. Following their graduation, they completed a residency in Detroit, Dr. Joya’s hometown, and the two got married in the same year. Afterwards, the Lyons moved to Charlotte and opened Smile Savvy.
When building from scratch, Drs. Lyons maintained several factors that allowed them to be successful. They kept their faith, leaned on each other, and were authentic.
“We just give you what we are. It’s not a white-coat Drew versus somebody else and people sense that in today’s world,” he said. “You can’t just put on a suit and drive a nice car, and people follow you … character matters, a lot.”
They share their success with the community through The Lyons’ Share, an annual commitment to provide free services to patients with demonstrated need. Dr. Joya is also the cofounder of S.C.O.R.E. Inc., a nonprofit organization that nurtures young girls’ interest in STEM careers. She and her sister, Dr. Janelle Davison, an optometrist, arrange six-week summer internships that include shadowing female doctors and attending speaking engagements.
Joya and Drew demonstrate that success prevails when there is a strong partnership, even if the path isn’t intended. The Lyons shared that Smile Savvy was expected to open earlier than February 2014, but they are satisfied with how it developed.
“There are no mistakes,” Joya said. “It was meant to be that month and it turned out to be the greatest decision we ever made.”
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