More than a Moment: The Process to Apple Dental Care
Meet Flavia Lamberghini, who is the winner of the 2020 Inspiring Women in Business program, sponsored by First Midwest Bank and 101.9 THE MIX. Flavia is the owner of Apple Dental Care and is a board-certified pediatric dentist and clinical assistant professor at the Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also an active collaborator of the Chicago Public Schools Head Start Programs and Community Centers, which provide quality education and preventive dental services. With a vision of combining her two interests in providing excellent service and oral health education, Flavia started Apple Dental Care in 2017. First Midwest recently interviewed Flavia about her success. Here’s what she shared with us.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to women entrepreneurs?
A: There are two things that come to mind: One is that we must believe in ourselves. As women, we often doubt ourselves. But we can do it. We have the strength and the ability. The second thing is to invest in your team. The more qualified and trained your team is, the better your business can move ahead. For example, at Apple Dental Care, we train dental assistants to give them an advantage in a competitive market so they can earn a better salary.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your success?
A: My first mentor was my grandpa, who was a dentist in Argentina. I grew up playing in his dental office taking care of children. Another mentor is my mom, who is a teacher and has gone very far in the education arena. She always wanted to expand her knowledge and inspired me to believe that education can empower people to reach their goals or even more. So, I have combined my grandpa’s and my mom’s passions into a dental business that includes an educational component. Even our certification program at Apple Dental Care serves as a sort of mentorship program since many participants are working toward college degrees. This program puts them a step ahead.
Q: What inspired you to start your own business?
A: It was less of a moment and more of a process. When I was studying, I spent time in an area where many kids did not have access to dental care. I wanted to help kids get the care they need. It took a lot of hard work, but I opened a business to serve this need in my community. Now, many of our team members are former patients of ours. It is part of our culture.
Q: What is one leadership lesson you have learned from the coronavirus pandemic?
A: We were studying information from the CDC, Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic – looking at hard data for our state and city and analyzing together. That taught me the lesson to be proactive in situations like this. We did not do this the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, but once we started, we took things back in our control, which was widely beneficial.
Q: When have you stumbled in your career and how did you harness that setback as momentum to keep going?
A: One time we lost a contract and that was a very hard moment. It was a financial setback, but we restructured ourselves. We ended up doing double the work and opened a second office instead of waiting for the contract to come back, which would not be for at least three years. We said we can sit back and do nothing, or we can adjust. It took us three years to recover, but we built out a separate practice and created more partnerships. We got ahead. At the time, this was a risk and I had doubts, but our hard work, team approach and adaptability paid off.
Q: What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?
A: I think the biggest challenge is to be disciplined and committed to hard work consistently. This is a challenge for all leaders because you have to be committed to something so in depth that it is hard to imagine when you first start out your business.
Q: What has you most excited about the future?
A: I feel that everything happens for a reason, and that we should commit to our values. Social justice guides my work. At Apple Dental Care, we are expanding the social services we provide for our patients, which is exciting because it will help the kids we serve even more. The future is bright, especially if we can help each other out. Thank you.