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Published On: Fri, Nov 15th, 2019

Getting to Know The Mission of SmileDirectClub co-Founder Alex Fenkell

In 2014, Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman co-founded SmileDirectClub – an innovative company on a mission to, in their words, “democratize orthodontics.” Unlike traditional braces or aligners, the SmileDirectClub system does away with painful, unsightly metal braces that are difficult to clean, the tedious and time-consuming office visits, and the astoundingly high cost of traditional orthodontic treatments. 

happy woman smiling

photo/ Anastasia Borisova

Instead, SmileDirectClub customers enjoy the convenience of a network of over 220 licensed dentists and orthodontists who review photos of your mouth and your medical and dental history, as well as a 3D image of your smile, to help create a custom treatment plan designed to straighten your teeth within an average of six months – and for less than 60% of the cost of traditional orthodontia. 

However, long before Alex and Jordan built a groundbreaking company, they were simply a pair of brace-faced 13-year-olds at summer camp. In the years after this initial meeting, they both became serial entrepreneurs, launching businesses including a car-detailing company and a piece of software that turned complicated shopping lists into a single, easy-to-follow one. They found themselves wondering how to create a more affordable and easier way to help people achieve whiter, straighter teeth, and SmileDirectClub was the result of these conversations. 

Originally called SmileCareClub, they launched in 2014, and the initial interest from prospective customers crashed their first website. The early years weren’t easy. As a two-person operation based in Detroit, Fenkell and Katzman were all but solely responsible for recruiting an initial team of licensed dentists and orthodontists, taking calls from customers, and fulfilling all aligner shipments from third parties. They struggled to recruit the first doctors they worked with, having to educate each one about the benefits of cost-effective invisible aligners. They had to convince these practitioners that to provide their services using a teledentistry platform wouldn’t result in them losing patients, but would bring in new ones, ones that they couldn’t treat otherwise and make the overall clear aligner therapy market more aware of their services – something that might not have been obvious back then.

Since then, there’s been countless signs of growth. Over the last five years, they have helped over 750,000 people get the smiles they’ve always wanted, opened 330+ SmileShop locations, and hired over 5,400 employees, working tirelessly to bridge the gap between the orthodontic care that so many people could benefit from and the frustratingly high price points it has so often been traditionally offered at. The founding duo also now has the freedom to serve their strongest niches and play to their greatest strengths, with Fenkell devoting his time and energy to retail operations as Katzman runs product innovation. 

Unlike traditional orthodontia and many of its competitors, SmileDirectClub puts its focus on the customer’s experience front and center.  SmileDirectClub asks their customers what results they are looking to achieve and enables them to get those results on  their terms. Many SmileDirectClub customers are people who had braces as children or teenagers but who failed to wear their retainers and lost the alignment of their teeth over a period of months or years. For many of these customers doctor directed, doctor prescribed clear aligner therapy through a teledentistry platform is  a perfect (and affordable) solution to their problem. Other SmileDirectClub customers never had, nor were able to afford, traditional braces, and love the ability to finally achieve a great new smile in record time and at a price that truly works for them. SmileDirectClub customer’s also take comfort in knowing that because SmileDirectClub provides customer care access by phone, email, online chat, and social, they’re never alone, even if they never step into a doctor’s office once during the entire course of their treatment. Having access to customer care on a 24/7 basis is an essential convenience to SmileDirectClub customers rather than having to work around the limited office hours of traditional orthodontics.  Even professional basketball player Draymond Green was an early adopter of SmileDirectClub, and the Golden State Warrior went on to become an investor in the company after his successful treatment. 

As a testament to its dedication and focus on the customer experience, SmileDirectClub’s services remain highly recommended by its users to friends and peers, which means that people are seeing great smiles, wondering how they can get their own, and relying on Fenkell and Katzman’s life-changing, ever-growing service to achieve their goals. 

Now based in Nashville, SmileDirectClub has greatly expanded their footprint in their corporate headquarters, continuing to hire great new talent, and continuing to expand its presence both nationally and internationally. Using HP Jet Fusion 3D printing systems on a 24/7 basis, SmileDirectClub has the power to produce as many as 20 million 3D mouth molds over the next year, making teledentistry even faster, easier, and more affordable. 

Fenkell sees teledentistry, and SmileDirectClub, as an innovative, affordable and quality service that gives many people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to transform their look the smiles they’ve always wanted. 

Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman continue to work with their experienced leadership team to build their fast-growing, highly disruptive company, creating a lifetime supply of confidence and smiles to be proud of  that so many people all over the world have always hoped to get for themselves at a price point, and with a service, that finally makes it all possible. 

Click here to learn more about SmileDirectClub and co-founder Alex Fenkell.

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