Women We Love: Drs. Lisa & Vanessa Creaven, Spotlight Whitening Founders

With broad, Hollywood-esque, whiter than white smiles, dentists and sisters Lisa and Vanessa Creaven are the perfect ambassadors for their brands. The things that we admire about this duo go far beyond their perfect pearly whites, however.

The sisters have founded not one but two successful businesses, all with style, charisma and buckets of enthusiasm.

At their Galway based clinic, Quay Dental, they offer innovative, patient-friendly services and a modern approach to orthodontistry.

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Photo by Mark Stedman

But it’s Spotlight Whitening that’s really put the eh, spotlight on Lisa and Vanessa.

The ever-expanding range of products in the range offer a safe, effective simple way to whiten teeth at home, using the same active ingredients used in clinical dental practice.

Launching in 2016 the brand has revolutionised the market and gone on to become a familiar sight in pharmacies across Ireland UK, Norway and Finland along with the UAE, brightening countless smiles along the way.

We chatted to Lisa and Vanessa about how they juggle two businesses, what’s next for Spotlight Whitening, and, finally, do we *really* need to floss…

How did you both end up becoming dentists?

V: Lisa definitely started the trend and I (Vanessa) followed suit! We both qualified as dentists from Trinity College Dublin.

We both then went on to complete a number post-graduate courses in Cosmetic Dentistry and Orthodontics in both Ireland and the UK.

It frustrated us to see our patients struggle to find a teeth whitening product that worked, was safe and affordable.

Dentistry is an amazing profession opening the door to so many opportunities within the field itself. It also allows you to build a close relationship with your patients which is something we love!

When did you decide to set up your own practice? 

L: Well I’m seven years older than Vanessa, so I was out of college first and started working in private clinics.

From there I decided it was time to come back home to Galway. I always had an entrepreneurial spark within me and I opened my own practice at the age of 25!

After Vanessa finished college, she worked in a dental hospital for a year and from there followed a similar path to me, spending two years working in a private practice in Dublin before joining my practice in Galway.

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Our sister Alma also joined the practice last year so it is a real family affair!

How did the idea for Spotlight Whitening come about? 

V: It frustrated us to see our patients struggle to find a teeth whitening product that worked, was safe and affordable.

We could not see anything on the market that catered for these needs and that we could stand by. That’s why we created Spotlight Whitening!

How has the range developed? 

L: We started off just with our original teeth whitening kit and from here we have developed a full product range including Men’s Teeth White strips, Spotlight teeth whitening toothpaste and a teeth whitening pen.

We are consistently working on new product development so watch this space! We want Spotlight Whitening to be more than just a teeth whitening range but instead a full oral care solution system – perhaps that’s a hint…

We work on Spotlight Whitening outside our regular working hours, it’s like our baby.

What was the biggest challenge bridging the gap from concept to fully formed brand? 

L: Definitely getting our product to market, which incorporates hydrogen peroxide, was a huge challenge.

We wanted to add peroxide into our product because it is the most effective ingredient for whitening teeth, but with this comes challenges in itself.

We spent over a year developing the correct formula before going to manufacturing. Fine-tuning the process to make sure we got what we wanted in a product was tedious but we knew if we were to revolutionise the market we couldn’t take any chances!

Also being dentists we were conscious that our product is as safe as it is effective.

What is your vision for Spotlight Whitening?

V: This is something we always get asked and the answer is always one we struggle to put into one sentence!

We want to create a product range that is safe and solution driven.

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The dental market is quite boring so being able to add to it with effective products, whatever they may be is the main aim.

We continually develop products based on the feedback from our patients and customers.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in business?

L: Starting the business! The first step is always the most scary but definitely worth it.

Entering into an unknown for us took a lot of courage but we couldn’t be happier we did.

You took part in Going for Growth, an award-winning initiative to encourage female entrepreneurs. How did this benefit your businesses?

V: It’s a great opportunity to learn from like-minded people and really explore business as a whole within a great support network.

It opened the door to many experienced individuals who were always there to help, answer questions etc. Support and sounding boards are invaluable when starting a business and GFG gave us that.

Entering into an unknown for us took a lot of courage but we couldn’t be happier we did.

How do you split your time between Spotlight Whitening and Quay Dental? 

L: As dentists we are passionate about our patients, and they will always be our first priority. There is a feel good factor in seeing people gain a whole new sense of confidence from the work we do.

We work on Spotlight Whitening outside our regular working hours, it’s like our baby. We enjoy doing something we love and developing new products.

The support we have receive since we started has been really overwhelming but at the same time it motivates us to continue to grow as a brand.

What trends and innovations do you predict will be big in the dental industry? 

L: The majority of our customers are women who are looking to add whitening their teeth to their beauty regime and gain confidence at the same time.

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We have seen that there is an increase in men sales, as they too are also becoming conscious about achieving a whiter smile.

I suppose it might be from the social pressures that women tend to feel, to look good in any way that we can.

In terms of innovation the dental market is one that has been left behind, we hope more of a focus on oral care can that come into fashion? It is cool we swear!

How important is social media to your business? 

V: The power of social media has also really helped with exposure and the word of mouth process and creating awareness about the brand.

We constantly get tagged in our customers photos, showing their whiter, brighter smiles which we love!

There are so many positive Irish role models and we are really holding our own as entrepreneurs and women in business which is great to see.

It’s great to see the feedback from our customers, showing that they are happy with the products and they are getting the results they wanted to achieve.

Each of our products have their own special benefit, from express one hour teeth whitening strip to our teeth whitening pen, which helps get rid of the pesky stains on the go.

What women in do you most admire? 

L: All Irish women! There are so many positive Irish role models and we are really holding our own as entrepreneurs and women in business which is great to see. This industry is hard.

I suppose one that sticks out is the queen of tan Marissa Carter. Shes building an empire, busy mum and she’s vocal about her struggles which is great to see.

Maria Hatzistefanis, ‘Mrs Rodial’, is another great role model for women in business.

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In terms of online innovation you can’t help but admire Huda Beauty who has built an empire really through social media.

What are your tips for balancing two businesses and home life? 

V: I don’t think we have any major tips other than we love the work we do, that’s what motivates us to keep going!

It can be tough balancing everything but it’s totally worth it. We still work in the practice and are very busy here, so it has been – and still is – a big juggling act to manage both.

The juggling aspect is something you have to work on. Especially with a new business sacrifices have to be made but family always does come first.

It can be tough balancing everything but once you find your feet and a routine is in place then some organisation is restored.

We’re really lucky that we’re sisters, because it means we can call over to each other’s houses in the evening and we can go over a couple of things!

We don’t have to have stick to a strict nine-to-five schedule – if we did, the business definitely wouldn’t work for us. It just means we’re really super busy at the moment, but we’re loving it.

As well as amazing smiles you are both very glamorous, what is the most treasured item your wardrobes?

L: Heels! Vanessa is 5ft 9 and insists on wearing them so I need to try to catch up!

I hold my wedding shoes very dear to me and try to wear them on special occasions, they always make me feel good.

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Who’s closets would you most like to raid?

L & V: Easy, Olivia Palermo, she can do no wrong. Her style is so elegant and effortless. She can wear anything and look chic.

Besides the Spotlight Whitening range, what are your top three beauty essentials?

L: SPF, if we didn’t mention that I think The Skin Nerd, Jennifer Rock, would kill us!

Lip balm, sounds cliché but chapped lips and bright white teeth is never a good look, and mascara, I have two small kids so anything that makes my eyes look a little bit more open is a must.

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What are the best low-sugar drink options when on a night out?

Clear spirits like vodka or gin with soda water are probably the best if you are looking for a low-sugar drink paired with a slice of lemon or lime. This will naturally help with staining.

Do try to stay away from soft drinks and tonic water if possible, they are full or sugar! Also drink through a straw, it works!

Do you have a favourite quote?

V: Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right! It is definitely true and I suppose, especially when we were starting out, we needed to adopt this attitude to help drive us.

Lastly, do we *actually* need to floss? 

V: Flossing is ESSENTIAL we can’t stress that enough! It’s just as important to floss as it is to brush your teeth everyday.

If the bacteria between the teeth is stuck there and not removed it will eventually turn into tartar, which then leads to tooth decay, gum problems and even tooth loss, and none of us want that!

We recommend to floss at least once a day.

For more information on Spotlight Whitening vest spotlightwhitening.com and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Interview by Erica Bracken. You can follow Erica on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.