Dr. Carla Thomas believes it is important for people to have access to quality services within their community. After growing up and attending school in Inglewood, graduating from USC’s School of Dentistry in 1996, she chose to open her own dental practice in her hometown. The Smile Studio offers preventive, periodontal care, cosmetic dentistry, and restorative care to keep the Inglewood community smiling.
After more than 15 years in business, Dr. Thomas purchased her own building in 2011 on a busy thoroughfare and expanded her practice substantially. By 2013, she was seeking to refinance an existing loan she used to purchase dental equipment. Looking for advice on obtaining better loan terms, she visited the Small Business Development Center hosted by Pacific Coast Regional.
SBDC Business Advisors Tom McCluskey andMyron Perryman helped Dr. Thomas put together a loan application, explore her financing options, compare interest rates and loan terms, and ultimately obtain two loans totaling nearly approximately $280,000.
Take It Step by Step
Dr. Thomas was anxious to find a loan program that would provide the money she needed with the best possible terms and interest rate. “The [SBDC was] very helpful with all of it — the applications, the financial statements,” she recalls. “I had a lot of questions, and they were there to answer them immediately, walking me through all the necessary steps I needed to complete the loan.”
In July 2013, Dr. Thomas obtained a loan for $134,000 through the SBDC and used it to purchase dental equipment. “The rate and terms of the new loan was much better,” she recalls. “The lower payment allowed me to increase my monthly cash flow.”
Go Back to the Source
“Myron was very knowledgeable and made the loan process painless,” Dr. Thomas says. “I had such a great experience that [later in 2013] I approached him again to obtain financing on new equipment I planned to purchase.”
Once again, Perryman and McCluskey helped Dr. Thomas assess her options, but this time, they determined that the best financing option came from the dental equipment company itself. “The loan had such good terms, we couldn’t match it and advised her to take that loan,” says McCluskey. Being able to rely on a trusted source such as the SBDC for advice left Dr. Thomas feeling confident that she found the best possible loan program for her dental practice and her needs.
You Can Do It!
“When you take on something this large, you’re nervous,” says Dr. Thomas, who confesses to feeling “a lot of anxiety” about taking out loans as she expanded her practice. “The most important thing I received from the [SBDC] was support and encouragement. They helped me feel more confident that this was the right move.”
Today The Smile Studio is a state-of-the-art dental facility, boasting 95 percent new equipment with all the latest technology and materials used in dentistry. “My practice has grown tremendously,” Dr. Thomas says.
Now in a 3,200-square-foot location that’s quadruple the size of her original office, Dr. Thomas has been able to expand from three treatment rooms to eight, triple the amount of patients she can see per day, and cut appointment scheduling from two months out to two weeks out. To handle the increased patient base, she’s hired two new dental hygienists, two new doctors, two new specialists and one new assistant, expanding her staff from four employees to 11.
Dr. Thomas, who is committed to serving the Inglewood community, is striving to become the premier dental office in the area. “I want to create a customer service environment that’s above and beyond, and I think we’re well on our way.
“The [SBDC was] very helpful with all of it — the applications, the financial statements. I had a lot of questions, and they were there to answer them immediately, walking me through all the necessary steps I needed to complete the loan.”– Dr. Carla Thomas, Dentist, The Smile Studio