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Meet Ella Choi, Founder of Playtime Pediatric Dentistry and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Staples Start-up Award Finalist


Ella Choi

Founder, Playtime Pediatric Dentistry

Finalist, Staples Start-Up Award, WEST


Before starting her own clinic, pediatric dentist Ella Choi had worked at three different dental offices, learning a lot about how the business should be run. In 2015, she founded Playtime Pediatric Dentistry to bring her own vision to life: a nurturing place for children and their families, fostering both a child’s trust and positive feelings about dentist visits and oral care. She now owns two Playtime Pediatric Dentistry offices in Lower Mainland, BC, as well as a general dental practice under the name Encore Dental, located in Port Coquitlam.


My first job ever was… working at a tea cafe in Toronto. As a high school student, getting complimentary bubble tea sounded like a good deal. From that experience I learned the importance of customer service and how front line staff can really make the difference between an excellent experience and a bad experience for a customer.


I decided to be an entrepreneur when… I was looking for a clinic to work at three years ago and I found it very difficult to find a place with treatment philosophy that aligned with mine. I wanted to create a nurturing environment for patients and staff using experience and knowledge I gathered working as an associate dentist for five years. I also wanted to make sure that I could provide patients with the latest technology and offer different options by tailoring each treatment plan to different patients. The best way to provide the treatment I believed in was to create a dental clinic of my own.


My proudest accomplishment is… balancing motherhood and the career that I spent so many years building. It is still work in progress and I may not find the perfect balance, but I am so fortunate to be a working mother. I feel energized by my work and when I am with my child, I am very present.


My boldest move to date was… acquiring two dental clinics within a month in 2016. There was a lot of due diligence, staff training, and transitioning that had to happen in a short period of time. I learned so much from the previous owner dentists and was able to integrate the positives of each clinic to make all of my dental clinics more successful.


I surprise people when I tell them… I took two months off for maternity leave. The short maternity leave is the biggest downfall of being a self-employed mother, but it is inevitable as an entrepreneur.


My best advice to people starting their business is… make sure you surround yourself with excellent and experienced people who are invested in helping you become successful. I really enjoy working with people who are experts in their field, hardworking and sincere.


My best advice from a mentor was… that if you are a good clinician, you will be successful no matter how competitive the market is. In 2016 the opportunity for me to acquire a pediatric dental clinic in Vancouver came up. I was at first hesitant at the thought of running another business in a highly competitive market. I trusted that if we provide the superior service to parents who demand specialized care for their children, people will seek us out. It was a calculated risk and it has paid off. We are projecting 20% growth this year.


If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my late father. My father passed away from cancer when I was 17 years old. One piece of the advice he gave me is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. When challenges come up, I remind myself to keep my eyes on the long term goal and not to be weighed down by the daily grind. I wish I could get more life advice from him.


I would tell my 20-year old self… not to trust other people’s words without fact, check for yourself. When I was younger and inexperienced, I would hear other people’s suggestions and advice and gullibly trust them. It is important to gather your own facts and make an informed decision.


“Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When challenges come up, I remind myself to keep my eyes on the long term goal and not to be weighed down by the daily grind.”


My biggest setback was… when a competitor opened its doors next to me shortly after I opened my dental clinic.


I overcame it by… focusing on my own goals and worked on differentiating ourselves by focusing on patient care and quality of dental services.


The last book I read was… Scott Adam’s How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Written by the creator of Dilbert, it is an entertaining story of his failure and success and I really enjoyed it.


I stay inspired by… my husband. He is a constant thinker and reader. He enjoys reading biographies of great people in history, and keeps a journal of his inspirations, goals and dreams, which I think is a fantastic habit. A lawyer by training, he is logical and systematic in his approach. He has taught me to be more careful in decision making and he is proud and supportive of my career achievements.


The future excites me because… I am just starting my career. I am honing my skills and waiting for the next opportunity to grow and expand my business. I am constantly learning and challenging myself to be a better entrepreneur.


My next step is… to grow each dental clinic to reach its maximum potential and prepare for further growth and expansion.