I will never forget the smiles on their faces as they both peaked their heads through the door of their newly renovated office, “All About Smiles.” Dr. Grace and Dr. Lew were just like children on Christmas morning when together, they shouted, “Is this OUR office?!”
Fortunately, one of our renovation team members was able to capture that moment. To this day, that photo remains one of my all-time favorite portfolio pictures because it so clearly defines the why of what we do as interior designers. It just doesn’t get any better than that! What our clients did NOT know was that just five minutes before they arrived, our entire team had just completed the final cleaning, and I even had a minute to wipe the dirt off my face and shirt before they arrived!
As they walked around their “new” office, they just kept saying, “I can’t believe it is the same office!” In less than 10 days while they were away on vacation, our team was tasked with transforming their office from what had formerly been overbearing floral wall coverings and heavy dark wood throughout to a serene, zen-like space and backdrop for their holistic dentistry practice. The contrast between the “before” and the “after” was truly remarkable, so to experience their excitement and delight was one of those moments I will always remember.
While we have been providing comprehensive interior design services to dentists like Dr. Grace and Dr. Lew for over 30 years, one of the reasons that I continue to be inspired by what I do is that each project provides an opportunity for me to use my God-given talents to impact and improve the lives of our clients and their businesses through interior design. My experience has been that REAL DESIGN OCCURS WHEN THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT CONVEYS OUR CLIENT’S PASSION, PURPOSE AND MISSION.
As interior designers, we are tasked to design and create the physical environments for your dental practice and team to thrive. But what has always intrigued me is what happens AFTER our design team leaves. This is when the rubber meets the road. This is where it is now up to the dentists to build and to lead their teams to be the highly successful practice that they envisioned it to be.
After all, it is really about the people … and that is what the story is really about, the story of a truly great leader.
Let me back track for a minute. I met Dr. Grace Lui at a photo shoot for the Women’s Journal in which we were both being featured. While we waited several hours between shoots, we had an opportunity to get to know each other, connecting on many levels. Clearly what stood out for me that day was her passion to serve others, to make a difference in the lives of not just her patients, but also her staff. She genuinely cared about both their personal and professional development. So a few months later when she called to ask if I would assist with the design and refurbishment of their dental office, All About Smiles, I gladly accepted.
In working with Grace throughout the design process, she never once wavered about the importance of making sure that their patients were cared for and that their staff would love working there. In addition to her passion for making a profound impact on patients through holistic dentistry, she is passionate about hiring and building the right team, one that will carry out their mission and vision. In fact, we became part of her team of trusted advisors—to the extent that she entrusted the entire renovation to our team while they went on vacation. A sign of a great leader is to trust and have confidence that your team will perform effectively—even in your absence. It is that kind of leader that inspires her team to perform at their highest level.
Grace’s life has not always been easy. At the age of 14, she arrived in the U.S. with her mother and two brothers. She was greatly influenced by her mother’s willingness and determination to take a great risk to leave their comfortable life behind in Taiwan to raise three children in the States, all who have become dentists. While Grace wanted to be as doctor, she received a dental scholarship to NYU, then continued her education at Columbia University and the Academy of Dentistry, and later continued her education at Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Studies.
For 10 years she worked for a number of dental practices—and per Grace, “hated it.” She hated the idea of “drill, fill and bill”. As a woman, dentist, entrepreneur, wife and mother, she wanted so much more.
A definitive moment for her was in 2014 when she had the opportunity to work at the Ministry of Caring dental facility that treats homeless patients. She was so inspired by her patients because they allowed her to see a different side of the world she had never seen before. She was curious and would ask, “Who is treating your kid’s teeth?” She felt so blessed to be “going on a mission trip” each day that was a mere 15 minutes from her house. She was being called to give back in some way, but she was still not sure how.
It was in 2015 that she had the opportunity to buy a pediatric dental practice in Smyrna, Del., that serves low income children. While she had not been trained to treat children, the doctor whose practice she was purchasing showed her how to make it fun to come to the dentist. Dr. Grace and her entire staff can be seen wearing fairy wings, tutus and carrying magic wands—all in an effort to elicit smiles on the faces of the children and their moms … and to make it fun for kids to come to the dentist. Typical of a highly successful entrepreneur, she had no idea how to do it, but she knew she had to. It was Grace’s strong faith and her belief that she “can do all things with God.”
The Smile Place was born. Every day she and her staff have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of their patients and “bring people closer to God.” It is in this special place—The Smile Place—that Grace is completely connected to her passion, purpose and mission where she can be of service to others and be a blessing to all of those around her. A confident, savvy businesswoman who has created a culture that educates, inspires and empowers her team to fulfill the vision of providing exceptional care in a fun, friendly environment.
She is fearless, unstoppable and willing to risk it all to make a difference in lives of others.
What‘s next for this visionary leader, dental entrepreneur? She recently purchased yet another practice, one that serves low income Hispanic community.
It has been a blessing and an honor to share Grace’s story with other aspiring women dentists and entrepreneurs. She is a truly great leader, one who inspires greatness in herself and in others.
While we, as interior designers, create beautiful and functional environments for businesses to grow, it is people like Dr. Grace who create the culture for people to grow.