Originally from St. Louis, MO, Dennis Hanlon, Founder and CEO of Soluria™, spent his entire career developing technology, bringing ideas to market and consulting with large international corporations. When an opportunity arose in late 2015 to develop a product that was missing in the removable oral device and freshening marketplace, Hanlon accepted the challenge.
"I've worked with a lot of PhDs during my work in commercial development," Hanlon said. "One of those PhDs called me about developing and commercializing a new cleansing and freshening spray for removable oral dental and sports devices. I believed that if we could come up with a good formulation, it could be a solid commercial opportunity. I did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that this opportunity represented a marketplace of millions of people who wear removable oral devices and there was no convenient solutions to helping eliminate bacteria, stop odors and bad taste and provide a fantastic flavor. Soluria™ ™ was officially formed in January 2016."
Hanlon developed the flavor profile for the product three months later. He then conducted market validation, produced the formula, engaged research activity with a prominent dental forensics professor, filed for a patent, contracted with an FDA and ISO certified manufacturing plant and set up production. For Hanlon, much of this was business as usual.
"For me to adopt a product technology and take it to market is something that's totally natural," he said. "I know how to do it and I totally enjoy it. That is a must! Even though I've bootstrapped the whole thing, we're slowly entering the growth curve towards being successful."
Soluria’s flagship product, Smile Saver™, is a refreshing and cleansing spay for removable oral devices. Products like clear aligners, retainers, night guards and partial dentures are subject to bacteria buildup. This one-of-a-kind product is specially formulated to help eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria in just 60 seconds. It also eliminates odors, bad breath and potential oral health issues.
"There's nothing else like it on the market," Hanlon said. "Traditional cleansing and freshening is usually done with a soak such as Efferdent. However, our product allows you to pop out the device, spray it, wait a minute and put it right back in. It’s simple and easy to use coupled with total on-the-go convenience. It's so important to keep these devices clean. The moment a retainer, or any oral device, goes in your mouth, bacterial load begins to grow. Our product helps eliminate that bacteria and neutralize any odors."
Soluria™ sells directly through its website and several other channels. Distributors, for example, have thousands of sales professionals who then sell direct to dentists. Soluria™ is also going after the manufacturers of various dental devices and working with them to become referral sources. These relationships, according to Hanlon, can be extremely beneficial for both parties.
Looking ahead, Hanlon, who's excited about providing a solution for an unmet need, is very focused on future growth. He wants to expand consumer access points to the product and is optimistic about the profitability and the scalability of his company. His short term goal is to raise enough capital to continue expansion. Long term goals are even loftier.
"If everything goes as planned, we'll probably exit in a few years," he said. "It's typical in this industry for someone with a much deeper presence in the oral health market to build a relationship with a startup and ultimately create the opportunity for the startup to exit. The larger firms avoid expensive R&D, but are able to use their extensive systems, reach, and their brand names to rapidly expand. We're delivering something of value. That usually translates into revenue and profitability for everyone."
What advice does Hanlon have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Stay within yourself," he said. "You can't allow yourself to go in too many directions at same time. That is frustrating and expensive. Identify the most important things to take you from point A to point B and maintain your passion. Without passion, you won't have the ability to withstand the negatives. Remember, the pathway to success is difficult. You need to be well disciplined and focused."