By Olivia Preston and Rochelle Martin
Can a bright white smile truly bring you happiness? Dr Zahida Johal, founder of ZSmile London, believes that it can.
With over 30 years of experience, she has utilised her dental knowledge to create authentic teeth-whitening products, designed to put a smile on every face.
Smiling increases the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are also known as ‘happy hormones’. This fact is the reason why Dr Zahida is on a mission to make people truly smile, as she always says “it all starts with a smile”.
“What I have learnt now, is that self-belief is the biggest factor in your own success…”
Why have you made it your mission to create your teeth whitening products?
I have made it my mission to create teeth whitening products, due to the sheer anguish I feel when I see online businesses selling products, which induce negative changes to teeth enamel. These businesses make a profit by using good marketing tactics for bad products.
Hence, my ZSmile teeth whitening product e-commerce business was born through frustration, caused by the frequent misinformation coming from other online teeth whitening product businesses.
How have you juggled being a wife, mother of 4, dentist and now businesswoman?
I have successfully juggled being a mother, wife and dentist by working part-time once my children arrived. Admittedly, it was a juggling act, especially when my children were of primary school age.
I always worked at dental surgeries for someone else so I could spend as much time with my children and chose not to set up my own dental practice for this reason.
Being a dentist is a great career as a working mother, due to the flexibility in the hours I worked or was given by my employers. That was something I truly appreciated as it allowed me to continue working, whilst having a young family.
If I had bought my own dental practice it would have been a huge commitment, as time would have been taken away from my family. My husband was working long hours, 6 days a week, which was another reason why I did not want to sacrifice my time by owning my own business.
My children are older now and are more self-sufficient – the youngest are aged 15 and 12, and the elder two, aged 23 and 18, live away from home. At the age of 55, I feel like now is my time to focus on my entrepreneurial journey, my dream and passion project, alongside financial freedom.
Why was it important for you to use organic natural elements when creating your strips and kits?
When creating my strips and products, I wanted to be able to use as many natural products as possible. I wanted the ingredients I used to be a mix of natural and dental grade. We are also introducing more sustainable products.
I believe the dental profession needs to start becoming more eco-friendly and start taking sustainability more seriously, especially in regards to the dental /oral care products we recommend to our patients.
How do your hobbies help you in your business? Relieve stress? Decompress?
My hobbies consist of walking, yoga, meditation and reading (although it’s more listening to audiobooks nowadays) which all help me relax and de-stress.
Self-care and self-love are crucial to success, especially when you are an entrepreneur, as it ensures you maintain good mental and physical health.
As an entrepreneur, you can easily get caught up in the day-to-day running of our businesses and sometimes you won’t know when to stop.
Therefore, it is crucial to diarise self-care time, whatever that may be for you. It might be exercise, dance, meeting up with friends, a therapy session or just stopping to do nothing – sitting in the sun reading a book.
Meditation can provide a great way to incorporate self-care and self-love into one. It can facilitate you to visualise your future, long-term planning of goals, or just to quieten your mind.
This all keeps you focussed and stops burnout from occurring.
Why is raising awareness of mental health struggles in young people so important to you?
I am very passionate about raising awareness of mental health struggles in young people, as I have seen it first-hand with my own children.
I have witnessed the lack of support given to my own child, the stigma behind mental health issues and how our education system is not helping either.
My own mother had schizophrenia, so I was aware of the stigma that surrounded mental health issues from a very early age. This was during the 70s and 80s, a time when mental health struggles just weren’t spoken about.
However, when I went through issues with my own son in 2016, I realised that the stigma is still there, and the support is only slightly better, with limited resources for support.
It is for these reasons that I am very vocal. I fundraise and aim to raise awareness so that our younger generations, who are suffering more than ever due to COVID, get the support they really need.
Let’s place as much emphasis on mental fitness as we do physical fitness.
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I wish I had known how hard it actually is to start your own business. I made an active decision not to set up my own dental practice, as I knew it would take up a lot of my time and effort.
What I have learnt now, is that self-belief is the biggest factor in your own success in business – you must actually believe, deep down, that you can achieve your business goals. This is something I have learnt whilst setting up my business and continually working on it.
How has the pandemic changed how you do business?
The pandemic has actually been a positive entity for my business. My business involves a virtual dental screening, which we ask our customers to do. As a result of the pandemic, with people having to do most things virtually, the public are getting accustomed to this being part of life.
Also, due to the pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for patients to get appointments for face-to-face consultations with dentists. Thus, having virtual dental screening is a way that they may not have to see the dentist for teeth whitening (unless we specify after the screening).
However, we will still be recommending people to have regular face-to-face dental check ups, if they can get an appointment, as these are crucial for maintaining a beautiful smile .
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
My advice to a woman wanting to be an entrepreneur is to truly believe in yourself, as that is the biggest factor that will lead to the success of your business. It is also crucial to get a mentor, especially if you are a solopreneur.
The next step would be to join network groups like Global Woman, where you will be surrounded by like-minded women championing your growth. After that, all you have to do is focus on your goals, as dreams can come true.