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The ups and downs of starting a business and the rewards of creating a solution for efficiently auditing and tracking state specific continuing education credits in the dental industry.

Sarah Thiel, RDH

 Had anyone told me six years ago I would be sitting right here writing an article for a dental hygiene newsletter, I would have looked him or her in the face and laughed hysterically. I didn’t seek this out. I didn’t grow up knowing this is what I wanted to do, it just happened. This is the story of CE Zoom. (1)

About nine years ago, I was going along with my life as a mother, wife, and dental hygienist. I had a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, and a great position working three days a week. At the time I was pregnant with our second daughter, when all of a sudden I realized I still needed to get most of my continuing education (CE) completed within the next eight months. Being a procrastinator I tend to put things off until the last minute. When we get caught up in our perfect lives, there are things we put on the back burner. This just happened to be something that wasn’t at the top of my priority list at that time. Naturally, I panicked, sat down at my computer and start searching for opportunities to obtain CE credits in my area.

Sarah Thiel, RDH and Katrinna R. Jackson, RDH, BS, CE Zoom Founders

First question, where can I find CE? I tried local searches, but there was nothing in my area. I live in a small town and there are few CE courses offered in my locale. After searching for hours with no results, I remembered that the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) was going to be in Albuquerque that year! I realized I could obtain all the CE credits needed that had to be obtained by attending a “live” course. I attended the ADHA Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL), and for obvious reasons I really enjoyed it. With my arms full of all my handouts, exhibitor swag, and personal belongings, I had clenched in my hand that one little piece of paper I had traveled and spent much money to obtain. I walked out the door and my certificate got caught in a gust of wind. There. It. Went! Sailing in the wind. Instantly, I drop everything in my hands because that piece of paper was worth more than gold to me at that moment. I stomp on the paper with my high heels, pick it up, marched to my car and shoved it in the glove box! The whole way home I just couldn’t believe certificates were still on paper! Paper! Seriously, we are in the 21st century!

Sarah and Kat seeing the “Register” button on the website for the first time!

This is where it all began, and from there I just started thinking. Why isn’t there a centralized location for me to find courses and have them tracked against my states specific requirements? I did a lot of research to find digital trackers, but none of them were easy to use or really worked properly. One day my family and I were on vacation in Utah at my Brother Jed’s house and he mentioned that the company he worked for built web applications. Immediately my thoughts went to my recent experience. Now let me warn you, this appears like it would be easy, right? Just build an application that would store continuing education certificates and track CE credits. Wrong. The ideas I had were too grand for the first web development companies I approached. After working with them and exchanging emails they quoted me a fee I could not afford to pay. I asked them to partner with me, and they said they would!

I got right to work on my research. After many unreturned emails they decided they couldn’t work with me after all. I stewed over it for about six months or so, when I finally convinced my former employer/friend Kat, who is also a dental hygienist, that she should embark on this project with me. She provided the funding and we got back to work. I called Jed’s company and told them we obtained the funds to begin the project! They started to build a website. We weren’t very far into development when we heard there was another company launching an application similar to ours. The company we were working with at the time told us there was no way we could compete and advised us to invest our passion and excitement into something else.

At this point I had the opportunity to sit on the state dental board for my state. Being on the inside I could see the problems oral healthcare professionals were faced with when searching for courses, storing CE credits, tracking CE requirements and renewing their licenses. This insider perspective would allow me to apply this knowledge to CE Zoom thereby greatly benefiting the healthcare professionals using the CE Zoom application.

After confiding in a friend, I was referred to our current web development company, Translucent Developments. (2) Their approach was much different than the previous web development company. Translucent Development specializes in large-scale web application development and offers a service they refer to as “Startup Development” which means they understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful web based company. After learning about their record of success with educational apps we started working together immediately. The first step was to ensure that they understood the problems that dental professionals face regarding continuing education and the relicensing process so together we could write a set of requirements which would serve as the blueprint for the CE Zoom application.

We started the development process in December, 2014. Outside of the development process Kat and I were responsible for gathering each states specific requirements and supplying them to Translucent Developments in a usable format. Kat and I spent many nights reading through every state’s rules and regulations, deciphering them, carefully documenting them, and calling the states to make sure we read them all correctly. I had one state tell me that I needed my attorney to read through the rules and regulations because they were concerned I would misinterpret their words and they would be liable. I believe that if a state’s rules and regulations are so difficult to understand that one needs an attorney to be compliant with their dental hygiene license, something is seriously wrong with this picture.

After months of preparation and development we were finally ready to attend our first conference as exhibitors. We attended the ADHA Annual Session in Nashville, TN. The point of attending this conference was to gain feedback and start getting dental hygienists excited about the CE Zoom application and it was a huge success! We came away with many new friends and contacts and some really excited dental hygienists.

There is currently nothing like CE Zoom. There is no place an oral healthcare professional can go that will inform them of all the available continuing education opportunities. There is no website where a presenter can enter a course and have it go directly to the dental hygienist or dentist who needs those CE programs. There is no program of which I am aware that will literally track Continuing Education Credits against each individual’s state requirements in an audit-proof fashion. Why wouldn’t dental hygienists be excited?

I write this because I had no clue about the difficulty of this journey. It has been hard work, but I know this hard work will one day be worth it. If you have an idea, go for it! Don’t just sit back and wonder what could have been. Yes it’s been difficult, but I have met so many amazing people from this venture and I have experienced things some people may never be able to experience. We are confident that CE Zoom will be a huge success but even if it’s not, at least we can say we tried and didn’t sit back and watch someone else do it.