When her 3-year-old son, John Paul, fell in the shower and chipped his four front teeth, Brenda Hansen’s life took an unexpected turn. Dismayed by the lack of satisfying options to restore her son’s teeth, Brenda reluctantly settled on strip and preveneered stainless steel crowns, which in her mind seemed almost prehistoric in a time when medical breakthroughs were grabbing headlines almost daily.
The strip crowns used to repair the damage repeatedly cracked or broke entirely, leading to dreadful and frequent trips to the pediatric dentist’s office. As for the metal crowns with a nickel component, neither Brenda nor her husband, who operated a thriving adult cosmetic and restorative dental practice, would consider this option. The prospect of subpar metal materials setting up residency in John Paul’s mouth was unacceptable to these two health-conscious individuals.
“There was literally nothing on the market at that time besides pediatric crowns based on archaic technology and materials,” Brenda observes. “It’s difficult as a parent when you want to give your child the best, but the best doesn’t exist, and you know it. I simply wanted something for my son made of a more durable, natural material with technology that I could be confident in, but I had no choice.”
The idea of entrepreneurship didn’t cross Brenda’s mind at first. In fact, it wasn’t even about innovation, invention or disruption of an entrenched benighted market. In Brenda’s case, her entrepreneurial fuse was ignited by the dire circumstances she discovered while simply seeking the best option to repair John Paul’s teeth.
Frustrated by their own personal experience, Brenda’s husband, John Hansen, and family friend, fellow dentist and respected dental anesthesiologist, Jeff Fisher, set out to develop a new, stronger, safer and more esthetically pleasing crown made just for kids.
Unaware their mission would morph into an idea that would eventually lead to an industry-altering invention and a vibrant company, Brenda, John and Jeff began to do what almost every driven team does when they are on a mission of change—brainstorm.
Brenda approached the exercise with the intensity of a mom out to save other moms and their children from the agonizing experience she and her son had endured.
The team’s innovative ideas led to the formation of a new company, Sprig, with an extensive R&D process dedicated to creating and validating a new revolutionary crown for kids. The new crowns were made from Zirconia, a material with virtually indestructible fine-grain translucent crystal structure. Important to Brenda and her partners, the crowns were also completely bio-inert and resistant to decay and plaque accumulation. Brenda inherently knew as a mom these features would appeal to like-minded parents who sought the best for their children.
Brenda, now Sprig’s executive director, shepherds the company as it seeks to have an even greater impact. It’s a role she was well-suited to take on, having founded and managed another start-up from its inception until selling it to a large corporation. After that venture, Brenda helped build her husband’s dental practice into one of the top boutique cosmetic dentistry destinations in the country.
In her role of building up Sprig’s infrastructure, running day-to-day operations, providing fiscal management, and building strategic partnerships, Brenda is widely regarded as a powerhouse within a company responsible for disrupting the pediatric dental industry with durable, white pediatric crowns.
“We have an incredible, forward-thinking group—Jeff Fisher, who is always coming up with new ideas; my husband, John, who has this inventor’s personality; and Vladimir Shcherbak, Sprig’s operations manager, with his engineering mind.”
Brenda reflects that her predicted career trajectory did not include leading a dental-care company, but she would not have it any other way.
GOOD DENTAL HEALTH STARTS AT HOME
Born in Denver, Colorado, as the youngest of five children and raised in Sacramento, California, by parents who instilled in her the importance of a fulfilling career and family life, Brenda lives a life of happiness and hard work.
Brenda met her husband, John, at Sierra College. They have been together now for 31 years and counting. They have three beautiful children—two girls and one boy, now 22, 20 and 15 years old respectively.
“As a mom, I know first-hand how challenging it can be to teach children about the importance of dental health at a young age. I would say good nutrition was my biggest contribution to my kids’ oral health,” she reflects. “Our family diet at home has always been important to us. My kids didn’t appreciate my war on gummy candy and boxed lunches when they were younger, but now that they are older and making food decisions for themselves, they, and their teeth, have an appreciation for the good nutrition techniques we taught them.”
When her husband attended dental school, Brenda began learning more about oral health and the dental industry. After they opened the boutique cosmetic and restorative practice, she quickly became familiar with the dynamics of running an office and enjoyed providing hospitality, customer service, graciousness and care to patients.
Despite Brenda and her husband’s busy schedules with the practice and Sprig, they make a point to prioritize family time and personal wellbeing. Like busy moms everywhere, Brenda works to balance her demanding professional life with her roles as a wife and mother. “I make dinner and spend time with my family nearly every night, and on a good day I’ll enjoy yoga as well. Structure for me is really the key to balance in my life,” Brenda says.
Brenda’s kids believe in Sprig’s mission to improve oral health for all children, and for Brenda, the support of her whole family is a powerful motivator.
Brenda also encourages parents to find a pediatric dentist for their children, so they learn to enjoy going to the dentist from an early age. She tells parents that it is important to do their own research, but to be cautious of the source, especially online, since not all information is valid or trustworthy. She also tells parents to never be afraid to ask dentists, “What would you do if it were your child?”
THE ENTREPRENEUR’S JOURNEY
Brenda often speaks with people who are interested in starting their own business, offering her candid advice and encouraging them to be realistic and understand how much work it really takes.
“Owning and running your own business is a lot more work than you might realize and requires many sacrifices, but ultimately can be extremely rewarding. In my opinion, it’s important for emerging companies to assemble a strong team of people, solve a real problem, differentiate from the competition, and continuously improve without losing sight of core values. That’s what we do at Sprig.”
Sprig was not created without challenges. Brenda recalls the initial market reaction to Sprig: “In the beginning, the market was hesitant to accept us. We were new and the first company trying to disrupt the legacy pediatric dental industry. It takes time to build trust, and for us, it took data and favorable studies commissioned by independent organizations showing the proven success of our product to build on that trust.”
“After just six years of selling the product, the market now trusts us; our customers trust us; and even the competitive dental environment is embracing us. We are seeing growth like never before.”
Parents looking for a better alternative to old crowns call the Sprig office all the time asking where they can get EZCrowns for their kids.
“It’s up to us to educate pediatric dentists about our product, and it’s up to parents to keep asking dentists still only offering old pediatric crowns, ‘But isn’t there another option?’”
“We are all about improving the dental profession, specifically pediatric dentistry, for our doctors, parents and patients. We want to educate and inspire; not close off or control the market. We are in business for the greater good.”
Brenda has become intimately familiar with the dental industry and global business trends. She flies from California to conferences as far as Serbia to share the story of Sprig with its growing global customer base. “Dentistry, including pediatric dentistry, is moving toward a total health and wellness approach,” Brenda says. “It’s not about just fixing teeth anymore—it’s about understanding the patient’s total body health and how dental procedures and materials affect it.”
Under Brenda’s leadership, just as Sprig changed the landscape of the pediatric dental crown market, the company plans to continue disrupting the dental industry in new and creative ways.
“If it weren’t for Sprig launching its first crown, the pediatric dentistry market would not have changed. We pioneered this disruption and don’t plan to slow down any time soon.”
Dentists focused on the total health and wellness of their patients are increasingly dissatisfied with some of the available dental products, just as Brenda was after her son’s accident. That’s why Sprig focuses on bringing an innovative, technology-driven mindset to the pediatric dental market, creating more natural and more effective solutions that can improve the overall health and wellness of the next generation of dental patients.
With this strong mission and Sprig’s talented team in place, Brenda believes the company will reach its full potential and give countless patients healthier options for their dental needs.
“We look forward,” Brenda concludes, “to taking ownership of our commitment to innovation and technology in dentistry and evolving to help more children receive the oral health care they deserve.”