Founder Profile: Dr. Sima Yakoby Epstein, Penn
DMD/Advanced/Graduate Dentistry and Oral Sciences ’02, Orthodontics/Orthodontology ‘07
Meet Dr. Sima Yakoby Epstein, Healthcare Innovator, Entrepreneur and Founder of Orthonu
Dr. Sima Yakoby Epstein was the first generation in her family born and raised in the United States — in Forest Hills, New York. She comes from a Georgian immigrant culture and mentality “where the American dream is real and anything in life is possible and worth fighting for.”
After receiving extensive dental work as a young girl due to a catastrophic automobile accident, Sima became fascinated with and grew to appreciate the vital role that an Orthodontist plays in creating a person’s smile, one they can celebrate with confidence. She learned firsthand how a physical change provides mental and emotional benefits.
As she pursued her career, Sima was honored with a Deans Academic Merit Scholarship from Penn’s School of Dental Medicine and received her Doctor of Dental Medicine. After a residency at New York Hospital, training and teaching at NYU Advanced Education in Esthetic Dentistry, and working as a cosmetic and restorative dentist in NYC, she returned to Penn for her Post-Doctoral Orthodontics Certification.
As Sima built out her dental practice, she realized the need for a self-care brand in orthodontics, with a focus on emergency care, oral hygiene and oral aesthetics. She began building tools that patients could use themselves to deal with “emergency” issues. She launched OrthoNu in 2020 with several “Tweakz” products — easy to use kits that look sort of like Swiss Army knives — and are full of solutions.
Tell us a bit about your company
Orthonu is a pioneer in the advancement of oral healthcare. It is a self-care brand for Orthodontics, a new category in the CPG space, with a focus on emergency care, oral hygiene, and oral aesthetics. It transforms society’s understanding that mouthcare is equal to healthcare and our mission is to eliminate the pain and embarrassment of wearing braces and aligners.
What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
I knew that during Covid, I felt the most motivated to do something impactful. I looked at what I knew was needed all those years as the patients left the office. They felt vulnerable and stressed and unsure of the inevitable issues that would arise. I said to myself, I know exactly what my patients need. No more toenail clippers, no more MacGyver antics for emergencies. I will create the ideal toolbox. It will have every pain point addressed and it will be a different experience.
So, it started in my basement, and I started drawing this tool that ended up looking like a swiss army knife. I thought it was brilliant and continued to think of what came to be my pipeline of 18 products and solutions. It was incredible to see how much I knew needed to be changed in that 20 year old goody bag and I was going to be the first one to attempt to create a more modern, innovative tool box that represented the way I wanted my patients to feel.
So, it became real when my friend Erin Romanowski pushed me to make the next step, call my brother Raphael Yakoby and get the number of a patent lawyer. From then, I knew this just became my reality. Orthonu was now a business to create and make sure it succeeded no matter what had to be done.
What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?
I come from a Georgian immigrant culture and mentality where the American dream is real and anything in life is possible and worth fighting for. I have always loved the feeling of being able to work so hard and give everything I can to accomplish any goal. I remember doing a cartwheel in the empty hallways of my college pillars, amazed, exhausted, and delighted in the results that came from incredible motivation and discipline. I then knew that life’s happiness was somewhere intermingled with pushing yourself so hard that you surprised yourself to the point of knowing that you were responsible for your next move and all the while relishing in your successes and creating more reasons to continue to celebrate.
When my face crashed into a dashboard and all I could see was blood, I feel that was the impetus of all my life’s work. I remained a patient my whole life with the knowledge of an Orthodontist to create my passion, living though the emotions of all my patients and being able to create solutions to what concerns them and makes them feel vulnerable.
I like to be in control, and I feel having knowledge and the correct tools in life makes you live life differently. I want to give that power to everyone. I want to see confident smiles, warmed hearts, and motivated souls. I feel like my compassion for all people drives me to want to give in every way I can. What I enjoy most is knowing that I was able to shift the path, imagine hope and make a difference in a human’s life. I want to carry everyone and make them feel safe and strong. That’s the heart I was given, so I am ready to give. The thought of helping people of all walks of life globally gives me the chills.
As an Orthodontist, I was able to transform children’s smiles, ease parent’s minds and create dramatic results. I want to get there; I want to change the Orthodontic industry by giving people the ability to have all the power to succeed.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
Tweakz, is our revolutionary product already embraced by orthodontists and dental companies. My go-to-market for Tweakz creates relationships and distribution channels to sell our additional 18 patent pending products in the pipeline which is our path to scale. As a doctor — preventive healthcare is my end goal — I’ve already sponsored research with University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine & Penn Innovation Center to enable that powerful future shift.
What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
My difficulties have turned into the inevitable expectations that everything will go wrong, and it will only matter how quickly I can pivot and figure out the next step, the next best solution. The other fact is, I don’t know what I don’t know so it’s a constant education in the world of business. Lastly, my only risk is that I don’t scale fast enough to grow and become the first to market for self-care solutions for the Orthodontic profession.
What surprises have you encountered as an entrepreneur? Something out of left field?
I live by this quote to achieve success in life. “You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else. “- Albert Einstein.
Being a female means changing the way I viewed myself and what I was capable of. I had to shift to becoming a super woman in the most vulnerable moments to create that positive reinforcement in myself. I had to dig deep to believe that my purpose was so great, my true motivation in life was so pure that the universe would show me the way and teach me everything I needed to know along the way.
I am still stepping one foot in front of the other. I still dream of flying around the world giving these new innovative devices for preventive healthcare to underprivileged communities and changing the trajectory of an innocent child’s life.
Together, we got this!!!
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
With my colleagues and all dental professionals, it changes the game for the way their day schedule and after hours is created. We decrease unexpected visits that cause stress to the time management of other patients as well as decrease the ambiguity of after-hours calls that seem hopeless and create more anxiety for the patient. With the advent of telehealth, it takes the tension and intense feeling of the unknown for the children and parents running to work, school, vacations, and sports. It gives them a solution to what would have typically been a real issue in the inner workings of day-to-day life. The patients feel confident that they have their self-care solutions and the doctors see the benefit of having the problems addressed so efficiently.
My goal is to expand, to scale and create the new golden standard of care in the Dental Industry. I want the keynote leaders, the incredible mentors, the Orthodontic businesses to all expand and realize we can do better for our patients and together, with all our brilliance joined, we can accomplish it.
How can the WAFFA community help you?
The ability to be affiliated with WAFFA creates the greatest of opportunities and allows Orthonu to be set up for success and creates strategic partnerships to set Orthonu up for success.
Anything else you’d like to share?
With my colleagues and all dental professionals, it changes the game for the way their day schedule and after hours is created. We decrease unexpected visits that cause stress to the time management of other patients as well as decreases the ambiguity of after-hours calls that seem hopeless and creates more anxiety for the patient. With the advent of telehealth, it takes the tension and intense feeling of the unknown for the children and parents running to work, school, vacations, and sports. It gives them a solution to what would have typically been a real issue in the innerworkings of day-to-day life. The patients feel confident that they have their self-care solutions and the doctors see the benefit of having the problems addressed so efficiently.
I wanted to let people know it was for the Orthodontic community, hence ORTHO and NU was interesting to me because when written together in a certain font nu looks like the infinity symbol infusing the way I feel about life’s abundance and endless hope. Coming from a beautiful Georgian culture, a common expression would be, “NU!!!” meaning let’s go, what’s going to be? Keep going, change gears, up you go. A small word which kept me motivated throughout my life as a young girl and even now. Lastly, it represents the “NEW”, the innovation of what can be. New things to aspire to be, to do and live.
Check out Orthonu here!