Meet our first ever U.K. “Working Girl” Flora Chigwedere – principle dentist of a boutique dental spa in Covent Garden, London. With a genuine desire to build a great rapport with patients and having practiced private dentistry for over a decade, designing a stunning smile is clearly something that she does best!
By Marian Okogwu, un’ruly Contributor
Name: Flora Chigwedere
Location: London, UK
Profession: Principle dentist & owner of Covent Garden Dental Spa
How did you get started?
I was only 17 when I decided to become a dentist. At that young age, I knew whatever profession I went into would involve helping and healing people, so I decided I was going to either become a doctor or a dentist. While all my friends at school were planning to study medicine and pharmacy, I chose to go down the road less travelled and opted for dentistry. I’ve always liked to be different. That and the University of Zimbabwe (where I chose to go to school) did not offer dentistry, so my choice guaranteed I would be adventuring abroad. As an 18-year-old freshman, I was ready for new adventures and the start of a different life. I went to school in Harare, Zimbabwe, my country of birth. After graduating, I worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for a year which was another amazing and challenging adventure (I helped a couple set up a dental clinic from scratch). I came back to England and attended University in Manchester for another five years. Having been far away from home in Africa for five years of undergraduate studies, I enjoyed being back in England and closer to my family who were only an hour’s flight away. I then returned to London in 2000 and practiced in and around central London prior to setting up Covent Garden Dental Spa in 2008. When I decided to establish my own practice, I wanted to have something I could call my own, that I could welcome my patients to and make them feel comfortable about getting dentistry work done. It all started out as a little dream. I never thought it would become a reality.
What is an average day like?
Every day is different! On a typical Tuesday, for instance, I wake up at around a quarter to seven. I meet my trainer at 8am for a training session and now that the sun is shining, I may go for a run on the river embankment which is really beautiful. That for me is the best part of my day, because its sets me up for the day. I usually arrive at the office and start work at about 9:30 or 9:45am then I’m treating patients all day until about 7pm. By the time I finish treating patients, I have at least another hour of paperwork and then I go home and just chill out, read a book or watch a little TV. I like shows like “Breaking Bad”.
Why do you do it?
I enjoy treating my patients and building a rapport with them. A lot of our patients have been coming here for a long time; some for 8-9 years. After that much time, they become friends and that for me is very special. I am constantly meeting new people and being able to help them when they have problems gives me fulfilment. It adds something special to my day.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?
I’ll start with the ups. Just watching the practice grow and being with my team (we spend so much time together because we work so many hours) are definite highlights of the job because everyone I work with are great people. Treating my patients and just being able to run a successful practice is a highlight of everything I’ve accomplished, not just in my career but in my life as well. One of the pitfalls has been my personal life taking a back seat while the practice was growing. I didn’t have time for myself. I lived, breathed, ate, slept the practice and I couldn’t take any time off for myself. Now when I look back, I realize I’ve sort of neglected certain aspects of my personal life; however I now make sure I prioritize “me” and am now able to find time to address aspects of my life I once neglected.
What singular piece of advice would you give a young woman looking to get into your field?
Work hard, don’t give up on your dream and when you decide what you want; go for it 100%. For those looking to open their own practice one day, I’d give the same advice, but mostly importantly, I advise them to not give up when they come across hurdles. If you get knocked down, just get yourself up and try again, because you will come across many obstacles along the way until you finally achieve success, and those obstacles will make you stronger.
What sort of characteristics do you look for in a potential employee?
Confident, hardworking are the main characteristics I try to look for in people that perhaps, don’t necessarily have the right qualifications. For example, you don’t have to have been a dental receptionist to answer phones; you just have to have the right attitude to get the job done. If I am looking to hire a dentist, I look for an individual that is warm and someone with a nice smile; I am always drawn to people with nice smiles.
What or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who are successful and have started off with nothing like myself. A friend of mine owns the Chelsea Day Spa here in London and to date, has opened three locations starting from very humble beginnings. She is highly ambitious and when I tell her “I really admire you,” she thinks I’m joking but I really do admire her because she’s been extremely successful in everything she has done. I also admire individuals who have made a success of owning their own dental practices. It’s always good to be inspired by people who are successful.
What might be next for you?
Finding more of a comfortable balance in my life…a comfortable work-play balance.
What are your top 5 hair tips?
- I use a small drop of Argan Oil every other night. It nourishes the hair and helps it grow. I’ve found that since I’ve started using it, my hair has grown quite a bit.
- I visit my hairdresser for a treatment every two weeks!
- I exercise quite a bit, so I put a small amount of oil in my hair after a workout.
- Have a good relationship with your hairdresser! My hairdresser is also one of my patients!
- I wrap my hair every night and just let it be. The less you fuss with your hair, the better the chances it will grow longer and stronger.
Fun Fact: I love to travel! I am a flip-flop wearing backpack chick, but still travel with my Gucci handbag. I love getting lost and with the help of a map, jump on a bus and decide if I want to visit a town or village! When I get tired of my backpacking adventurous side, I’ll check myself into a five star hotel (laughs).