Dr. Sabrina Coombs and Dr. Stephanie Sadler share a dream for providing quality, inclusive and affordable dental care. Together, they bought and run a dental practice – Medella Dental in Brockton, Massachusetts – where they care for patients ranging from two to 95 years old. Through careful planning, they continue to advance their goals for dental care and business ownership. Their vision for Medella Dental is made possible with the knowledge and help of their banker who takes the time to understand what’s important to them and considers their evolving path as business owners.
Building Medella Dental Takes More Than Dentistry
Coombs and Sadler met in dental school, and only recently launched their practice in 2021. After working in Brockton following their graduations, both women felt a strong connection to the community. Sadler says, "We knew we liked the community, and the patients we would see." When a dental practice became available for sale, the two jumped at the opportunity to buy it.
Getting started involved more than practicing dentistry. They were becoming small business owners too. From the beginning, Coombs and Sadler committed to continuing the legacy of the prior practice owner, a general dentist who served the Brockton area for over 25 years caring for many patients throughout their lives. Beyond the finances involved with acquiring a practice, they were inheriting an opportunity to modernize a physical office with the latest digital technologies in dentistry. Coombs and Sadler saw potential for using digital radiographs over x-ray film, going paperless, and funding construction, mechanical, electrical and plumbing space renovations.
They were also buying a single site, community-focused dental practice when the market for dental practices was changing. As Coombs says, "When we started looking at individual practices to buy, the bigger dental support organizations were buying up those practices quickly, with some more than doubling in size and production. We had a small window to buy a practice." As recent dental school graduates, Coombs and Sadler didn't want to accumulate excess debt beyond their student loans and were concerned about their debt-to-income ratio and credit access.
In dental school, they were accustomed to banks coming onsite and leading workshops about balancing student loans, reducing credit card debt and financing options for dental practices. They knew they needed more information and support in order to open their own practice.
How Eastern Bank Made the Difference
Sadler and Coombs recognized that finding the right bank was a necessity. And they wanted to understand if they could even afford to purchase a practice based on their debt-to-income ratio. Before the pandemic, they consulted with larger banks they had gotten to know when they were dental students, some with dedicated banking practices. "And then," Coombs says, "COVID happened." Many lenders hit the pause button, particularly on first-time owners and start-up businesses.
Sadler and Coombs were interested in working with a bank that took the time to understand their business, and also advocate for financial solutions as their ally. They reached out to Eastern Bank, where the connection, communication, responsiveness and knowledge they received from VP of Business Banking Dan Donovan impressed them.
"We got such a good energy from him," Coombs says, adding, "He was super enthusiastic." What’s more, they knew their relationship with Donovan as their lender would continue beyond their first introduction. He would be a consistent point of contact and manager for the entire banking relationship. In addition to acquisition financing and a line of credit, Eastern provided a real estate loan for purchasing the office property and the funds to fully renovate it into a state-of-the-art dental office. Says Sadler, “Eastern Bank enabled us to get our dental practice off the ground.”
Now, Sadler and Coombs regularly review their business and annual projections with Donovan. He helps them to avoid potential pitfalls and understand how a line of credit, changing interest rates and other financial solutions may assist with their long-term business planning.
As they consider operating and using a fifth chair in their practice, they’ll talk through the financing decision with Donovan to determine whether their line of credit, cash flow or another solution makes the most sense. Donovan also introduced them to Eastern Insurance Group, which provides insurance coverage. Says Sadler, “Business ownership is new to us and the value of working with Dan is his knowledge and experience. He helps us understand our options and through that, we learn about aspects we hadn’t considered before.”
Donovan was equally impressed with the dentists saying, "This was a significant undertaking from a financing perspective because there were so many moving components, from a changing dental marketplace to the effects of buying a practice coming out of the pandemic to understanding some of the retrofitting they were looking to do with the practice they were buying. Like so many entrepreneurs and first-time business owners, their enthusiasm and passion are unwavering."
The Future Is Bright
In speaking about the future, Sadler is both realistic and ambitious, particularly with regard to services to add to their practice to care for their patients. The duo's combination of realism and forward thinking is exactly what made Eastern Bank such an ideal match for Medella Dental.
"We're certainly a business relationship," Donovan says, "But what [Sabrina and Stephanie] have been able to do is quite remarkable. They're a template for any other practitioner coming out of school—and this transcends dentistry."
Buying a dental practice isn’t easy but Medella Dental makes it look so! This woman-owned business brings together hard work, thoughtful planning and adaptability to achieve its goals. For more information on our business lending programs, contact us today.