Kresse Wesling is an award-winning entrepreneur and one half of a soaring brand that reclaims old fire hoses to create luxury goods. You may wonder what this has to do with dentistry! The surprising truth is, there are inspirational parallels to be drawn between old fire hoses and dentistry, so read on to learn how the dental profession can benefit from Kresse’s bright ideas and experiences.
PP: Thank you so much for meeting with us, Kresse. So, let’s start at the beginning of your road to entrepreneurism, if we may. How did that come about?
Kresse: I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. My first job after university was in Hong Kong in 2000 where there was almost no recycling taking place. I was already on the verge of becoming an environmentalist, and seeing what was happening there really pulled me down the environmental route. My job was with a venture capital group – I was constantly meeting entrepreneurial teams who were choosing market failures to fix, who were solving medical, financial or technological problems with their businesses. This seemed like a perfect match for me. If I could come up with the right business model I would be able to fund solving environmental problems.
PP: How might others ignite a similar ‘fire’ in their belly for their business?
Kresse: You have to dial into something that you genuinely care about – that’s what keeps the fire burning in your belly. I will never be involved in a project that isn’t designed and geared towards protecting the environment, for future generations. That is the passion that I have, whereas, I can imagine, for dentists, the passion comes from helping people to be healthy.
“That is the passion that I have, whereas, I can imagine, for dentists, the passion comes from helping people to be healthy.”
If you think about the environmental movement, there are significant parallels with dentistry. We know about climate change. We know where we’re headed. We know that we’re not fixing things as fast as we can. And a dentist will have experienced this all the time, asking patients, ‘Can you please brush your teeth? Can you please floss? Otherwise, I’m going to have to do this really unpleasant thing, that you don’t want to happen and I don’t want to happen’, and people still don’t do it. Yet we get up every day to try to make a difference.
PP: But then it’s human nature to lose heart sometimes, so how can you maintain that fire, to keep working towards your goals?
Kresse: I think, in any industry, you need help. You need to surround yourself with the right team, to make sure you’re going in the right direction. If you want to try something new and exciting you need to make sure you’ve got that support network around you, they will allow you the space to try, possibly fail, learn and carry on. You need people to talk to, laugh with, work through every weekend for years with. Having this support system around you helps to keep you working towards your goals.
” You need to surround yourself with the right team, to make sure you’re going in the right direction.”
PP: There’s no doubt that the route to successful business is never smooth! How can dentists stay positive when the pressure is so high?
Kresse: Every day that we are open, we are saving a fire hose. Even on our worst day, that’s still happening. For a dentist, even on their most challenging day, they are helping people. Every single day. That should be the thing that helps you to sleep peacefully. That’s how you stay positive.
PP: You obviously have a rare ability to look at everyday items in a new light. What advice can you offer to business owners hoping to change their outlook?
Kresse: To me, innovation comes from constantly exploring new and interesting things. Probably the worst thing any business owner could do is to only have mentors, friends, colleagues or other relationships with people who have the same background or are in the same line of work. We need to learn to borrow ideas from one sector to use in another. You need to cast your net wide and learn from people outside your sector, from as diverse a group as possible, if you want to challenge your outlook and be able to innovate.
“We need to learn to borrow ideas from one sector to use in another.”
PP: Just a final question if we may. It can be hard to get feedback when you work in a small team. How can such a group tell whether they are successful?
Kresse: I think you have to understand, or you have to create, your own definition for success. Society has a very outdated definition of success, this is driving our unsustainable, capitalist system. Success is not money. Money is the WD-40 that keeps the wheels running and the doors open. It’s a byproduct of doing something well, or doing something good. To me, the key is to work out what success means to you and make sure that you can achieve that in a sustainable way. By sustainable, I mean financially sustainable, socially sustainable, and environmentally sustainable.
“Money is the WD-40 that keeps the wheels running and the doors open.”
If running what you perceive to be a successful dental practice in you never having quality time with your family or becoming ill from over-work and stress, I think you need to redefine success.
About Kresse Wesling
Kresse Wesling MBE is a multi-award winning environmental entrepreneur; in 2012 she was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in October 2011 she was the European winner of Cartier’s Women’s Initiative Awards. In 2005, she attended an environmental management standardisation course and found herself sitting next to some firefighters, who were challenged on what to do about non-biodegradable fire hose that, when decommissioned, went to landfill. It was there that the idea for Elvis & Kresse was born, and the accolades quickly followed, including the Butterfly Mark – the sole trust mark that exists in the luxury industry today, synonymous with luxury brands that care.