Job Title: Co-owner and Co-founder, Smiles Dental Group
Why He’s Top 40: He’s revitalizing dental practices across the entire Capital Region, while also putting smiles on the faces of low-income Edmontonians by making dental care more accessible.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be?Better supports for struggling Edmontonians. “I feel that there’s always some room for improvement in terms of social programs, whether the creation of new ones or running existing ones more efficiently or effectively.”
There’s money in teeth, as any gap-toothed six-year-old knows. But, to make your first million, you’d be wiser to enrol in dental school and make savvy real estate investments than rely on the Tooth Fairy. At least, that’s how Alexander Yeh rose to be the co-owner of a dental group worth nearly $8.5 million.
Born in Winnipeg and raised in Ottawa before moving to Edmonton for high school, Yeh always thought he’d work in health care, but business was also in his blood. Dentistry fit the bill, “because it’s private practice, but at the same time, you get the fulfillment of treating patients,” he says. So after earning a bachelor of science degree at the University of Alberta, Yeh headed to dental school in Manitoba.
As a newly minted dentist, he worked for almost four years at a dental practice in Peace River to pay off his student debt before returning to Edmonton to go into practice with his friend and former classmate, Iyad Al-Qishawi. First, they purchased an ailing clinic in Spruce Grove from a retiring dentist, renaming it Smiles Dental Group. To revitalize it, they marketed aggressively and treated anyone who walked in the door, often coming in at night for dental emergencies.
“It was just sheer effort that, within a year, we’d doubled the revenue,” Yeh says.
It put a smile on their faces and made them think they could do it again. So they purchased a clinic in St. Albert in 2009, two more in Sherwood Park in 2010, and an Edmonton clinic on Calgary Trail in 2013. Most had been limping along before Yeh and his business partner revived them, mainly with improved customer service and business efficiency. On top of this, they started one of the city’s first emergency dental clinics.
Now they’re expanding their empire again by building a new clinic at the U of A.
On top of that, after buying up the derelict Inglewood Professional Centre on 118th Avenue, they’re transforming it into a modern professional building. This will house their non-profit Samaritan Dental Clinic, which they created to serve low-income Edmontonians. “Basic dentistry is out of reach for a big percentage of the population,” he says.