Meet the Cofounders Behind New York’s Influencer-Favorite Dental Bar

When Ben Elchami, a leading dentist in New York City, met Kwabena Akyirem, a go-getter dental hygienist who goes by Koby, it was kismet. The two teamed up to build Manhattan’s latest and greatest grooming mecca, favorited by your favorite Instagram influencers and buzzy ManhattanitesOn the corner of 26th Street in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, their innovative creation welcomes walk-in patients for on-the-fly teeth cleanings. Yes, Dntl is New York’s first walk-in dental bar.

Launched in January 2019, the space they’ve created is a minimalist’s haven of luxury, complete with custom-scented air (an identifiable but not too specific clean scent) to calm the nerves, swing-around flat-screen televisions so you can watch your favorite shows while your teeth are whitened, and bougie charcoal-infused dental floss that looks like something from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop lineup. 

We asked Echami, Dntl’s chief dental officer, and Akyirem, the director of hygiene, to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their business, knowing that their startup adventure is one for the books. Peep their responses below to our favorite founder questions, from how they’d pitch themselves on NBC’s Shark Tank to how they take their coffee.

If you were pitching your business on Shark Tank, what would you say?

Ben Elchami: The difference in anything ultimately comes down to the “why” behind that thing. Our why is simple: to empower. At Dntl, better matters. Through simplicity, we will deliver an elevated experience that starts and ends with the consumer. We are caring for your oral health care needs in a simple, modern, clean and convenient way. That’s what we’re doing, but the why is what will always set us apart.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through this new business?

Elchami: It is more so a lesson reinforced over and over again, but we believe that people are at the heart of everything. Not tech, not process and not even product. Focus on the people, aspire to be a people-first company and everything else gets a bit easier.

Tell us about the time in your career when you felt the most stuck.

Elchami: Um, always. [laughs] It’s relative, but I always feel stuck. I always feel like I need to move, pivot, improve, shift...always. This is not a good thing, but it just is and I’m working on it.

What do you consider your greatest failure to date? What did it teach you?

Elchami: Failure taught me that it’s OK to fail. However, I don’t want to come off saying it’s easy. Failure is a cold and harsh place. Only after success can you easily say the phrase “fail fast and often.” In real life, it’s a hard pill to swallow.  

dntl 9025
Kwabena Akyirem / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm
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Ben Elchami / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

How do you take your coffee?

Elchami: Black. Why, is there any other way?

What is your number one way to inspire positive company morale?

Elchami: Remind yourself and your team that the North Star is not a destination. Instead, it’s just a direction. Aim for it, miss and aim again.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to launch a business?

Elchami: There is no advice that will prepare you, except be prepared to be utterly unprepared. If you’re good with that, cool, go for it.

What are your long-term goals for Dntl?

Elchami: Our goal is to build a business that outlasts us and a place that stands for something.

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