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David Stone - UKloupes

David Stone Photo

In 2009, dental student David Stone used his personal experiences to spot a gap in the market and set up his business, UKloupes. “I developed a bad back, which is pretty common for dental students as you develop a bad working posture from having to lean over patients to see in their mouths”, David explains. “It’s also one of the most common reasons for early retirement for dentists too, so it’s quite a big problem out there.”
He soon discovered that specialist magnifying glasses, or loupes, could be the answer. “I started to look into getting myself a pair of loupes because of the back problem I had, and I saw that a lot of other students were having the same issue. The main problem with loupes is that no-one could afford them until they were working and earning money- by which time they have developed bad working postures, so I started to offer an affordable alternative for dental students.”

David began to source affordable loupe parts, selling them at a smaller profit margin than other retailers. Despite admitting that he had never planned to go into business, he soon discovered that UKloupes was taking on a life of its own. “I started selling to dental students here, on a student-to-student basis. I was taking orders and then buying them in bulk. Then before I knew it, I had a large stock of loupes with a full variety of specifications for students to choose from, so I printed up some flyers to let people know that I had them for sale.”
David says that Student Enterprise were helpful in the initial stages of trading. “The Student Enterprise team have been a massive support during the first year of running my business”, he explains. “They have allowed us to enter a number of competitions, through which we have won cash to invest in UKloupes. They are also very enthusiastic, and always willing to listen to our ideas, make valued suggestions and advise us of what other resources are available.”

David is currently in the process of expanding the business to the whole of the UK. He explains, “In Cardiff the loupes have been really popular. I hold some demonstration pairs that people can try out. I’m trying to replicate that now in all the dental schools across the UK by 2012.”
David hopes to do this by using UKloupes Sales Agents in other dental schools to expand the business. “The idea is to train them on the common questions and problems that people have with loupes to enable them to assist fellow students in selecting the most appropriate pair for their needs. I’ve also given them flyers, posters and a presentation that I use to show students the benefits of loupes, as well as demonstration stock. So essentially they can do exactly what I’ve done in Cardiff, and they work on a commission basis. We've also embraced social networking in our marketing plans, such as Facebook, Twitter, THIS BLOG and using Skype to train and have regular meetings with our Sales Agents which can be done from Cardiff Dental School / Centreprise offices.”

David describes his biggest achievement as “getting positive feedback from students who have tried on the loupes.” It is clear that, for him, the business truly is just as much about making a difference as it is making money. However, keeping the prices of his loupes low has actually caused problems at times. “One of the biggest challenges has been that, because the competition for our market have prices four of five times as much as we do, there’s a perception that our loupes are of a lesser quality. It's been difficult trying to break through into the student market to show them that they are good quality, and that we actually do offer excellent quality at a low price, with no catches”, David explains. “If anything, the only feedback that I’ve had that’s a bit difficult to deal with is that my prices are too low. It’s a really weird situation to deal with, when people on the business side of things are saying ‘you’re doing really well but you need to increase your prices to make a better profit and so that people don’t think that the loupes are low quality.’ But it goes against the whole reason why I set up this business, to offer a truly affordable alternative in the market.”

David is continuing to expand UKloupes into other dental schools around the UK, and already has plans to start “tapping into the international market” in the near future.

More information on UKloupes can be found at: www.ukloupes.co.uk