Dentist investment
Tom Keighley

Member Article

Dental franchising outfit secures investment to expand

A dental franchising firm is set to open practices under its own brand in its native North East for the first time after securing a £400k investment package.

Country Durham-based Dentist Direct offers modern dentistry services in high-spec, design-led family friendly practices, and provides dentists with support.

The concept is based around detailed research into exactly what people want from a modern dental practice, with areas ranging from exceptional customer service, car parking and convenient opening hours all rated alongside cost, clinical excellence and the latest dental technologies.

To provide the working capital required to implement its development plans, Dentist Direct worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a portion of the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund.

UNW and Mincoffs acted as advisors to Dentist Direct on the Growth Fund investment, while Bond Dickinson and Clive Owen & Co supported NEL Fund Managers.

Further bank finance has also been secured by Dentist Direct to help fund future practice acquisitions.

Set up in 2012, the firm’s franchising operations have grown steadily, with five practices now on its books across the UK.

It currently has practices running under its own brand in Colchester and Milton Keynes, and is now looking at locations for its first such practices in the North East, with a further eight sites already under consideration elsewhere in the country.

The firm has identified over 400 places right across the UK as potential locations for Dentist Direct practices, based on the demographics of each local area and the way in which dental services are currently provided there.

And in addition to the firm’s practice-based work, it has also developed a ‘modular pod’ which can be rolled out in locations such as supermarket and retail park car parks.

Craig Huntingdon, chief executive at Dentist Direct, said: “Our aim with Dentist Direct was to move away from the traditional style of dentistry and respond to what patients told us they wanted to see in terms of facilities, access and treatment.

“We’ve invested in the latest Waterlase technology, meaning that our dentists often don’t need to use drills or needles as well as providing easy car parking and offering comfortable, modern environments in which people can enjoy complimentary refreshments and Wi-Fi.

“The franchised practices have all grown extremely quickly, which suggests that both patients and dentists recognise the quality of our approach, and the investments we’ve made in each practice are working as well as we’d expected.

“We’re already successfully trading under our own brand in the south of England, and believe the North East offers many opportunities to create a base from which we can establish this very successful formula right across the UK.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of the work done by the NEL team around this investment – they acted openly and transparently, and it always felt like they were on our side in wanting to get the deal done.”

Chris Parker, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, added: “The commercial and consumer appeal of the Dentist Direct concept has already been proven, and supporting its roll out across the North East and beyond offered us a very strong investment opportunity.”

Alan Suggett, Dental Business Unit partner at UNW, said: “The investment by NEL and provision of acquisition finance by Yorkshire Bank demonstrates the underlying strength of the innovative Dentist Direct business plan.

“Dentist Direct’s unique approach to its market both in terms of its marketing and acquisition strategy set it aside from some of the more established Dental groups, and we are sure Craig and the team can make their mark on this sector.”

Ben Williamson, associate director with Clive Owen Corporate Finance, who led the due diligence for NEL, said: “It has been great to support NEL in their latest equity investment from this fund.

“We have specialist due diligence experience within our team meaning we can deliver clear and authoritative advice to investors, and by focusing on specific areas of importance to NEL, we were able to provide the comfort they needed to get the deal done quickly.”

Jo Goldwater, associate at Bond Dickinson LLP, said: “We’re very happy to have assisted NEL in this exciting investment and to have made a small contribution to putting bright smiles on thousands of faces!”

John Nicholson, Corporate Partner at Mincoffs, added: “We have acted for Dentist Direct since its inception and are pleased to play a part in raising these funds, which will allow them to continue their already successful expansion.”

Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.

Managed by North East Finance, it will see £125 million of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank and the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13 over a five year period.

NEL is looking to make around 130 investments over the five-year life span of the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans.

For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit or contact the investment team on 0845 111 1850.

The ERDF 2007-13 programme is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support. It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn per annum.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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