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'We compete with huge multinationals, but we're just two girls in Galway who had an idea'

These sisters took a step back from their dental practices to launch their own product.

Fora Staff

WHEN I INITIALLY went into dentistry, I never thought that I would end up developing and launching my own product.

But I noticed a particular need for a new teeth-whitening product, so I began to think outside the box about how something could be produced that’s better than the competition.

In the end, it was myself and my sister Lisa who set up Spotlight Whitening. We wanted to produce a professional product that was for everyone, easy to use and affordable.

Of course it was a bit different to our regular jobs, but we figured the worst thing that could happen was it wouldn’t work out. But we were willing to take the risk.

It’s not that we didn’t think it would work or doubted the product, it was more the process of setting it up and bringing it to the market that was really daunting.

We are both very driven and ambitious, but when you think of comparing yourself with huge multinational companies, we’re just two girls in Galway who had an idea.

But it was a challenge that we were totally up for, and we were adamant that we could make something that would be one of the best products out there.

lisa vanessa headshot Vanessa Creaven, right, and sister Lisa Source: Spotlight Whitening

Sister act

Both myself and Lisa studied dentistry in Trinity College in Dublin. She is seven years older than me, so she was out of college first. She went to work in private clinics after that before deciding to come back home to Galway.

Three years after settling back in there, she opened her own practice at the age of 25. Even back then she was very entrepreneurial.

After I finished college, I worked in a dental hospital for a year, doing public work with kids and nervous people and from there followed a similar path to my sister.

I worked in private practice up in Dublin for two years before I moved back to Galway and joined her practice.

To be honest, when it came to setting up Spotlight Whitening, I wouldn’t have done it without her. Myself and Lisa get on really well and at this stage are used to working together.

We bring very different aspects to the business. She is very business minded and very innovative and I, on the other hand, would lead things in terms of regulation, product development and brand awareness.

It has been helpful to have her on board as well because it’s important to be able to bounce ideas off someone – and even better when it’s your sister. We really operate it on a no-holds-barred kind of basis and always say what we feel.

I think that sort of approach works for us because we have a different relationship that other co-founders can’t have. Because we grew up with each other, there is a huge amount of existing trust and loyalty built up. I really couldn’t imagine setting up Spotlight without her.


We’re still learning every day and have come up against our fair share of hurdles.

I’m just glad we decided to get stuck in because if you don’t, you will end up psyching yourself out of it. If we had thought of all the hurdles we would have to face, who knows where we would be now.

Definitely getting our product to market, which incorporates hydrogen peroxide, was a huge challenge. We wanted to add peroxide into our product because it is the most effective ingredient for whitening teeth, but with this comes challenges in itself.

We spent over a year developing the correct formula before going to manufacturing. Fine-tuning the process to make sure we got what we wanted in a product was tedious.

14563490_1597402547232523_6597621290236667887_n Source: Spotlight Whitening

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Next up

The company is not very old. We only launched last year so the biggest high so far has been bringing the product to market and seeing the response from people.

We get messages from people who might say they were cynical, but then they’re surprised about how effective our products were. That means a lot because it shows us we’re clearly doing something right.

I think there has been a lot of skepticism about over-the-counter teeth-whitening products because people thought they were a fad and made people’s teeth sensitive. So it means a lot to us that we can see people changing their opinions, but there is still some way to go.

We still work in the practice and are very busy here, so it has been – and still is – a big juggling act to manage both.

We are dentists by trade and that’s the job we love to do, but I’ve taken more of a step towards the business while our other sister Alma, who is also a dentist, has come on board with myself and Lisa in the practice.

The juggling aspect is something you have to work on. We’re really lucky that we’re sisters because it means I can call over to her house in the evening and we can go over a couple of things.

We don’t have to have stick to a strict nine-to-five schedule – if we did, the business definitely wouldn’t work for us. It all means we’re really super busy at the moment, but we’re loving it.

Vanessa Creaven is the ‎co-founder of Spotlight Whitening. This article was written in conversation with Killian Woods as part of a series on unlikely entrepreneurs.

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