We had the good fortune of connecting with Casey Lau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Casey, what is the most important factor behind your success?
This is kind of a tough question for me.
Success is an interesting word because the implication is that I have “arrived”. In my career and life, I have always strived for continued growth. When you claim success, then you are done. Growing up, my parents always pushed me to work hard and strive for more. I wasn’t competitive in the sense of sports (although I am a passionate sports fan), but I was always trying to stay ahead of my colleagues. As a child of immigrants, my parents came to this country with very little, but my father put himself through school and eventually became a world-renowned structural engineer. My mother went back to school after having two children to get her Master’s Degree in Education and retired as a school principal. They really tried to instill in me the importance of hard work and perseverance, and that failure is not a stopping point but a point of reflection and growth.
My dental career has always been about striving for perfection while accepting that growth only comes from learning and, sometimes, failure. I have built a thriving and successful dental practice at Mid-Valley Dental Care (Northridge, CA) over the last 20 years and I still try to find ways to improve every day. I’m always adding to my own skills and find ways to improve my patients’ experience and outcomes. We are currently expanding our office into a brand-new facility and continue to build an outstanding team. This motto of constant improvement is something we instill in the staff, and we know it translates directly to our care for our patients.
All of this has influenced my approach to Elims Oral Care. The goal of bringing sustainability to the dental industry will take time and has many obstacles, but we know we are onto something important and could have lasting impact. We know we must do better; the dental industry is quite wasteful, and frankly, it needs a little shake-up. It was important for me that our products were safe, effective and have clinically significant results. The fact that our products aim to be earth-friendly is an added bonus.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I really have two businesses, but they are heavily intertwined.
I graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry and joined Mid-Valley Dental Care in 2002. My brother was one of the practice partners, and eventually, the two of us took over the entire practice. For two decades, we’ve built a thriving practice that has survived economic downturns and now a major pandemic.
Our business model is to offer comprehensive treatment plans under one roof to make it easier for our patients. To accomplish this, we work hard to stay on top of newest technologies. This has allowed us to survive different economic climates. However, it has also required countless hours of additional training and constantly upgrading my skills and techniques. It is something that I am passionate about and keeps me jazzed about the field of dentistry.
With Elims, it’s a different challenge: not one of service but one of consumer products. I love everything Elims stands for, clinically backed dental products and sustainability, and after having practiced for so many years, I know the crazy amounts of waste generated in the dental office alone, not to mention the waste caused by oral care in every single home worldwide. If we could put a slight dent in that, without compromising oral health, we could literally help the planet for everyone in it. But equally exciting to me was the prospect of creating some great products that would benefit not just my patients but people from all over.
Elims is here to tackle the lack of sustainable products in the oral care industry. We have a whole set of products just waiting to be launched that support different areas of oral health. But what really sets us apart is excellent quality products that are clinically backed, taste great, and flat-out work. Our whitening masks are made with 7% hydrogen peroxide that has been proven to whiten seven shades in 14 days. They are super convenient and can be taken anywhere. They have 33% less plastic than the leading brand, and they leave your mouth feeling minty fresh.
We currently have two fantastic kinds of toothpaste in sustainable packaging formulated with nano-hydroxyapatite and xylitol. Nano-hydroxyapatite has been shown to remineralize teeth and fill in those microscopic holes that form from acidic foods and wear and tear. Xylitol is a plant-based antimicrobial ingredient that has been shown to fight tooth decay. Both of these ingredients have been used in Japan for over 40 years, and we have ample research proving their effectiveness. Our products also contain essential oils and antioxidants, and patients think they taste great.
Our company’s secret super power is our combination of clinical expertise with a dental clinician (me) and the business expertise of a medical device executive (my wife). When she has product ideas, I make sure I can give the clinical thumbs up, and when I have product ideas, she makes sure that it is financially sound and achievable.
It’s the perfect marriage of talents.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles is one of the best places in the world to enjoy sports of all kinds. I’m an avid LA sports fan, and any sporting event that includes my Alma Mater, UCLA, is right up my alley. I’m also a snow enthusiast, and I try to make time to get up to the mountains to snowboard. I grew up here, and the beauty of LA is that it’s got something for everyone. Great restaurants and breweries, some of the best beaches in the world, and not to mention some of the best weather in the world is right here in Southern California.
I love hanging out at one of my friend’s bars. When I want to sample some of the best whiskeys from around the world, I go to “Neat LA,” located in West Los Angeles and owned by my friend Wen Yeh. Or, if I’m in the mood to enjoy some of the local flavors of LA’s breweries, I stop by “Hop Merchants,” located in North Hollywood and co-owned by my friend, Kevin Sack. My wife and I love the West LA and Santa Monica vibe. It’s so relaxing, and the sun is always out. The ocean breeze keeps it from getting too hot, and the food is phenomenal. We love getting Asian food on Sawtelle (in what used to be called Little Osaka), Japanese food at killer restaurants like N/Naka in Culver City, Chinese fusion at Cassia in Santa Monica, or Italian at Osteria Mozza in Hollywood. And great new restaurants are constantly popping up.
Despite all the area has to offer, I’m kind of a homebody these days, as everyone is. We would end our trip by hanging out in my home in the San Fernando Valley, relaxing by the pool.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my wife and co-founder, Belinda Lau. She has been instrumental in my success as a dentist and is always my biggest advocate; her love and the love of my kids is what drives me. Belinda inspires me every day. Her hard work in corporate America had her on the fast track to upper executive levels in an international Fortune 5oo company. But she left it all behind to go back to school to get her MBA. Little did we know that she would never go back, and she and I would launch Elims Oral Care together.
But she isn’t my only business partner. I wouldn’t be a dentist if it weren’t for my business partner and brother, Dr. Terence Lau. I patterned my practice after him, and I have strived to continue to add to my repertoire of procedures that both he and I get excited about. Even after 20 years of practice, he is the one that I consult when I question a particular treatment plan. It is good to have a dental colleague and thought partner who also happens to be a big brother. I tell people that I became a dentist despite him. In truth, however, I wouldn’t have become a dentist – or even this good of a dentist – without him. And now his daughter (and my niece) Dr. Kayla Lau has also joined the practice. I feel like I am learning from her already. It’s great to have a fresh new perspective on dentistry through her!
Of course, my parents have also been pivotal in my life. My mom, Jean, and dad, Winston, can’t go to the grocery store without passing out my business card. Watching my parents succeed in their careers has profoundly affected mine. People always say that they are a product of their upbringing and parents, and I can only hope that this is also true for me.
I really have so many “influences” in my life that it is impossible to name them all. My time at the UCLA School of Dentistry really shaped my philosophies about dentistry and gave me an excellent foundation for who I am professionally. They really instilled the concept of giving back to the community and world. And I think that has carried through my philosophies around my practice and Elims Oral Care.