Social Innovation team profile

Group photo of team LJ

Team LJ's story

When Lenecia Walters overheard her mother and brother quarreling about brushing his teeth, an idea popped into her head. “I thought, why isn’t there a toothbrush that can send you updates about your teeth and let you know when they need cleaning?” That was the seed for the project that would take her and her team members, Jennifer Nguyen and Sufia Arshad, to the final round of Intuit’s first Social Innovation Challenge, in which they were prompted to think of ways to support underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and business owners. The challenge piqued their interest in entrepreneurship, and they ultimately took home the second place prize.

Using everything they learned during the Design for Delight introductory course — including customer empathy, rapid experimentation and creative thinking — they got to work. Together, they researched the broader issue of inaccessible dental care. Jennifer interviewed a few family members who spoke about how they didn’t prioritize dental care until they moved to Canada. They also interviewed Dr. Cyrus, a Black dentist; though he considered himself lucky in his professional career due to his connections, he provided insight on the obstacles Black dentists and professionals often face. 

After bouncing some ideas off each other, they decided to take the plunge and become pioneers in a young industry: teledentistry. The idea was that both underrepresented minority dentists and clients who lived in remote areas would benefit from having the option to connect virtually. “Basically, we’re moving dentistry to a platform where people can do it in different destinations, not necessarily just in a dentist’s office,” Jennifer said. With an app and a smart toothbrush with a built-in camera, they could do just that.

Group photo of team LJ and their teachers

As they collaborated, each individual leaned into their strengths. Lenecia developed the original idea for the smart toothbrush and helped brainstorm as they progressed. Jennifer expanded upon that with her design skills and a 3D printer, learning how to 3D print in a week. Sufia tied everything together with her knack for questionnaires and presentations.

As finalists, they received funding from Intuit to take their idea to the next level, with which they bought 3D printing materials and an Oral-B toothbrush to use as a model for their prototype. They also received help from Intuit mentors, who they relied on for guidance while they were developing their project. “We had weekly meetings, and they were able to show us ways in which we can become better,” Sufia said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.” 

Though they were happy to place second in the challenge, with each student winning $2,000 and an iPad Mini, what they’ll bring forward with them in the future are the lessons they learned and the skills they developed while working through the Social Innovation Challenge as a team. Lenecia, who has set her sights set on a career in law, credits the challenge for teaching her how to think on her feet and improvise. She even learned to break out of her shell. “I didn’t think I would be here right now, because of how shy I am,” she said. “Participating in the challenge taught me to be bold,” 

Team LJ holding their Intuit certificates

Sufia is currently waiting on acceptance letters from post-secondary business programs. “The skills of leadership, adaptability and learning together as a collaborative team will help me in the real world, where I’ll need to be resourceful and take leadership into action.” 

Jennifer believes the challenge’s focus on entrepreneurship will help her on her path to becoming a marketing professional, but she’s also taken the “Social” aspect of the Social Innovation Challenge to heart. “After I participated in this challenge, I realized that opportunities and equity in our society aren’t balanced,” she said. “In the future, I want to help provide more opportunities to underrepresented people, so everyone has an equal chance to grow and develop.”

They might not be putting down their toothbrushes anytime soon, either. “We want to see how far this project can go,” Jennifer said. “We’d be bringing teledentistry to people; it’s a new and innovative idea.”