Niche business in rural Indiana changes lives with smiles

Reilly Wilber
July 12, 2021

How one Middletown, IN resident turned her crafty touch into an impactful business venture

Many people have the desire to make others smile, but it takes someone truly special to create smiles that people are proud to wear. After Chelsie Wilson, owner of Smalltown Smiles in Middletown, IN, discovered the unique skill of creating dentures and dental appliances, she dedicated her time to perfecting it. After years of practice and a dental lab certification, it was just a matter of time before her dream became a reality - working in a lab of her own.

Chelsie began her career as a dental assistant working in a front office, packaging dentures to be delivered to customers. One day, as she was packaging them, she looked down and thought “man, I could do this.” After a referral from a coworker, she advanced to a corporation dental laboratory in Indianapolis. Chelsie started at 19, and by 22 she had become a manager. She had the artistic touch for it; dental lab technology is a hands-on job that requires intricate skill.

Commuting from Middletown to Indianapolis every day, Chelsie recognized the need for a lab in rural Indiana. Doctors all around Indiana had to send their work to Indy since it was the only option. Then, when COVID hit, Chelsie was furloughed from her job and told her husband,

“We have to open the business now. We don’t have a choice.”

With big labs closing and doctors’ offices shutting down, the work became essential.

Chelsie started with almost nothing, ordering materials as she went. Looking to grow her connections in the area, Chelsie visited Dr. Titus’ Middletown dental office one day and requested he check out her work. After just three months of working with each other, he asked Chelsie if she’d be interested in sharing a new building, where she could house her own laboratory.

Chelsie quickly realized she needed extra funding to get her business up and running. After being referred to Bankable by a representative at her bank, Chelsie received financing within just a few weeks and it was enough to pay for two of her most expensive, and essential, machines.

“I owe it all to Bankable because I would’ve never been able to do it.”

According to Chelsie, the extra services available to business owners are what makes Bankable stand out from everyone else.

In the beginning, people

“would call me all the time, like ‘How are you? How’s it going? What can I do?’... And I could just talk to Marcy whenever I need her,”

Chelsie says of her loan officer.

“I could literally call her right now and she’d answer.”

Marcy even made an appearance at Smalltown Smiles’ open house.

“That’s what Bankable is, constant support… And you’re not going to catch that anywhere else.”

Upon walking in, you’ll quickly learn that Chelsie’s lab is her happy place. She designed it exactly how she wanted it, with large windows letting in lots of natural light and colorful artwork scattered across the walls. Pieces of her lab were designed and built by family members - a reminder that family is at the heart of Chelsie’s business. Her goal was to make the lab memorable, foregoing the typical dental lab that resides in a dense corner of the room.

Having a lab connected to a dental office is perfect for Chelsie. Her job is like that of a hygienist; it can’t be done without a doctor. The purpose of her job is to help people. Being in a building with Dr. Titus allows her to easily meet with patients and give them the necessary guidance for a fulfilled denture experience. Chelsie believes that being able to see a person’s facial structure makes for better, more personalized results. She creates each dental appliance to complement the patient, doing her best to make each smile look genuine.

Chelsie doesn’t face competition in rural Indiana. Her business is all a result of word-of-mouth. On occasion, she has people come up to her in public, pull out their ‘teeth’ and ask her to help them. She loves it because that’s the point. Good dentures and dental assistance aren’t easy to come by, and Chelsie wants to do whatever she can to make a difference in her community. She often calls herself the ‘tooth fairy,’ and while some overlook the importance of her job, Chelsie has received confessions from patients saying she changed their lives.

With so much passion for what she does, Chelsie had always hoped that with a little convincing, her kids would want to follow in her footsteps. After years of hearing “ew, gross” from her family, she realized she needed help in the lab. When her oldest daughter, Brooklyn, took the initiative to be her helping hand, it caught her by surprise. It didn’t take long for Brooklyn to find joy in the work, as she helps add finishing touches on the models and delivers them to doctors’ offices with her dog in the passenger’s seat.

Chelsie’s mission was to own a lab that fueled her passion for all things teeth, making it a family adventure and serving others along the way. She wants to spread awareness and education about the work she does. Dentures and dental appliances become a part of a person’s life and identity more often than most may realize. So, spread the word. If you or a loved one are in need of dentures, make a visit to Middletown, IN to see Chelsie Wilson. There’s no doubt she’ll be there every step of the way, greeting you with a Smalltown Smile.