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Brightening the Face of Business

April 11, 2024 Erica Hulse
ACC InVenture 2024 competitor Eric Nelson poses with a teammate holding a sign with the UofL Cardinal head. Other university logos are on shelves behind them.

Rising student entrepreneur Eric Nelson is not only a junior finance major in the College of Business – he already has earned $6,500 toward the launch of dental software that has the potential to greatly impact dental patient communication and care. We recently had the opportunity to ask Eric some questions about his goals for his entrepreneurial venture, SmileFile, as well as his goals for the future.

College of Business: Have you always had a desire to become an entrepreneur? If not, when did you first develop an interest in launching a product or business? 

Eric Nelson: I would not say I have always desired to be an entrepreneur, but over time, I just gravitated towards it. I found that my favorite part about it was collaborating with others, especially professionals in their fields. Being able to learn from others and applying it to what I have come to love gives me energy. My mom always told me to pursue what gives you energy and you will not work a day in your life.  

College of Business: How did you first develop the idea for SmileFile, and why is it a product you are passionate about sharing with consumers?

Eric Nelson: Well, I grew up in a dental practice. My mom was a dentist, and her father before that. But the idea came from seeing the daily struggles my mom faced. She would always be frustrated by this exact issue. From there, SmileFile came to life.   

SmileFile is a passion of mine for a multitude of reasons. What I am most passionate about is being able to develop this software and business with my family. My team consists of my brothers Brad and Ronan and are advised by my mom and stepdad, who are both industry professionals. Being able to work with them, I would say, is what I am most passionate about. I am most excited about sharing this product with consumers, dentists, and dental professionals because it is something they need. I am excited to provide a positive impact on office efficiency and dental outcomes for patients.  

College of Business: What is the mission of SmileFile, and how does this product meet consumers’ needs?

Eric Nelson: Our mission is clear: deliver an integrated digital platform that provides secure mobile access to treatment plans and dental records and improves patient education, financial results, and dental outcomes.  

College of Business: How far into development is SmileFile, and when do you hope to officially launch your product?

Eric Nelson: We are currently in our beta testing phase. SmileFile is currently being used on our pilot site. From there, we hope to continue gathering information so we can comfortably develop the software we know our consumers want. We will launch the product when we are confident in its ability to deliver a seamless experience, a rough timeline would be in the next 6-8 months.   

College of Business: We understand that SmileFile is a family business. Could you share more about your involved family members, their roles in the business, and how you feel they are able to offer unique and necessary contributions to your product?

Eric Nelson: Yes! SmileFile is proudly a family-run business. I honestly could not be happier with our team.  Currently, our team consists of my brothers, Brad and Ronan, who work in software sales and development. Advised by my mom, Jennifer Hinshaw, a UofL School of Dentistry alumni, and my stepdad, Bill Hinshaw, who is a former CEO of a six-billion-dollar biotech company. Outside of our family, we are working with a professor at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry , Dr. James Harrison, who is a published author. We have also been working with a global strategic marketer, Erik Hawkinson, who is a published author as well. With this strong team we will scale SmileFile and provide dentists with a service they desperately need.  

College of Business: How would you describe the experience of working alongside your family members? What have been some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being part of a family business?

Eric Nelson: I love these questions. I would say a lot of people dream of starting their own business, and being able to do that with these guys is something special. There have been some rewarding moments and some challenging ones. The most rewarding is developing a new type of relationship with my family members and seeing sides of them you wouldn’t normally see in a “family” setting. I would say a challenging task is being able to balance the family dynamic with the drive we all share for improving SmileFile to what we know it will become. 

College of Business: We understand you have competed in several pitch competitions to raise funding for SmileFile. What competitions have you entered, how did those competitions go for you, and how much funding have you been awarded thus far for your product?

Eric Nelson: We have entered the UofL ACC Inventure Competition, in which we placed first and were granted our first $1,000. We have also competed in the Kentucky Governors for Entrepreneurs, where we won $3,500. We were also granted $2,000 from the Cardinal Founder Program. For a total of $6,500 of grants and awards, all through the University!   

College of Business: Share your experiences presenting SmileFile at the 2024 ACC InVenture Prize competition. What was that experience like, and what are some of the biggest takeaways for you from that experience?

Eric Nelson: Competing in the ACC InVenture was an amazing experience and will be one of my fondest college memories. My biggest takeaway from this weekend was meeting all the young entrepreneurs. Having the opportunity to connect with them was definitely my biggest takeaway. 

College of Business: How do you feel your undergraduate finance courses, and the College of Business as a whole, have aided you as a student entrepreneur?

Eric Nelson: The College of Business has been very supportive, especially Dean [Jeff] Guan. He has been a huge advocate for me since the beginning. In the early stages of SmileFile, I went to [him], and he had so many resources to offer that put me in the position I am in right now. 

College of Business: How do you see SmileFile growing over the next few years, and what would you and your family say is the goal for your product?

Eric Nelson: We see SmileFile growing rapidly through partnerships and organic growth. We will penetrate the market initially through our extensive network of dental professionals.  Our goal is to become the universal dental patient portal.  

College of Business: How can readers learn more about SmileFile and contribute to the launch of your business?

Eric Nelson: They can visit our website at and can help us grow by telling their dentists about our idea!  

College of Business: Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Eric Nelson: UofL has so many resources to offer [its] students. All you have to do is go out there and look for them!

Are you interested in developing your entrepreneurial skills to develop, produce, and market your business product or service? Gain the entrepreneurship skills you need by pairing your major with a minor in entrepreneurship, earning an Innovation MBA, or pursuing a PhD in entrepreneurship at the College of Business.

About the UofL College of Business:

Founded in 1953, the UofL College of Business fosters intellectual and economic vitality in our city, region, and the global business landscape. Our academic programs, research, community outreach initiatives, and commitment to student success inspire lives and businesses to flourish through entrepreneurship, innovation, critical thinking, diversity, and the power of people.

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