Emerging Lane | New Businesses That Give Back

Two entrepreneurs focus on others, launch brands

By Abby Laub

Solstice Dental & Aesthetics opened at the end of 2017.
Solstice Dental & Aesthetics opened at the end of 2017.

For two entrepreneurs this December marks a season that is both busy and rewarding. Liz Toombs and Dr. Krysta Manning focus on giving back not only during the annual holiday season of giving but year round.

In Louisville, Manning is opening the doors at the all-new Solstice Dental & Aesthetics. It culminates years of giving back through dentistry and serving in the Air Force.

Manning is a former captain in the U.S. Air Force, the mother of triplets and dedicated to serving the community’s most at-risk citizens. Manning previously worked as a dentist at Louisville’s Home of the Innocents, while completing an MBA in entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville.

She served as a general dentist in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps in Colorado. Prior to the Air Force, she graduated from University of Louisville’s Dental School in 2010 and completed a fellowship in developmental dentistry serving adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

A Russellville native, Manning received her bachelor’s in pre-med from Transylvania University in Lexington. She and her husband, Ryan, became parents in 2013 to two daughters and one son. They were born on the summer solstice, inspiring the name of her new business.

In Lexington, Liz Toombs, president of PDR Interiors, recently completed a rebrand of her previous business, Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors.

Toombs is a certified interior decorator and president of a 9-year-old company that specializes in fraternity and sorority housing, corporate spaces, residential design and holiday decor. Toombs also is seeing the results this December of a scholarship at the University of Kentucky that she and her husband founded in honor of her late mother.

We asked the women how giving back is incorporated into their businesses.

Dr. Krysta Manning

TLR: What spurred you to join the Air Force?

Krysta Manning: I didn’t join the Air Force until after I began dental school. When I received my very first student loan statement, the sticker shock sent me straight to the recruitment office. Joining the Air Force gave me freedom from debt as well as a wealth of experience through world-class continuing education. I joined as a second lieutenant in April 2007 while I completed dental school, transitioned to active duty in 2011 and served at Peterson Air Force Base and then the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs until 2014.

TLR: Why did you decide to start Solstice?

KM: The first seven years of my dental career were spent doing dentistry as a public servant. While I loved the work that I did, I felt limited. I decided that if I really wanted to be mindful of every detail, I would have to be the one making the decisions.

TLR: How do you juggle work and triplets?

KM: Our triplets are 4½-years-old, so while it seems like I’ve done a lot if you write everything down in a list, there were periods when I scaled back to focus on my children. In fact, I left the military so that I could work part-time and focus on my children. As they began to grow, I started to have a little more freedom. I also found that I had more motivation than I ever had pre-children.

TLR: You have a business model that will emphasize giving back. Can you talk about that?

KM: Giving back is one of the major focuses of our office. My team volunteered with Smile Kentucky before our office was finished. We are currently working with a couple of nonprofits on projects that will benefit their missions. We are also planning an adopt-a-charity initiative at our office. Each month, we’ll select a nonprofit to sponsor, and a percentage of our profits for the month will go directly to that charity.

TLR: Did serving in the Air Force play into your business aspirations with Solstice?

KM: Serving had a huge impact on my ability to start this business. In addition to giving me a solid clinical foundation, it also provided me with financial freedom. It also provided me with an additional educational opportunity through the use of the GI Bill.

PDR President Liz Toombs

TLR: What was your inspiration in making the creative changes with your brand?

Liz Toombs: PDR is simply a shortened version of Polka Dots & Rosebuds. It was a logical step to make the name more concise. The abbreviated name reflects our maturity, and the new color scheme possesses the timeless quality we strive for in our work. We chose to incorporate the Greek key as it is a classic emblem found in fabrics and accessories, and it also serves as a nod to our niche projects, which are “Greek” housing on college campuses.

TLR: What’s your advice to other small brands that may be considering a branding change? 

LT: Don’t be afraid to go for it. Businesses naturally grow and evolve over time, so it’s OK to make changes to accommodate that growth.  

TLR: As the holidays approach, many people talk about giving back, but few actually do it. Can you talk about the scholarship that you launched?

LT: The scholarship is to honor the memory of my mom who passed away from renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) in 2012. The scholarship recipient is a University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment student who has lost a parent from cancer. My husband and I are both alumni of this college, and he worked in philanthropy and alumni relations for the college for 10 years. The driving purpose for the scholarship is to aid a student who struggles to stay in school after losing their parent. Going to college is hard to navigate, and so is losing a parent. To have to deal with both at the same time is devastating.

TLR: How do you like to give back?

LT: I am passionate about anything relating to mentoring others. I have been heavily involved in the Junior League of Lexington for the last eight years, and I invite college students to intern with my company to learn the ins and out of the decorating world.

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