Dr. Andre Smith grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother passed away when he was only 10 years old, leaving behind a family of nine children. Due to hardship in the area, Smith says that crime was one of the most appealing routes in his community; however, he chose a different path by joining the military.
After 24 long years of serving his country,
Smith looked around his San Antonio
community, where he was stationed, and
saw a serious income gap for minorities living on the Eastside. He noted that the people in the area had few choices when it came to health care that they could afford. “There was only three or four Black dentists in the whole city,” he said. The need became greater when the main dentist in his neighborhood, an old instructor of his, passed away. Smith made the choice not to return to active duty, but instead join the reserves and take over the community clinic to serve those that needed his services.
Dr. Smith’s business, the Eastside Christian Dental Clinic, provides affordable, quality dental care for the residents of Eastside San Antonio, especially minorities. True to his interest in bringing jobs to this area, the majority of his 5 full-time staff members live right in the neighborhood. They often serve seniors with fixed incomes and partner with local organizations to offer dental services free of charge. Dr. Smith feels strongly about making his services affordable, saying, “believe it or not, most of our prices are the same as when I started 23 years ago.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the country, Eastside Christian Dental Clinic faced serious challenges like many other small businesses. While the pool of patients began to dry up, Dr. Smith made up his mind to keep paying his staff no matter what, even paying them out-of-pocket. He said, “if I have to make personal sacrifices to pay my people, then so be it because… I’m not on the Eastside of San Antonio to make money.” However, despite his noble intentions, Smith continued to struggle and considered retiring when he could not secure funding, but his clients encouraged him to continue serving the community who otherwise would be left unserved.
It was then that his right-hand person, office manager and wife, Anne, introduced him to LiftFund. At first, Dr. Smith said he was hesitant to apply after the prejudice and rejection he had faced both when approaching traditional banks for financing. However, LiftFund businesses advisor, Alma Valdez Brown worked with him and he was soon finally able to secure a loan. “[LiftFund] has positively influenced my business. And not only that, it has positively influenced my attitude, because I tell you, I was ready to give this place up.”
With the new funding, Dr. Smith was able to continue to pay his staff and make desperately needed updates to his clinic, housed in a building nearly 100 years old. While Dr. Smith has faced many challenges, he is motivated by his family. He says, “I have kids and I have grandkids. So what I’m trying to teach them is no matter what the obstacle is, you can still prevail in any situation.”