By Tori Couch
Photography by Jill Johnson
Elyse Dickerson never thought she would work in ear care, let alone be the CEO of a multimillion dollar company.
“None of it makes any sense,” she said, laughing.
Dickerson co-founded Eosera, a biotech company focused on ear care, with Joe Griffin, Ph.D., a scientist, in 2015 after both were let go from their positions at Alcon. The life change came as a “gut punch,” she said, but soon transformed into a gift because it gave Dickerson a chance to rediscover her purpose.
“I think there’s pivotal moments throughout life where you get a chance to almost recreate yourself,” Dickerson said. “This was a moment, I think, for me to recreate who I wanted to be, whether it was as a person, as a parent or as a business leader.”
Fast forward nine years, and Dickerson, who has an MBA from SMU, took that opportunity very seriously and is leaving a mark on the national business scene.
Eosera has experienced a 292% revenue growth over the past three years, she said. The company has 10 products in more than 28,000 retail stores, including Walmart and CVS, and recently opened a new 36,499-square-foot facility that will accommodate more production. Eosera makes its products in Fort Worth, and the company employs 30 people.
The products come in multiple sizes and fall into four main categories — ear wax, ear irrigation, ear pain and ear itching. Eosera plans to release three more products, mainly focused on new delivery methods like individual doses, in 2024, Dickerson said.
“We’re the only company focused solely in ear care,” she said. “There’s other companies that maybe have one product in the category, but they’re really focused other places.”
Eosera also gives Dickerson a platform to give back to the community that helped her company get started.
She serves on the board of TechFW, a nonprofit aimed at helping entrepreneurs network, find mentors and grow their businesses. TechFW connected Dickerson and Griffin to labs at UNT Health Science Center, where Eosera’s first product, Earwax MD, was made.
Dickerson and Eosera started the empowHERment competition because winning a pitch competition helped jumpstart Eosera’s funding. The EmpowHERment Pitch Competition had its second run in 2023 and awards seed money to businesses founded or majority-owned by women in Texas.
Eosera also offers internships for high school women through a partnership with the Fort Worth Independent School District’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and college internships to men and women.
A former high school athlete at Fort Worth Country Day School, Dickerson equates her roles as a CEO and mentor to that of a coach. She wants to help others believe in themselves and discover their talents.
“I especially have a soft spot for female entrepreneurs or female people in business, because there still is a dearth of women in senior positions,” Dickerson said. “If I can be like a coach to them and help them see something, maybe they haven’t seen themselves before or extract some talent out of them that was sitting there dormant, I find such amazing fulfillment in that.”
Eosera’s first shot at getting into major retail stores came in 2016. Dickerson secured a 15-minute meeting with a buyer for CVS who was accepting pitches for the chain’s annual inventory reset while at a conference in Florida.
Dickerson’s pitch emphasized Eosera’s commitment to a category that lacked innovation and presented clinical data supporting Earwax MD’s effectiveness. Dickerson, who flew in the day of the pitch and flew home afterward, proposed putting Earwax MD in 2,000 of CVS’s 8,000 stores, hoping the buyer would go for 500.
“His response was, ‘No, I love it. I want it in all 8,000,’” Dickerson said. “That was terrifying and exhilarating because we didn’t have our contract manufacturer lined up. We didn’t have final packaging and he needed it in three months and it’s like 80,000 units.”
As Eosera took off, Dickerson and her husband — an art curator who commutes between Fort Worth and work in Washington, D.C. — made sure family remained a top priority. The couple had agreed pursuing both of their careers was important, and used au pairs for several years to help take care of their two young children.
Weekends were reserved for family activities and Sunday night dinners.
“My husband and I love to cook and the kids would cook with us, and then the au pairs would cook with us too which was kind of fun,” Dickerson said. “We’d learn different recipes from their native lands.”
Dickerson’s children are now a senior and a sophomore at Country Day and the family activities continue regularly.
Dickerson used to compete in triathlons and finds time almost every morning to work out. Usually, it’s a bike ride, which “helps set my day on the right path,” she said.
Those morning rides bring joy, and that feeling is something Dickerson trusts anyone can find through the right activity. For her, mentoring young entrepreneurs, spending time with family and working out fall into that category.
“I strongly believe everybody has something to give to this world,” Dickerson said. “Sometimes we just need help figuring out what that is.”