One of the nation’s leading destinations for medical aesthetics, SkinSpirit has opened a unit on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The location marks the company’s 20th location and its first in New York. Immediately upon entering the clinic, guests feel as if they have been transported to a high-end dermatologist office on Park Avenue, complete with a highly curated retail area, textured walls dotted with art, and an attentive and professional staff that clearly is targeting an older audience (35 to 55). Co-founder and CEO Lynn Heublein sat down with Beauty News to talk about what makes SkinSpirit different from its competitors, how it leaned into training staff during 2020 since services were halted, and what will be top of mind in 2022.
BN: How do you create the aesthetics for your locations?
Lynn Heublein: We look for high-end finishes and make sure the decor is really warm and inviting. We’re not going for the medical office feel. The retail area is heavily curated; we don’t carry complete lines. Everything is medical grade. We run all of our products through our medical advisory board before we take on a product. They’re all hand-selected for their efficacy and quality. And when better, newer things come along, we do retire some products.
BN: Welcome to Manhattan; this is the company’s entry into New York state. Where else are SkinSpirit’s locations?
LH: SkinSpirit is celebrating its 20th location nationwide with its first location in Manhattan. The company started in Palo Alto and grew out into the Bay Area, where it now has eight locations. Other regions include Washington state, Southern California, Texas, and Utah.
BN: Talk about the company’s history, its rise to 20 locations, and how you built an executive team.
LH: In 2013, we acquired a medical spa company in Seattle called Calidora. At the time, I was doing most of the corporate functions. I had a controller, but I was the interim VP of Marketing, VP of Growth, and HR. Calidora had good locations, a good customer base, and some great leaders. With that deal, we got David Yonce, our President, and Jamie Lamoreaux, VP, Clinic Operations. We also had our original founding team members Cara Fonteyne, Director of Nursing, and Dr. Dean Vistnes, Medical Director and Co-founder. We now also have Karen Fernandez in charge of training all the estheticians, and Mercedes Tracy, who is Manager of Body Services.
One of the things about the acquisition in Seattle is it helped us start to build some scale so that we could have more functional managers and directors in the company. And they had expertise. I would put our management team up against any management team in this category. We have a high retention of our leaders, which is helpful because when people know their position, they don’t make many mistakes.
You probably hear this from many founders and CEOs, but for me, it’s all about attracting the right people to carry out our vision. So we’ve attracted and hired people from Starbucks, T-Mobile and Procter & Gamble.
BN: How do you choose new markets?
LH: I had lived in the Bay Area for a long time, so growing the company there was based on my local knowledge. I grew up in Seattle, so I knew that area too. We analyze our clients and what demographic segments we are pulling, and then we go into certain parts of the country.
BN: How do you measure success?
LH: Our goal is for the locations to break even as quickly as possible. Then we can grow the unit organically. Many of our new clients come from word of mouth; about half comes from client referral, which is excellent. We’re happy if in the first couple of years we can get to a couple of million dollars annually. Then it grows from there. There has been pent up demand for aesthetics in 2021. We have almost doubled from 2020 revenue run rates. We do not franchise our locations; they are all 100 percent company owned. We open each unit individually, hire the staff, and let it grow.
What’s critical about this category is if you do it right, it’ll grow over time. We have a clinic in Palo Alto that is 18 years old, and it is still growing, with the only year not seeing growth in 2020. If you can attract and retain good talent, which is what we try to do, then you can attract and retain really good clients. So, we are looking to build strong relationships. We try to curate the best team the same way we curate the best products.
BN: What are your goals for 2022?
LH: We have some ambitious goals for launching new units. We’ll probably launch more clinics in 2022 than we ever have before. We had a pipeline of clinics planned for 2020, but we slowed that down because of COVID. The other goal is to continue to win awards for being one of the best places to work. In 2020 we were received Great Places to Work certification, and we got it again in 2021.
My biggest goal is to create a company that’s known as being one of the best places to work in this category. And then as we get bigger, for being one of the best places to work, regardless of the category. I’m most proud that our company didn’t let anybody go in 2020. We did e-commerce, but that wasn’t enough to offset losses, but we were very fast on the PPP money, and in 2018 we finally took a minority investment, which helped us get through. I was getting so many inbound calls from private equity firms. And there was so much money being offered. And I was just like, well, you know what, I think our brand deserves a shot at being a national brand. We have one of the best reputations in the industry, and the competitive side of me was just like, even though I can run this business myself, I wanted to do it for our team. And having that cash on the balance sheet really made navigating through COVID much less stressful.
BN: How did you navigate COVID?
LH: During the time where our locations were closed we leaned into training. We did about 15,000 hours of training over COVID so that actually helped us as a company. I wish I could have written an op-ed about retaining staff through training. It kept them very engaged while they couldn’t work. And when things started opening up again we weren’t scrambling to hire—we were able to bounce right back. I think it actually made us a better company. In 2018 we did take on funding and that helped get us through 2020 too.
BN: Who are your mentors?
LH: I went to Stanford Business School, so I have friends and colleagues who are investors and entrepreneurs. I’m actually part of a CEO group so I’ll bounce things off of them. I don’t want to sound all crunchy, but corporately we did the Enneagram personality test. I’m an eight. Their primary motivation is to be the challenger or protector. They’re at their best when they are helping people.
BN: Who is SkinSpirit’s primary demographic?
LH: The real power user in this category is from 35 to 55. They have the discretionary income, and they have more needs. So when you couple those things together, they amplify each other in terms of the demand. They also want very natural-looking results. The younger market is a little bit more on creating a look. We are trying to be a comfortable place for that 35 to 55-year-old consumer and a good place for somebody who is 25 years old.