After a week’s vacation in Mexico, Annemarie Blocher booked a facial to repair her skin damage from too much sun and saltwater.
“I used to do a lot of horseback riding growing up in California and I think I’m paying for it now,” Blocher, a 40-something Bellevue resident, said as she lay face up on a small bed with steam wafting above her face.
Every day women around the country hit their mid-30s — the age when they start to look in the mirror, touch their face and notice wrinkles, dark spots and droopy skin. And for the last 10 years, facials, Botox and other injections have become the treatment of choice to eliminate those frown lines and crow’s feet.
Lynn Heublein used that growing popularity to create SkinSpirit, a skin-care business in Northern California that has grown right along with the Botox industry. Now she is expanding that business into the Seattle area, where she grew up.
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SkinSpirit is the new face of Calidora, a Seattle-based skin clinic with four locations that SkinSpirit bought in August.
After operating SkinSpirit in California for 10 years, Heublein said she was ready for a reason to spend more time in Washington. She
left in 1985 after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in engineering.
“Botox is something that every 30-year-old knows about. When we first started, everyone was worried about what it would do, but now it is part of the culture,” she said while in Seattle finalizing aspects of the acquisition.
“I think the market is really at a place where it is going to take off; it just needed that 10 years of incubation.”
“Our biggest competitor”
SkinSpirit offers facials, skin treatments, Botox and other injections and fillers in a clinical setting with a spalike feel — calming music, warm towels and essential oils, but no massages or manicures. The Seattle acquisition has doubled its number of clinics.
Calidora’s University Village location is being remodeled and will open with the new SkinSpirit name Feb. 17. The remodeled Redmond location opened in January, and the Bellevue location moved to Bellevue Square; the downtown Seattle location on University Street was closed.
Many spas, medical spas and skin-care facilities are spread around the Puget Sound area. But unlike businesses such as Red Door Spa in Bellevue, or CosMedic Skincare and Blue Haven Medical Spa in Seattle, Calidora had several locations — making it the area’s only chain of medical spas, said David Yonce, who was the CEO of Calidora and stayed on as SkinSpirit’s chief operating officer.
Yonce said the medical spa industry is fragmented with many small businesses, dermatologists and plastic surgeons offering medical skin treatments. But it was having multiple locations under one brand that made Calidora — which opened its first location in Bellevue in 2005 — a “visionary,” he said.
That also made the company a prime acquisition target. Calidora was owned by an investment group, Skinlux, that was ready to sell and believed SkinSpirit would position the business for continued growth, said Yonce, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal.
“Calidora was the biggest in the Seattle market, so not having to compete with them makes our job a lot easier,” Heublein said. “We basically took over who would have been our biggest competitor.”
Blocher had been going to Calidora for almost seven years since moving from California, where she had tried SkinSpirit. She said the merger doesn’t surprise her because the two businesses were so similar.
“When I moved to Washington, I was looking for the same kind of tier-one service I got at SkinSpirit in California and I found it at Calidora,” she said as an aesthetician wrapped a warm, grapefruit-scented towel around her face.
Blocher gets a monthly facial and has tried many of the medical treatments offered to combat the realities of aging.
“I think it is a great investment to look and feel great,” she said. “For me the way you look and feel outweighs the cost,” which she said usually runs $139 for an hourlong facial.
Botox and other injections can range anywhere from $100 per shot to $2,000, depending on the duration. Those that last longer, cost more, Heublein said.
“My mommy track”
After graduating from the UW, Heublein traveled around the country working in brand management, marketing and software. She also earned an MBA from Stanford.
But, after living a fast-paced life in Silicon Valley, she decided she needed a break, leaving her job as the chief operating officer of HearMe.com, a videoconferencing software company, for a self-imposed sabbatical.
While in her 30s, Heublein started seeing Dr. M. Dean Vistnes for laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, Botox and other injections. After forming a close friendship, she said Vistnes persuaded her to go into business with him.
She agreed because she didn’t want to return to the technology world. She was pregnant and ready for a life that would allow her to be home with her soon-to-be son — “my mommy track,” she said.
A year later, in 2003, they opened SkinSpirit in Palo Alto, Calif. The team opened their second clinic in September 2008 — the same week Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.
“It was the worst possible timing,” Heublein said. “Nobody wanted to spend any money.”
For the first time in five years, the company’s revenue fell and Heublein had to implement a hiring and salary freeze.
By the end of 2009, SkinSpirit was making money again, and in 2010 Heublein and Vistnes opened a third location in Mill Valley, Calif.
From 2010 to 2013, SkinSpirit’s revenue increased 71 percent, finishing the year with $15.4 million, which includes the new Washington locations open since August. Heublein said she hopes to be at $25 million by the end of 2014.
Heublein said the Eastside has her perfect client base: professional women entering their 40s with a household income of $75,000.
Men represent 10 to 15 percent of SkinSpirit’s client base in California. With Microsoft, Google and other large tech corporations in the Seattle area, Heublein said she thinks men could make up an even larger client base here.
“I think men are more concerned now, compared to 10 years ago, about their youthful appearance in the work setting,” she said. “Especially when you are in technology. … It is such a young person’s game.”
Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @coralgarnick