For Yen Reis, the founder of Skin Laundry, taking care of one’s skin shouldn’t be a luxury. Which is exactly why she recognized an opportunity in the skincare market when she opened Skin Laundry’s flagship location in Santa Monica in 2013. The native Australian had moved to California after living in Singapore for over 10 years, and was looking for a treatment when her third pregnancy left her with hormonal acne. When Reis’ Google search for “mild laser facials” yielded zero results, she recognized a gap in the market: mild laser facials that were accessible to everyone, without having to go to a medical spa.
So she launched the company with her husband, Julian Reis, who like Yen hails from a finance background. (While Julian also delves in other business at the same time, Yen is 100% focused on Skin Laundry.)
Skin Laundry’s 15-minute Laser & Light facial represents something unique in the marketplace: effective, medical-grade lasers, performed by licensed medical professionals, at an affordable price. Next up? Skin Laundry Rx, merging the worlds of dermatology and beauty to provide customers with personalized, affordable prescription skincare to treat conditions like acne and rosacea.
While skincare and beauty are proving to be big business (to the tune of $445 billion, the estimated amount in 2017), that doesn’t mean it was an easy sell early on. “It’s really taken us a long time to develop this market. To even prove that lasers are effective and safe,” Reis explains.
Fast-forward five years and over 21 locations, and Skin Laundry is primed for worldwide expansion: with 10 new U.S. store openings in 2018, Skin Laundry is setting its sights for more growth in Paris, London, Hong Kong (where there are already five locations), and the Middle East.
Learn more about how Reis manages to run a business while living with her family in Phuket, Thailand (she also happens to have three sons), why she expanded Skin Laundry’s product offering, and how she makes it all work considering the laundry list of daily tasks this founder faces.
Karin Eldor: 2018 has been all about skincare, self-care and selfies! Are you seeing an uptick?
Yen Reis: Everyone is just so much smarter these days! Thanks to social, there’s so much content out there that helps people become much savvier as consumers, so when they see a solution that works, they want it. They don’t want to go through hoops anymore and you can’t waste anyone’s time. When I created Skin Laundry, I thought it was going to attract more of a mature audience, but actually we’re as popular with millennials as we are with women between ages 30 and 40!
Eldor: How did the “Wash and Wear” skincare product line in Sephora and ULTA Beauty come about?
Reis: That was a transition of what we were doing. We noticed that our customers were looking for take-home solutions. I believe that beautiful skin stems from clean skin. And that’s my truth: you’ll notice people who wear makeup to bed, people who don’t clean their skin properly, they’re usually the ones with the biggest skin problems. So we anchored it with great cleaners and trickled it down to the daily essentials. If you really look at what Skin Laundry is doing, we’re one of the few “medical” beauty brands. We’re actually a medical company that offers beauty solutions.
Eldor: How do you balance running your company, while still being present as a mom to three boys, and a wife? Do you have any tips for achieving work/life balance and avoiding founder burnout?
Reis: I’m very focused: when I work, I work. When I’m just coming off of a business trip (which is often!), it’s non-stop. I’m on calls and in meetings and doing everything I’m supposed to do when running a business the size of Skin Laundry today. But when I’m with my kids, I’m really present. I wake up at 6am, drive them to school, do homework with them, go to their soccer games — I schedule everything that I need to do for work, during their school time. And the same with my husband, Julian: if I’m with him, I enjoy my time with him.
Eldor: Do you have a tip that keeps you organized?
Reis: I always have a to-do list and write a new one every day. The new list is how I prioritize my time and is based on what’s urgent in my business. Every day I finish a whole page worth, and I don’t stop until I get through most of it! I know what has to be done, I get that done and I feel good about that, so that when I’m having dinner I’m not distracted.
Eldor: You had mentioned you wake up at 6am: do you check your email right away?
Reis: I download and skim through them, and then I don’t touch them until my kids go to school. Actually I don’t touch them until I finish a workout, to be very honest.
Eldor: I love that exercising is a non-negotiable for you!
Reis: It’s good for everyone! Everything I try to do these days is really about balance and it’s important to have exercise as part of your balance as well! So I never feel guilty about taking an hour or two out of my day to work-out because I’m a better person for it.
That’s the thing about running your business, there’s a certain responsibility you have, it’s overwhelming: if you don’t have clear mental health to really navigate through it, it can be very daunting. When you break it down, taking care of your own health is important for business : you’re supporting families, which is a big responsibility, so I try as hard as I can to execute with a very clear mind and a stronger body. (Note: there are 270 people on the Skin Laundry team, between the stores and head office — and it’s only growing.)
Eldor: What are some essential characteristics to being a female entrepreneur?
1- Multitasking: you have to be able to wear so many different hats, and I think as a mother, you usually have that innate ability anyway.
2- To be able to take risks and recognize when an opportunity is super important, because not everyone gets those opportunities and if you’ve got them, you’re already lucky. So whenever there’s an opportunity that comes my way, whether it’s meeting someone in the beauty space or investors, I try hard to do that. And because I take those risks and opportunities, I’ve seen dramatic results in my business. So give it a shot.
Eldor: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Reis: Have integrity. Investors always ask me, “Why don’t you make your treatment more expensive? Because you can.” I reply with, “No, the reason why I built this model is because I believe good skin care should be available to everyone, especially to those who need it most: the customer with bigger skin problems such as acne and skin pigmentation. Lasers should not be a prestige product. So that’s the integrity part: you have to stay true to what you believe in, and hopefully people will respect that , understand it, and once they understand it, they’ll like you more.