Esther Fieldgrass is a pioneer in the aesthetics industry, and is the founder of EF MEDISPA. Formed 10 years ago in Kensington, it is one of the UK’s first medical spas and leading skin clinics, providing cutting edge, innovative face and body treatments to a clientele including celebrities and royalty.
There are now EF MEDISPA clinics in Chelsea, St John’s Wood, Canary Wharf and Bristol.
How did EF Medispa come about?
It came from getting older. Because I was getting older, and feeling older, I started looking at what was available in the market and I noticed that Medispa’s were a niche in the UK. There was nothing high tech and non-invasive in the industry and I really wanted to create something for all generations and be one of the first, if not the first of its kind in the UK. And now we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary!
For the business currently, I attend and speak at many beauty and anti-aging seminars in order to get fresh ideas and keep the brand on trend. As well as my regular contacts with manufacturers of aesthetic equipment and skincare products from Europe and the USA, I have recently been discussing product development with Korean manufacturers who have become recognised as innovators in the aesthetics industry.
What is the greatest challenge and reward about being your own boss?
I absolutely push myself too much and work far, far too many hours, which my husband often complains about! I never turn off. Sometimes I’m sending emails to people at 1 or 2 in the morning.
The biggest reward comes from working with such an amazing team of people every day. A company is only as good as the people that work in it, and so I put a lot of emphasis on staff training to make sure that the team realise their full potential. I keep them motivated by constantly improving working conditions and maintaining attractive compensation packages with great incentives for top performers. Our training programme is now recognised throughout the industry, and this is attracting several clinic owners who want to join our franchise network.
I also believe in giving back to the community. We have recently sponsored the Lady Garden’s charity run raising money for research on ovarian cancer, and we are regular donors to the Cardboard Citizens charity supporting the homeless. It feels incredibly rewarding to be able to help those less fortunate as well as contributing to improving the well-being of the community.
How have you managed to maintain such a successful business and what advice would you give to our readers?
I trained as an apprentice hairdresser at the age of 16, was married by the age 19, and opening my first business aged 20. I said to my husband; ‘If I’m going to work this hard for someone else, I might as well work for myself’. So I started with my first hair salon, then opened a second and expanded into beauty. It’s never going to be an easy journey, and you have to be prepared for that. For the first business we took a second mortgage out; I borrowed money from my father, whilst simultaneously studying beauty at night school.
My hair & beauty salon in Notting Hill had great big windows, and the male staff would dress up as drag queens, which was so much fun! It kept the business interesting, drew people in, and tapped into what was trendy. The salons were soon winning awards, and I felt especially proud when I saw some of the staff that I had mentored go out on their own and establish successful businesses of their own.
It’s important to work hard, do your research, and maintain strong relationships with clients. I realised that the best way to stay ahead of the competition was by providing excellent service and always innovating.
Have you benefited from mentoring?
I had no mentor. I just did my research and learnt from successful people in the industry but I realised that there are so many people starting out in aesthetics who are keen but lack business experience. So I have developed a franchise model, where I can mentor enthusiastic therapists and help them develop their business under the EF MEDISPA brand.
What struggles have you faced as a businesswoman?
The struggle for me, at first, was to be taken seriously. Beauty, believe it or not, is a male dominated industry and more so with medispas where most of the doctors are male. At first, it was difficult to be accepted as a successful businesswoman in a predominantly male environment.
10 years later, and having won Best Clinic at the London Lifestyle, Professional Beauty and Aesthetic Industry Awards, I have those same doctors and business owners approaching me for advice.
What is a typical working day for you?
My day begins with yoga or personal training at about 7am. I’m not really a morning person so I prefer my trainers to come to my home, as I don’t trust myself to get to the gym!
As I take a hands on approach, I go round to all of my clinics and see what’s going on. So although I might start off at our Kensington Head Office for some internal meetings, I make a point of visiting at least one clinic every day, spending time with clinic managers, therapists and front of house.
I place heavy emphasis on marketing and PR, so will have weekly meetings with my marketing team reviewing our latest marketing initiatives and monitoring our progress on social media. I’m very result driven and I always push myself to improve. My staff know that I demand the same standards from them as I set for myself.
What does the future have in store?
I have spent the past twelve months developing a new anti-cellulite body care range. This will be launching early next year, in the U.K. and overseas markets. Our EF MEDISPA franchised clinics will be expanding across the U.K. and we have been approached by some of our international clients to launch in the Middle East. But I really think the future within the aesthetics industry is in Wellness. I have been asked to assist hotel groups develop their spas beyond relaxation therapies towards results oriented MediSpa therapies. More recently, those same groups are looking at adding a Wellness menu for their guests.
Wellness implies internal health for external beauty. I do yoga; personal training and I’ve practiced meditation for forty years. In business, you need to keep your brain focused and meditation helps to keep yourself healthy and stress-free whilst still being at the top of your game. It’s in the quietness that you find answers, and by looking after myself first, I think it has helped the business to grow.