Education with Suzie Hoitink, CEO, Founder and Head of Nursing, Clear Complexions Clinics

LCW: You are taking Australia by storm with your very beautiful Clear Complexion Clinics, what enticed you to start your company?

S: Clear Complexions was actually born out of a need for a little help with my own skin. Since my early teens I have suffered acne which continued well into my twenties, in fact into my thirties. Then if that wasn’t enough, in my early thirties I developed hormonal pigmentation from being pregnant with my two girls. Anyone who has had problematic skin will know just how debilitating it can be. It can affect every aspect of your life. My self-esteem took a beating. I wore very heavy makeup and found it hard to look people in the eye. It sounds silly but when you don’t feel confident about how you look, even if it is relatively insignificant, it can steal moments from you, and it did me.

I had tried everything – pills, creams, diets – but nothing worked. My pain point was not being able to get a straight answer from any of the ‘professionals’, and desperation will make you listen to anyone. I was nursing at the time and had heard about new technology that was helping people with their skin. This was at a time when light based therapies were just coming onto the market but access to them was limited to a select few dermatologists and plastic surgeons. I began to research. I realised there was no one out there dedicated to looking after the health of your skin so I set about getting myself an education on the different types of technology and in early 2005 bought my first IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and opened the first Clear Complexions Clinic.

LCW: You have opened 6 clinics Australia wide – as a business model, did you set out to open a chain?

S:  Not at all – they just grew! The first Clear Complexions was a tiny clinic with two treatment rooms. I started getting the word out by doing small information evenings with family and friends. Even in my wildest dreams could I never have imagined how great the demand would be once people understood what we did and what was possible with their skin. Because light based technologies were so new, there was very little consumer awareness that you could lighten pigmentation, manage rosacea or treat broken capillaries for example. Once we started to educate the general public, through editorials and information evenings, they came in their doves.

Within 3 months of opening, we took over the shop next door. As new technology became available, I added to our offering, and the true uniqueness of the Clear Complexions was born – use multiple technologies to get results for our clients. Most skin clinics across the world have 2, maybe 3 technologies, whereas all our clinics now have 17, enabling us to perform 23 different treatments.

Demand grew for what we were offering clients. We had more incredible nurses and doctors join the team and opened our second and third clinics in Canberra, and moved the first two into larger premises.

In 2013 we made the decision we were going to give this a red hot crack and opened in Sydney, in Balmain, and most recently we have clinics in the Macquarie Centre in North Ryde and of course in gorgeous Mosman.

To date, we have 60 people, nurses, admin and doctors, who call CC home now, and are growing rapidly.

LCW: What are the 3 greatest moments since opening Clear Complexions?

S:  I don’t know if I can narrow this down to 3 great moments, but I can tell you the 3 things I love the most about Clear Complexions.

I am addicted to seeing the results we achieve for our clients and the change it makes to their lives. It seems a dramatic statement but we can all relate to the power self-confidence has, and it comes from how you feel about yourself. Having an insecurity, however insignificant to others, can slowly chip away at your sense of self. At the clinics, our nurses support clients in addressing their skin concerns, giving them more than just long-lasting results, but also the sense of empowerment and confidence it brings with it.

I love that Clear Complexions is the recognised leader in skin rejuvenation in Australia. Over the years, I have worked with the most incredible individuals; nurses, doctors and administrators, who have all helped forged what is now considered ‘best practice’ in our industry. Recently I spoke at the Australian Nursing Forum, hosted by the Australian College of Nursing about pioneering the specialty of Cosmetic Nursing. To have witnessed and contributed to the birth of this new and exciting industry, and to be so involved in setting the standards is a privilege and a true joy.

Lastly, I am truly blessed in that every single day I work alongside my husband (and partner since I was 13 years old). Together we dreamed up this concept of skin health clinics, staffed entirely by nurses and doctors and together we have built them. He is a true entrepreneur, and a constant inspiration to me. To be able to share this journey with him, the challenges and the achievements, is a daily ‘great moment’.

LCW: What might you have done differently?

S:  In 2013, Alex and I had three very successful clinics in Canberra. The brand was well understood and they were running at capacity. It seemed logical to expand to Sydney… but that’s when we received our real lessons in business – the ones that really hurt. We went from being big fish in a small pond to very, little fish in a lake.

We learnt the hard way how difficult it is to establish a brand in a new market as well as how crucial systems and processes are to a growing company.

We had to go through 24 months of stripping the company back to bare bones and setting us up for successful growth. We have implemented stronger systems and processes across every aspect of the company, from operations, HR, education, marketing and finances. We have invested in our leaders and developed our bespoke, 12 month education program for our clinical teams. I have learnt more in the last 2 years about business and about myself, than in all the prior years of Clear Complexions, but I am immensely proud of where we are today.

LCW: Winning Telstra Business Women of the Year 2012 must have been amazing – how did winning this award strengthen your business?

S:  There are awards and there are awards and I’m not one for chasing the spotlight or accolades, but the Telstra Business Womens Awards are different. Nationally recognised for the integrity of the process, winning the 2012 ACT Telstra Business Womens Awards and being a National finalist was an incredibly proud moment for me and for those who have stood by me all long. My parents were beside themselves! The whole awards process was surprisingly emotional because it was the first time I had been forced to look back and reflect on where I had come from.

Through the Telstra Awards I have also forged strong relationships with focused and generous women who are always there when I need the “push” or the “pull back”. I have learnt two things from these women; firstly reciprocity, to share knowledge freely and expect nothing in return and secondly to stand out – be brave and bold.

LCW: With a husband, mother of 2 daughters AND a triathlon runner you must been incredibly skilled in time management – what is your secret?

S:  Ahh, no secret. It’s what every working mum does; we juggle!! I haven’t got the balance right all the time, but you learn from when you don’t. I’m an early riser which helps!!

LCW: There are many, many skin experts, doctors, cosmeticians and beauticians however Clear Complexions offers a completely different experience. From the minute a client enters your clinic they are transported into what feels like a hotel with a very one on one personal experience, what was your motivation for creating such a beautiful experience?

S:  All those years ago before starting Clear Complexions, I wanted to create a place that I wanted to go to myself as a client. A beautifully presented boutique clinic, staffed by wonderfully caring professionals, who knew what worked and what didn’t, and cared enough to support you through that process. Medical professionals, nurses and doctors delivering real results – tangible and long lasting, the goal being beautiful healthy skin. I know we have achieved that.

LCW: There are so many things I personally LOVE about being a client of Clear Complexions – but I think the biggest one is the results! Can you please share with us your most popular treatments?

S:  What is so unique about Clear Complexions is that we don’t just focus on the quick fix for our clients. While we give our clients immediate improvement in their skin, we also have a forward-thinking approach, where we consider what do we need to implement now and in the near future to improve their skin health in 1, 3 and even 5 years’ time. Clients love this approach – who doesn’t want healthy skin for a lifetime? Our most popular treatments include Fraxel (fractionated laser), the new Ultraformer III (Skin tightening), Laser Genesis and peels. I just love them all!

LCW: “We believe that real beauty comes from feeling truly confident in who you are” – at Let’s Connect Women we believe 100% in the power of feeling AND looking great to be able to perform at our peak – it’s seems rare for a skin company to promote confidence over aesthetics, this quote sums up your values, it’s obviously something close to your heart ???

S: Absolutely.

Our nurses treat all manner of skin conditions, from aging to acne, and every single one of our clients is inspirational to me and to them. They have had the courage to articulate and face a personal insecurity; something about how they look that is affecting how they feel. To others, it is insignificant; a wrinkle or an age spot. Not ground shattering by any stretch of the imagination, but it is enough to make them pause a little longer at the mirror and wish it wasn’t there.

I am privileged to be a part of that positive change and am witness every day to the power of nurturing yourself and taking charge of your own self confidence. Lives change, decisions are made and progress happens all on the back of being a little happier with how you look and what you offer the world.

At Clear Complexions, we instill confidence through beautiful, healthy skin.

LCW: With our Australian way of life, sun damage and our quest to look youthful and healthy, what part does technology play in supporting your clients and what was your motivation for only employing qualified doctors and nurses?

S: Anyone who has lived in Australia has aged their skin beyond its chronological age, despite the very best of intentions. This environmental or extrinsic aging is what our nurses and doctors can help our clients with. We assess our client’s skin using imaging technology, repair damage and then set their skin on a different, healthier path, enabling them to age better than they otherwise would. Technology is crucial to that process, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean many treatments – just targeted ones. What is crucial is the expert knowledge and experience of our medical team, that advise and support clients.

LCW: With 10 years business and entrepreneurial experience, what has been your greatest achievement in business?

S: Scarily, it’s been 13 years. It has flown by. What am I most proud of? I’m not a backwards looking person and I never really stop to reflect too much, but what I am most proud of is that I created an environment that attracts people of the quality we have at Clear Complexions. Over the years I have had many doctors, administrators and many, many nurses call Clear Complexions home, and when I think about the calibre of them, their exceptional integrity, loyalty and advocacy for their clients, it honestly humbles me that they place their trust and faith in me. I am incredibly proud of them all, past and present.  

LCW: What next for Suzie Hoitink??

S: I never thought of myself as a legacy leaver but I’m working with the Australian College of Nursing to co-write the first Graduate Certificate in Cosmetic Nursing. It’s an exciting time to be in this emerging industry and being part of the direction it is heading in. Contributing to raising the standards in every aspect is a unique and challenging opportunity. That, along with growing Clear Complexions, will give me a very busy year ahead.

Claudia Neal-Shaw