Stephanie Andresen-Stevens is, “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a skin care world,” from Winona, Minnesota. She has been an aesthetician for 11 years and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience into her treatment room to obtain transformational skin care results for her clients. Andresen-Stevens owns Brilliant Bodywork Medspa in Onalaska, Wisconsin and specializes in acne, antiaging, laser therapies, reiki, oncology aesthetics, and makeup artistry. In her free time, she is an avid volunteer with La Crosse, Wisconsin Oktoberfest, and The Shriners Hospital for Children, which has resulted in being awarded the presidential Point of Light Award and a Jefferson Award.
I have always had a love for making people feel their best. Aesthetics gives us the opportunity to help clients heal from not only physical trauma, but also emotional trauma, as well. Assisting clients with problematic skin or transformational skin care can literally change lives. Often, you can watch a client’s self confidence soar as they notice improvements in the health, wellness, and appearance of their skin. That is the single most reason that I choose aesthetics.
What have you learned about yourself by running a business?
Running my own business has been the most rewarding and the most difficult feat. I have learned that it takes bravery, courage, perseverance, elbow grease, and a whole lot of prayer. The most important thing that I have earned is how to believe in myself. Often, when starting a small business, there is so much uncertainty and self-doubt that it can become paralyzing. Learning to trust your instincts and to roll with calculated risks is pivotal to the growth of any entrepreneur. I also learned that it is absolutely okay and necessary to lean on friends during trying times.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest risk I have ever taken was moving from a 300-square-foot space into a 3,500-square-foot space so we could grow. Our first leased space only had two treatment rooms and a reception area. It was very small and basic and I knew that we needed to move in order to grow. We moved into our current space praying that we would be able to grow into it by adding more medical-based services and more service professionals. After only a couple of years, we have not only flourished into our new spa, but we were also able to purchase our building from our landlord. I am very proud of our humble beginning and just how far we have come.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I feel that growth and development are a lifelong journey. I am always researching for new treatments or new techniques that offer better results for my clients. I have been blessed with many opportunities that have allowed me to connect with other professionals around the world. Being able to see different techniques that others use has greatly enhanced my personal growth. I am excited for every opportunity I have to expand my knowledge. I am truly blessed to be able to help inspire others to continue to grow – whether it is teaching my staff new techniques and watching them blossom, going to the local schools to speak about skin care and the experiences that this industry has provided me, or having the opportunity to coach others around the world.
What motivates you each day?
I am motivated each day by serving others in the community. I love being able to help others who have struggled with health challenged skin work towards healthy and vibrant skin. It is so rewarding to watch their eyes fill with excitement, their energy levels go up, and their self-esteem rise as we get closer to their skin goals. We recently started a program called Restorative Ink that allows victims of sex trafficking or domestic violence to have their branding tattoos removed free of charge. I am motivated each time I remove a tattoo that was forcibly placed on a client. There is a compelling amount of healing that comes from the treatment room that we as aestheticians can facilitate.
How do you approach change?
Change is something that is necessary and inevitable in our industry. I choose to embrace change with open arms and an open mind. Before I initiate any changes, I like to do a fair amount of research and gather information from my colleagues and peers. Staying positive during these changes ensures that my staff feels more confident and comfortable, which in turn helps them to remain on the positive side, as well.
How do you keep yourself grounded? What to you do to unwind?
I have the best group of friends that a girl could ask for. To unwind, I love to hang out with them. We do karaoke nights, game nights, movies nights, pool parties, and bonfires. They are my main support system and I always feel so reenergized and recharged after we have spent time together. My husband Adam and I also like to spend a fair amount of time paddle boarding and kayaking, as well.
What is your favorite spa treatment?
My favorite treatment has become laser tattoo removal. We actually just launched Restorative Ink, which is a tattoo removal project that helps survivors of domestic violence or sex trafficking remove branding tattoos that were placed on their bodies unwillingly. This service has taught me just how amazing the human spirit can be. These survivors are literally rebuilding their lives and are by far some of the most inspiring people I know. I admire their strength, courage, and bravery. It is such a great honor to help them heal from their past.
If you could go back in time to when you first were starting out, what advice would you give yourself?
I am such an introvert. I would tell myself to get out there and network sooner than later. Join that women in business group, hit all the tradeshows, attend all of the educational events that you can, and get out of the box. Once I really started to push myself out of my comfort zone, I began to flourish and grow personally and professionally. Get involved in your community. Join a non-profit organization that you believe in with all of your heart and soul – give back however and whenever you can.
If you could ask another leader any question, what would it be?
I would love to talk to Ellen DeGeneres about where she draws her strength and willingness to help others from. She is such an inspiration to me as an activist, comedian, and kindhearted person who is always giving back, generous with her time, and making people laugh.
How do you measure success?
I full heartedly measure my success on how my energy feels at the end of the day. If I go into the day with a grateful heart that is more than ready to serve and go to bed that night feeling honored and blessed with the work that I did, that is my measure of success. It 100% has nothing to do with money, awards, or accolades, but rather if I was able to help just one person that day. That is true success.
Early bird or night owl?
Oh my goodness! I am so not a morning person. My amazing husband wakes me up 15 minutes before we have to leave in the morning to allow me to sleep in as much as possible. I am such a night owl and I love to stay up till one or two in the morning playing with my dogs, catching up on e-mails, and binge-watching old episodes of “I Love Lucy.”
Laundry or dishes?
I do my fair share of laundry at work, as I am sure every aesthetician does, but when it comes to home life, I am very blessed that my amazing husband takes over 95% of the cooking and cleaning, including laundry and dishes.
Camping or glamping?
I am a true glamper. Think of a large, beautiful white tent or a gorgeous AirStream with plumbing, a soaker bathtub, and a chandelier – that is my kind of glamping. I do enjoy bonfires with friends – no chandelier needed.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the industry?
My proudest accomplishment in the industry has been being able to give back to others. We donate our time to the Shriners Hospital for Children dressing up as favorite characters to visit and uplift the patients. We participate in food, clothing, and school supply drives. We pack over 500 boxes a year for Operation Christmas Child. We are also able to offer relaxing spa services to cancer patients free of charge through our Wings of Hope program and free tattoo removal for sex trafficking survivors and domestic abuse survivors through our Restorative Ink program. I am so happy to be able to give back to the community that has helped us so much over the past 11 years.
What’s the biggest myth in the industry?
The biggest myth in our industry is that skin care is all about fluff and buff or luxury for the elite. Sure, we can perform relaxation facials that help clients to bliss out and relax, but it does not end there. We have the ability to make a positive impact on each and every client that we treat. These impacts are both physical and emotional. The work that we do and the services that we provide are an act of love, healing, and transformation. Never doubt that you are making a difference in the lives that you touch.
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
My biggest hurdle that I continue to overcome is my own disability. I have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This disease causes me to have frequent joint dislocations without warning. The frequent dislocations can lead to fatigue and joint pain. I overcome by being honest with myself about my limitations and honest with my clients, as well. I work five days a week and have learned to manage my symptoms, know my limitations, and listen to my body when it needs rest – something that all aestheticians should do.
Where is the brand headed over the next five years?
In the next five years, we are hoping to formulate our own skin care line and continue expanding our giveback philosophy across the globe to other spa owners and facilities.
Where is the entire industry headed?
I think that our industry is headed more in the direction of transformational results. More and more people are seeking the help of their aestheticians for things like acne, rosacea, antiaging, and even skin tightening instead of going to their plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Obviously, we cannot diagnose, treat, or cure, but we can offer our time and expertise. We are able to provide more advanced services than ever before and we are able to spend more time with the client than a medical professional, which allows us to provide more one-on-one education and build important relationships.
What distinguishes your company from others in the industry?
I think what really distinguishes us is our desire to be well connected in the community. It is one thing to set up shop in a small community and another thing to invest in your community. We always keep our eyes and ears open for needs within our community and we are never scared to act on that need or motivate others to get involved.
What are your current goals?
My current goals are to help other aestheticians and medical spa owners give back to their communities by helping them replicate programs such as Wings of Hope and Restorative Ink. By replicating these programs throughout the world, I feel we can increase our outreach of helping others heal emotionally and physically from illness and trauma.
How would you define your company’s culture?
Our medical spa has a team-based culture. We all work together as a team to gain the best possible results for our clients. This culture helps us to cross promote the services that we provide, as well as each other as experts in our given modalities.
What has been the hardest lesson learned in business?
The hardest lesson I have ever learned is that I cannot help everyone. I would literally give the shirt off my back, but there are some clients, friends, and even family members that, despite all your efforts, you will not be able to help or save. It is not personal. Some just need to forge their own path and rebuild themselves from whatever it is that they are seeking to work on. It is okay to step back, love them from a distance, and cheerlead them from afar. This applies to noncompliant clients, family members, or friends who have, for whatever reason, just struggled to make the right strides to better themselves.
How do you motivate your employees and team?
A few years ago, we had each team member take a short quiz that revealed what motivated them as individuals. The results were amazing in that each person was, in fact, motivated differently. Of course, everyone likes money. But money while working in a hostile work environment? Not so much. So, we really focus on maintaining a clean work environment with the most up-to-date equipment, words of affirmation, and monetary bonuses, as well as showing that we care for the staff as family.
Gut instinct versus expertise: which is more important and why?
I do not believe that one is more important than the other, as there should be balance in both instinct and expertise. To grow as a professional, you need a balance of both. When dealing with the body, we are dealing with a complex living being. You need the expertise to know what outcome you are looking to achieve, as well as any known side effects, to reduce the chance of adverse reactions. But, in the same breath, you need the intuitiveness and flexibility to think on your feet to customize treatments to each individual as certain reactions occur. Having a strong balance of both can excel a professional to a higher level.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
We encourage creative thinking and problem solving within our spa by always asking for input from our staff and being supportive of their input. Our brainstorm sessions help us come up with many bright ideas and thought processes that get the ball rolling on new treatments, programs, and processes.
Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
All of our great ideas come from team brainstorming sessions. It is an amazing time to share thoughts and get them on paper. I love including everyone in this process because we have so many different viewpoints and possibilities to work through.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Ethical practices in this industry have to be some of the most important decisions we have to make – educating clients on what is best for them and allowing them to make intelligent decisions for their own care. Treating clients’ concerns with the best options for each individual, not an expensive treatment they may have seen on the internet, is critical. Far too often, we have to fix problems that other practices have created due to poor ethical decisions about the client’s care.
How do you stay relevant and current?
To stay relevant and current, I quite literally put myself out there. I attend all the workshops, conferences, and networking events that I can possibly go to. I talk to other industry professionals and keep in touch with them and enjoy when they do the same.
What is the hardest thing about being a leader?
The hardest thing about being a leader is knowing that everyone depends on you. My staff and clients depend on me to show up and give 100%. They depend on me to keep the lights on, so to speak, and ensure that they have a safe work environment. My clients depend on me to provide safe and effective treatments and my family depends on me, as well. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but so worth it in the end when you can look back at all that you have created, accomplished, and served.