Leann Wallace Griffin, RN, CCRN-Burn, learned about skincare in the 1990s while she was working to save and repair the skin barrier at the burn intensive care unit (ICU) at UC Irvine Medical Center in Irvine, Calif. Today, she is CEO of Vixen Aesthetics, a successful full- service concierge medical aesthetics company she founded in 2005.
Ms. Griffin says the launch of her aesthetics practice was a natural career progression. Two decades in the ICU gave her a strong foundation and appreciation for aesthetics. Back then, she would spend her nights caring for critical traumas, partial to full thickness burns, bomb victims needing limb flaps, grafts and even the occasional “high maintenance, yet easy” phenol/croton oil peels.
The native Southern Californian was pregnant with her daughter (who is now 15 years old), when the decision to transition from the worst of skincare scenarios to the best seemed like the right thing to do.
“I switched my priorities to keep my unborn baby safe [from] pumping on chests and scrubbing burnt skin off daily for a living,” she explains.
To this day, she believes her greatest professional accomplishment has been Vixen’s ongoing success and keeping intact what she calls, “the best working team-family.” However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Ms. Griffin says she made mistakes and learned from them.
“Early on I allowed others to negatively influence my decisions and I doubted my strengths. I conceded taking on a second partner – someone I didn’t know, but quickly discovered, was greed-oriented, lacked experience and, worse, a conscience,” Ms. Griffin recalls. “After building a rapidly growing business, I had to make a very difficult, but ethical and reputation- saving, decision to abandon my first company. Fortunately, that taught me to keep my head held high and never ever doubt my gut instinct.”
In a business that isn’t easy, and often attracts people for the wrong reasons, Ms. Griffin says the pillars of a successful aesthetic practice are training and expertise.
“Be well-trained. Study! Whether you are an MD from trauma or an RN from recovery, this specific field of medicine is very different. Aesthetics is a specialty within specialties. It is not as simple as many believe, as evidenced by the rise of extreme adverse events, obvious poor techniques and major patient complaints,” Ms. Griffin emphasizes. “Those of us who love this field and train others implore anyone who wants to open a [medical spa] to please make sure this is your passion. If your drive is money, look for a different line of work. If you are excellent at what you do and you love and live your passion, the money will come.”
Providers who want to transition into aesthetics should be experts in the field before they open their practices, Ms. Griffin advises. “I’m always surprised by the many providers who open a practice before they even know how to inject! It is up to you to learn on your own before touching a patient who is putting their trust in you.
Ms. Griffin, a veteran entrepreneur, offers these other pearls for providers who launch aesthetic practices:
Differentiate. “There is a new ‘medical spa’ opening on every corner. Determine how yours will be different,” she says.
Be confident. “With knowledge you grow confidence. This field is ever-evolving, so you must love to research and learn in order to reach excellence,” Ms. Griffin notes.
Be frugal. “There is no need to buy a bunch of equipment to be profitable. Sell yourself and your passion without ‘selling.’”
Be honest. “Honesty is ethical and essential.”
Be healthy. “Feed yourself! Do not neglect your mind, body or soul. Fill up with your family and your friends,” she says. “This has been the hardest aspect for me. As women, we are naturally more giving. All too often, we exhaust our resources and neglect ourselves.”
And one more – be inspired. Ms. Griffin says success inspires her daily. “Every small successful step has inspired me to work harder for greater success,” she says. “I have also been inspired by others who have been at the top of their game and fell, then turned around and were able to resurrect themselves even better than before.”
New technologies and techniques fuel Ms. Griffin’s interest.
“I’m a total geek for new tech. I love lasers, body shaping and learning new or improved techniques,” she says.
But it isn’t all business that inspires Ms. Griffin to be her best. It is also family.
“My children inspire me and keep me young with inappropriate gangster rap music that I can’t stop singing all day,” Ms. Griffin jokes. “My daughter is beautiful, intelligent, intuitive and a talented singer. My son is super handsome, a great hockey player and loyal.”
Ms. Griffin’s biggest inspiration: her husband.
“Master Gunnery Sargent Griffin proudly served God, Corps and Country in the U.S. Marine Corps for just shy of 30 years. His tireless commitment to his country and his passion for the Marine Corps will forever humble and inspire me,” she says.
Five random facts about Leann Griffin, RN
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A neurosurgeon and a burn doctor. My father was burned as a baby and my older brother had severe epilepsy, so I grew up in hospitals seeing things little kids really should never see. My brother is five years older than me, and since I was always with him, I had to know how to fix him! At the age of six I learned the hard way how to hoist my 11-year-old brother up and get him home from a bicycle accident caused by a seizure. What scared other kids made me more determined to dive head-first into it.
Q: What are your three favorite songs?
A: Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie); Dirt (Alice In Chains); Flying High Again and You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll (Ozzy Osborne). I can’t decide!
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?
A: Jesus, if he speaks English. If not, then David Bowie.
Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: My age. I want to be 25, but with all of my memories and wisdom.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: No one lives your life but you. There is no rule book, no how-to manual. You write your own destiny.