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Cork trio launch 'Starbucks of cosmetic clinics'

Doctor-led beauty chain with Pat Phelan at the helm is aiming for €200m global sales, writes John Reynolds


Dr Brian Cotter, Pat Phelan and Dr James Cotter

Dr Brian Cotter, Pat Phelan and Dr James Cotter

Dr Brian Cotter, Pat Phelan and Dr James Cotter

Cork serial entrepreneur Pat Phelan has co-founded Sisu Aesthetic Clinic, a doctor-led chain of aesthetic beauty clinics that aims to open in at least 100 locations here and in the UK and Europe within the next three years.

Partnering with Cork doctors Brian and James Cotter, he has raised €1m in seed funding from fellow Corkonian investors PCH founder Liam Casey and Voxpro founders Linda Kiely, who is joining Sisu's board, and her husband Dan.

Other investors include a senior player in Dublin's property sector and Barry O'Brien of Silicon Valley Bank.

Between them, Phelan, who is the CEO, and the Cotters own a majority stake in the business. It currently has 12 employees including them and a former brand manager from car-maker Ford.

Long-time friends of Phelan, the Cotters founded Cork-based Visage Clinics, which have been rebranded as Sisu ones in an asset fold-in deal.

Sisu - a Finnish term meaning rational strength of will in the face of adversity - has already prompted interest from several European venture capital funds and established clinics in the US. The business will raise growth capital to scale up when the time is right, Phelan said.

"We have a €200m opportunity to be the go-to brand in this sector. We've got the right doctor-led model and the right marketing strategy. We want to become the established, reputable safe, patient-centric clinic brand that people will choose first. It's an extraordinary chance to become the Starbucks of cosmetic treatment," he said.

For Phelan - whose last business, payment fraud detection firm Trustev sold to Transunion for $44m in late 2015 - there is a hint of irony associated with Sisu. In his earlier startup, Cubic Telecom, he and his Trustev co-founder Chris Kennedy worked together from a spare room in a waxing, tanning and nail salon.

Now Phelan is launching a global beauty chain aiming to raise treatment standards to the highest levels. "We're talking to UK organisations about this, and if we become big enough we'd like to drive better regulation," he said.

Among the treatments that Sisu will offer, priced from €300, are lip and dermal fillers, Botox facelifts, and jaw and chin reshaping. The company says 30pc of patients at Sisu's Cork clinic are men.

The global market for such treatments could be worth over €6bn by 2025, and is growing by 10pc a year, industry analysts say.

With three existing clinics in Cork, Dublin and Killarney, the chain will open in at least 10 UK city locations, with Lisbon, Berlin and Stockholm and others to follow in the Nordics, central Europe and Spain.

A hundred Sisu clinics, requiring about 150 doctors, could generate upwards of €50m of sales within three years, with similar or higher figures applying to the US market.

Doctors will be self-employed, while Sisu will own the clinics, Phelan added.

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