Avoca Clinic at the cutting edge
Sean Gallagher meets owners of small and medium sized businesses and shares the lessons they've learnt in building their companies
In an age of social media and selfies, the pressure on women to look their best has never been greater. Advances in surgical and cosmetic procedures makes access to treatments more available to women of all ages. Mother and daughter Ailish Kelly and Niamh Murdock have grown The Avoca Clinic into market leaders.
Set up in 2012 by Ailish Kelly and now run by her and her daughter, Niamh Murdock, The Avoca Clinic is Ireland's leading cosmetic clinic. Headquartered in Avoca, Co. Wicklow, the business employs 50 staff and has an annual turnover of more than €3.5m.
"We offer a range of procedures from surgical to minimally invasive procedures and aesthetic treatments," says Ailish.
"Our speciality is breast augmentation, uplifts and reductions as well as body contouring procedures such as tummy tucks and lip and facial fillers. Everything is carried out here in our state-of-the-art theatre and after-care facility from initial consultation right through to clinical assessment, surgery and after-care," she adds.
"One of our most popular procedures is our new Tickle Lipo, which takes its name from the "ticklish" sensation experienced during treatment," adds Niamh, the company's MD. "FDA approved, this has become a game-changer for fat removal. Faster, safer and more effective than traditional liposuction methods, this treatment is provided as a walk-in, walk-out procedure ensuring no down time for busy patients.
"Our leading 3D breast suite is also hugely popular, allowing patients to try on 3D breasts to help them see what they would look like after augmentation surgery," she adds.
Most of their clients are women (90pc) with the majority in the 25 to 55-year-old age bracket. Those over this age typically opt for Botox and fillers rather than surgical procedures.
"Today's beauty culture has become much more demanding," explains Ailish.
"The selfie culture and social media platforms like Facebook make people more self-aware and more self-critical. Every client that visits us has their own story and emotional journey and it's not just about the way they want to look, it's about their confidence levels and the way they want to feel inside."
It's an understanding that comes from personal experience. Ailish grew up in Cabinteely in South Dublin. After school she joined AIB where she worked for the next seven years until becoming a full-time mother to her three children. However, she kept an interest in business through undertaking market research for companies on a part-time basis as well as running jewellery parties in her home.
"When I hit my forties, conversations with girlfriends of my own age would inevitably drift to discussing how to turn back the hands of time," says Ailish.
It was when a number of her friends began to have liposuction following the birth of their children that Ailish realised the potential market for a quality cosmetic surgical business.
"The experience of my friends varied so much that I thought there had to be an opening for an American-type service that offered access to the best quality plastic surgeons but in luxurious surroundings," she explains. "Shortly afterwards, while driving through the village of Kilmacanogue, I spotted the facility where the business is now based and decided it was now or never. I also realised that I had to create a different type of clinic that put the patient first and prioritised ethics over aesthetic."
In 2012, her daughter Niamh returned from Australia and joined her full time in the business. Having completed a degree in Economics and Sociology at UCD and a master's degree in International Business at the Dublin Institute of Technology, she had spent over three years working in the finance services sector in Melbourne.
"The success of the business today is largely down to our relationship and the fact that we each bring very different skills to the business," says Niamh. "Juggling the demands of work with having a family is challenging and now that I find myself in the same position, I admire my mother's accomplishments even more. I know that I wouldn't have the work ethos that I do, if it wasn't for her."
But with so many cosmetic procedures available today is there a danger they could become too generalist?
"In the beginning, we offered all of these but trying to be all things to everyone just isn't possible. So over time we've become more specialised and focused. By fine-tuning our proposition to core areas of breast surgery, fat removal and aesthetic treatments, we have ensured that we are now widely regarded as the go-to clinic and best in class in these areas," says Niamh.
With a second clinic now open in Limerick and turnover last year growing by more than 20pc, it's a strategy that seems to be paying off for the mother and daughter duo.
"We believe our growth is due to only working with accredited plastic surgeons as well being patient-centred. Core to this is continuously informing, educating and guiding each person through the entire process rather than simply focusing on the bottom line," adds Ailish.
Looking to the future the pair plan to open further clinics in Dublin City Centre as well as in Cork and Galway. "We also see a big market for inbound medical tourism where we will arrange everything for overseas patients - from their procedures to their accommodation," adds Ailish.
Ailish says she still lives and breathes the business. "I love to see the change in patients and particularly in their level of confidence. As women who have been through these treatments ourselves we know the boost in confidence they can bring. That's why we often emphasise that this is a business run by women for women."
The Avoca Clinic
Business: Cosmetic Surgery Clinic
Set up: 2012
Founder: Ailish Kelly
No of Employees: 50
Location: Headquarters and surgery at Glencormack Business Park, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, with consulting rooms at 45 O’Connell Street, Limerick
AILISH AND NIAMH’S ADVICE FOR OTHER BUSINESSES
Don’t try to be all things to all people because that never works. Instead, focus on being everything to the group of people you want to cater to.
Learn to say ‘no’
For most of us saying ‘yes’ comes more naturally than saying ‘no’. This is because most of us genuinely enjoy helping others. However, to be successful, you have to stay focused on your overall mission and objectives. And that can sometimes involve saying ‘no’ to some potential opportunities.
Don’t let what you don’t know scare you
Learning is always on-going in business and there’s so much that you can take on board if you have the passion and commitment to succeed in something. But you have to be prepared to work for it. Running your own business often involves working unspeakable hours, but every one of them is worth it if you love what you are doing.
Sunday Indo Business