In this special column called the “TLC x Fempreneurs Series”, we will be featuring inspiring Female Entrepreneurs (Fempreneurs) in short. You will be able to have a sneak peek at their mindsets and their daily habits.
Believe in the power of community. On some days when you feel big goals are impossible, or when you feel like giving up, you need to lean on your like-minded community. You can even “borrow” motivation, and in turn “return” with your own inspiring stories to pay it forward.
Meet Grace Ho (SkinPhysio)
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your business/brand about?
I grew up in a family of educators, healthcare providers, and entrepreneurs and I am all of the above. I own a private physiotherapy practice and lecture part-time at a local polytechnic (Sports & Exercise Science Diploma).
I believe in treating people sincerely and going the extra mile to help someone in need. SkinPhysio is not your ordinary physiotherapy clinic treating musculoskeletal conditions. We treat the skin as well. We are in the business of using advanced technology combined with scientific evidence-based approaches to treat various skin conditions in a natural, non-invasive manner without any downtime and pain. Treatments are safe, free from chemicals, and injections, and are individually customized for skin tightening, lifting, and stimulating collagen production on the face for a more youthful and fresh look. SkinPhysio treatments are able to promote fat and cellulite reduction Effects are noticeable after the first session with optimal results after 5-6 sessions.
What got you started on your business?
I often receive referrals from doctors to treat clients with Bell’s Palsy (also known as facial nerve palsy). It is a nerve disorder that leads to one side of the face suddenly becoming weak and paralyzed. The presentation is similar to a client with a stroke where one side of the face becomes droopy, facial movements become limited and asymmetrical. Physiotherapy treatment for these clients involves teaching exercises and applying ice chips in a stroking fashion to stimulate the nerves to tone up the facial muscles. In addition, electrical nerve stimulation is provided to specific points on the face to stimulate the facial nerves, in order to retrain the muscle movements.
At that time, TECAR therapy was relatively new in Singapore. We used it to enhance blood flow, stimulating cellular metabolism and regeneration to speed up muscle and joint injury healing. I decided to add TECAR therapy to the standard protocol for my clients with Bell’s Palsy. The original intention was to enhance blood flow to the different connective tissues (muscles and nerves) to speed up recovery. In charting the progress of facial movements and appearance, consistently across all my clients, we (the client and myself) noted the obvious lifting and plumping up of the cheek on the affected side, giving it a very youthful look! The changes were too obvious to ignore. I often joked about offering aesthetic services, but never gave serious thought to it.
It was not until the mid-last year that two friends who identified the gap between beauticians and cosmetic surgeons convinced me to launch SkinPhysio to provide physio-aesthetic treatments.
Before you started on your business, what did you do on a full-time basis?
I was heading the Physiotherapist team at Singapore Sports School, in the Sports Science Department. We provided physiotherapy for young elite student-athletes who are groomed towards becoming national athletes to represent Singapore across sports such as badminton, track, and field, bowling, sailing, shooting, swimming, netball, football, table tennis, and golf.
Today more sports have been added to Singapore Sports School. Apart from providing physiotherapy treatment to the athletes in school, we conducted sports-specific musculoskeletal screening to identify risk factors for injuries and worked closely with the sports coaches and the strength and conditioning coaches to tailor prehabilitative and rehabilitative programs for the athletes. My work there also involved traveling with the sports teams overseas for competitions and tending to their sporting injuries.
A memorable time was accompanying a group of athletes as team manager /physiotherapist to Iceland to take part in the International Children’s Games. Singapore made quite a name for herself to the astonishment of many international participants who didn’t know where Singapore was. I left Singapore Sports School in 2008 to join Ruth Chia (one of the pioneering physiotherapists in Singapore) at her private physiotherapy practice to work part-time in order to spend more time with my twin girls who were slightly over two years old then. When Ruth retired five years later, I was grateful to be able to take over her business to continue her legacy.
What were some difficulties you faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
Conceiving my children didn’t come quite as easily to my husband and me as expected. We had IVF treatment and conceived our triplets however one of the triplets was not growing as fast as his sisters. The doctor also found another triplet to have a fatal heart condition that required open heart surgery shortly after birth. We were faced with an extremely difficult decision to make. We could choose to have the triplets out by C-section at 26 weeks, rendering all three of them vulnerable to neurological deficits and my triplet with a heart condition would be too small to undergo open heart surgery or we could choose to let nature run its course and hopefully all three could make it till full term.
Unfortunately, his heart stopped beating at 24 weeks and I carried the pregnancy till 34 weeks before having an emergency C-section due to pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was shooting up and there was a risk of my organs shutting down as my kidney function was already affected. My daughter became the smallest baby then at 1.6kg to undergo heart surgery by Dr. Siram Shankar (at KKWCH) who was so kind and reassuring and he did an amazing 10-hour surgery.
I would attribute overcoming this difficult period in my life to my ever-patient and extremely supportive husband, mother, and mother-in-law who helped care for my premie girls after their birth. Having faith in God and the medical team also helped me to stay calm throughout my pregnancy, during the process of the C-section (I was awake with a spinal block), and during my daughter’s heart surgery. My heart still aches for the loss of my son and I always think that he sacrificed himself for his sister so that we didn’t have to make that painful decision at 26 weeks. 10 years ago I decided to give it another shot and conceived my son. He will be 9 this year.
What excites you most about your industry?
The need to look and feel good is universal and never changing. This need is ever greater now, especially in the area of non-invasive treatments that are science-based, pain-free, have no downtime, and are natural (without injections, surgery, chemicals, or implants).
This used to be a concept or idea, but now, with new professional knowledge, advanced technologies, and proven protocols, it can be achieved. Just as there are specialist doctors in various fields, there are also specialist physiotherapists in pediatrics, neurology, sports, etc. What excites me most is the unexplored area in physio-aesthetics. With our medical knowledge and technical training, there is so much we can do to restore health, confidence, and wellness amongst our clients beyond the musculoskeletal system. What differentiates us from traditional outpatient physiotherapy treatment is that we go beyond the musculoskeletal issues to treat the skin as well.
We use TECAR therapy to manage postpartum fluid retention and C-section scars. We manage post-weight loss stretch marks and skin laxity to complement the newly toned body. With TECAR therapy it is possible to minimize the development of thick post-operative scar adhesions from forming. This could be from any surgery like post-mastectomy, joint replacement, or abdominal surgery. All aesthetics clinics treat the skin but SkinPhysio goes beyond treating the skin. It is more than skin.
What is your vision / personal motto?
My motto is to always present the best version of myself at home and at work, to not give up, and to finish what I have started.
My burning desire and vision are to see Skinphysio grow to be the largest Aesthetic-Physio clinic group in Singapore; so that as many as possible can benefit from our treatments.
Do you have any words of advice for other ladies who are starting their business/ starting to pursue their dream?
In starting a new business, I would advise other ladies to work with people who give you good vibes and energy. It’s always helpful to reflect on one’s own abilities and areas of expertise that we lack and then select work partners or engage people who possess skills that complement you. I believe a successful business is built on maintaining good client relationships and ensuring consistent service or product quality. As long as you are sincere, clients can feel it and they will remain loyal to you. Spreading the positives about your business by word of mouth from your happy clients is powerful.
What have you learnt recently that you hope the other ladies can take back?
My co-founders of SkinPhysio are male. Working with Joshua and Gabriel has revealed to me that men CAN multi-task if they wanted to. I am so impressed by them. I’ve learned to be honest and comfortable with my own shortcomings with my partners and tap on their expertise to make our business work. I am terrible with administrative tasks. I am the problem-solving entrepreneur, Gabriel is the business-minded creative guy and Joshua is the action-oriented, performance, and task master. Being selective with whom you want to work as business partners is crucial to achieving success. It is not uncommon to see friendships fall out due to disagreements in running a business and I really do not wish for anyone to have to go through that.
I have also learned from working with Gabriel and Joshua that all businesses should have a proper expansion and succession plan. There was an initial reluctance on my part to start this business as that meant more work for the already up-to-my-neck busy me but I decided to take the leap of faith and it has so far worked really well. So my encouragement to all ladies is to know our own strengths and weakness and work with partners or employees who can make up for your weakness to strengthen your business. Sharing the same core values is important too.
How do you think you can help ladies to feel confident and empowered?
I provide an inclusive and supportive work environment for my employees and interns at my practice. Every year I hire female interns from the polytechnic to provide them with industry-related work experience before they apply to the university to pursue their higher education. Some interns have social phobia, anxiety, depression, or are victims of abuse. They start out not feeling confident about themselves and I make it a point to create a safe and nurturing environment during the internship.
I am also a qualified counselor and find time to regularly sit down with individual interns to check in on how they are coping with work and take an interest in their personal life and counsel them during the process. Our interns always complete their internship becoming much more confident young women and more ready to face challenges that come along their way, I am supportive of mothers who wish to work part-time. There is no discrimination at all and employees are empowered to determine the days and hours they wish to work. As a result, they are happy earning a comfortable income and still are able to spend sufficient time with their children.
What is one thing you are grateful for?
It’s tough for me to be grateful for only one thing. I am grateful for the chain of opportunities that paved my way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. I am also grateful for the trust and support of family and friends who made it possible for me to be where I am today.
What do you do in your free time as self-care? How do you unwind?
Having to juggle clinic work, my lecturing duties, and managing my children after work, I have very little free time. And when I do have precious pockets of free time, I enjoy having couple time with my husband over meals. It’s very therapeutic for both of us to sit back and connect over a conversation about anything under the sun. I do have a few close friends whom I periodically catch up with to unwind over a relaxing body or foot massage. At times I just prefer to be alone. It can be a luxury for me to be able to lie down in a quiet room and nap a little to recharge.
Let us know more about what you do!
SkinPhysio is more than the skin; the first aesthetic-physio clinic in Singapore that combines the specialized knowledge of a physiotherapist in anatomy, muscles, and nerves with advanced technology to treat the skin. Come be your own beauty with us.
You may also find us featured on Shin Min Daily, a+:At the Vanguard, and Her World.
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