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Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Bringing out the best self of his patients

 

In our latest interview, we spoke to Dr Chua Cheng-Yu, founder of Veritas Medical Aesthetics to find out his story on building a plastic surgery practice and his thoughts on the aesthetics industry.

Share with us what Veritas Medical Aesthetics does.

We are a doctor-led clinic that helps women look better using medical prescriptions and technology. MOH guidelines bind us so we can’t make outlandish claims and promises like non-medical entities. But every procedure here is proven, backed by medical science and administered by a certified doctor. Some of the more mainstream treatments we provide include botox and thread lifts.

Where did you practice before starting Veritas Medical Aesthetics?

I’ve been a doctor for almost ten years now at a few different places – a public hospital and a few private clinics that I’d prefer not to name.

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Why did you pick aesthetics/plastic surgery as your specialisation?

Aesthetics is a unique industry within the medical scene. Think about this: if you were going for heart surgery, and were offered the choice between a tried and tested method that was 50 years old, versus a new surgical technique that was invented last year, which will you pick? Chances are you’d choose the age-old technology. However, the reverse is true for aesthetics! Rather than being “tested and proven”, old methods are often seen as “outdated”! The patient mindset in this scene forces medical aesthetics and doctors within it to advance at breakneck speeds.

I spend much of my time reading and researching on the latest news in the medical scene, so this is probably the only industry that I wouldn’t get bored in!

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Why did you choose to start your aesthetic business than working in a public or private healthcare institution?

During my days as an employee, I learned that being a good doctor often means you’re also a lousy businessman. I was disillusioned for a while as my work made me break my ethical code as a doctor. I felt I could be doing more for the patients. In the end, the only choice left was to start my practice where I have full control over the treatment protocols.

It might not be the most profitable approach, but I believe that doctors must always stick to the ethos of doing your best for the patient, even if it’s counterproductive for business. That’s where the name Veritas Medical comes from. It means “truth” in Latin.

What were the reactions of your loved ones when you told them that you were going to venture out on your own?

I wouldn’t say I had unwavering support from family and friends. It’s never easy venturing out. People told me how hard it is to start a clinic and it’s not worth it to give up the substantial salary doctors are paid as employees in the private practice. But there’s a lot more to being a doctor than pay alone.

What were the initial challenges you faced when starting up?

I’ve been in the scene for quite some time, and have trained many other doctors before. Hence, reputation wasn’t much of an issue. My past experiences being the primary doctor at other clinics also meant I knew enough about operations to set it up right first time. Reaching out to the public and getting them to understand our difference, however, was much more challenging. I knew I had something unique to show the world, but I didn’t know how to get them to notice.

After all, doctors are wired in a way that makes us pretty poor businesspeople and PR failures (I don’t even have an IG account yet!). I tried a few outreach agencies too, but all of them gave very disappointing results.

How did you overcome the challenges?

I would say I got lucky with getting the right team together. The support of old patients (part of the team too!) acting as my advertising mouthpieces and entrusting their friends and family members to my knowledge and hands. The support of my crew who believed in my vision and made sacrifices from their routine to help me tirelessly build this.

Last but not least, the support of a close advisor, without whom I definitely would not have handled the business aspects of running a clinic as smoothly! I am grateful and blessed.

How is the aesthetic industry doing in the past few years and where do you think it would be in the next five years?

The industry has been getting more and more saturated. There is an oversupply of doctors in Singapore now, and more people are getting lured into starting their aesthetic clinic. But I think the 2000-2015 heydays are long over now. New doctors will probably struggle to catch up to the established names. Much like what happened in the dental scene, where large clinics bought up small ones and formed groups, we will likely see a consolidation phase for aesthetics within 5-10 years.

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Are you seeing more Singaporeans or foreigners? Why do you think so?

Singaporeans are still the main crowd, although I do get 10-15% foreigners. These aren’t all the wealthy foreigners too. I’ve seen domestic helpers and work permit holders here as well. Aesthetics is a very affordable industry with a mass market appeal.

However, I do hear of specific very high-end clinics that charge very high prices, targeting the affluent Chinese crowd. For the most part, though, aesthetics is affordable enough for the everyday person in Singapore.

What are the three most common treatments sought at Veritas Medical Aesthetics?

Botox and fillers are the bread and butter. Lasers are also up there as a good laser setup is exceptionally complex, and you can’t get it outside of a clinic. I probably overspent on my laser setup, having nine different lasers when most clinics bring no more than 2-3! I’m glad it worked out for my patients, and they’re enjoying the results.

What is your advice for people seeking aesthetic changes?

One of the biggest indicators that a procedure has gone well is when the face looks untouched. If it’s subtle enough to go unnoticed, it’s okay. Don’t try to change your features too much to look like someone else. Instead, try to look healthy, youthful and full of energy. That’s my approach towards aesthetics. I want patients to walk out feeling like their best self, instead of someone else.

Have you ever thought of giving up and going back to working in a health care institution? If no, why not and what kept you going?

I enjoy every single day of my work in medical aesthetics, even when I was only working as a paid employee in the private sector. Seeing happy faces every day has to be the best part of my work, and that joy multiplied when I started my clinic. Giving up never crossed my mind.

We understand that you are into fine arts, you play guitar, piano and saxophone leisurely, you are a photography enthusiast, and you regularly volunteer as a doctor to migrant workers. Not to mention, you also do research. How do you manage to squeeze out so much time for everything?

To be honest, the clinic has been keeping me very busy, so other aspects of my life are taking a back seat. As with everything, to excel in one area, sacrifices have to be made in another. I can only try to balance my life out as best I can.

Lastly, what’s your advice for medical practitioners who are thinking of starting their practice?

The most important advice I can give is that good doctors make poor businesspeople and vice-versa. Don’t lose the good heart you have as a doctor just because you’re running a business. Many doctors have this belief that they know everything better just because we graduated as the elite from the education system. That’s the furthest from the truth you can get in the real world. It’s important to find good help and assemble a team of various talents.

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Tricia Young

Staying true to herself in front and behind the camera

Ms Tricia Young started her YouTube journey in November 2015 in her dormitory while she was studying for the Bachelor of Business Management at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Fast forward to today, even though Tricia is working full-time as a Human Resource Specialist at a local social enterprise, she continues to follow her passion for creating content for her beauty channel on YouTube. She now has almost 4,000 subscribers on her channel and 22,000 followers on her Instagram account.

In this interview with Tricia, we find out how she got into the YouTube scene, what’s her motivation, amid her busy work schedule, behind her undying passion for churning out content, and more.

Why did you start a YouTube channel on beauty?

 

Tricia Young

Image credit: Tricia Young

 

Funny enough, before going abroad for my studies, I never had interest in beauty (makeup & skincare) unless the situation called for it like prom, severe acne outbreak, etc.

When I was in university, I had severe acne and saw a Dermatologist that prescribed me potent medication that made my skin flared up and had redness to the extent that it looked like rosacea. As you probably had guessed, I didn’t go out much, and when I had to, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I had to put up a front that’s just not me.

At that time, I began to surf on YouTube a lot more since I stayed in my dormitory and I would shy away from social interaction. I eventually stumbled across ‘Estee Lalonde’ back then ‘Essie Button‘ channel. For some reason, she inspired me to make content like hers. I could relate to her older content, and I was inspired to do the same.

So I started off by learning more about makeup and skincare, practising on myself, learning techniques that enhanced the way I looked, and eventually began doing makeup tutorials on Vimeo before moving over to YouTube.

Has it opened doors for you?

I must say that it did not open doors for me for the majority of the time when I was doing it. Practising makeup techniques on myself and collecting makeup was a hobby and it still is. Only when I came back to Singapore after graduating, I got to know about the influencer scene, which was booming in Singapore. Like what an acquaintance told me, “Just throw a stone to the nearest person, and that person will likely be an influencer.”

I continued to create my content based on what I was interested in and the content I was inspired to make through the recommended videos from my friends, family and subscribers.

As most things go, with more views, more subscribers and follower count, companies of various beauty brands started to contact me for collaboration. Most of the time, I still reach out to brands and to propose content that I am passionate to make to them. The brands do not always accept my proposal. They do reject me at times. At the end of the day, it still feels like the ‘opening of doors’ is through my effort and the people who follow me on the various platforms. So it’s sort of like “multiple people pushing the door open.”

 

What was it like when you first started?

When I first started, I honestly had no clue about other people who were doing beauty-related content in Singapore or internationally, other than the YouTubers I follow.

It’s hard to describe how it was like when I first started but I can say that the person I was had no clue about the influencer scene and I just churned content that I wanted to do for myself (and no one else) with no expectation or worry of viewers not wanting to come back again.

What was your family or your loved ones’ reaction to you doing YouTube?

Haha! I laugh because my family reaction was pretty much true to what I had expected, which was full of worries, concern and anxiousness, but in a loving way, of course!

Perhaps it’s just the Asian mentality of in a cyber generation. I do not get many compliments from my family over the content I produce. But when I do get them, I’m often caught off guard because I am usually surrounded by their concerns.

Does viewership bother you?

Yes and no. I mean it is disheartening when the content I feel is really good doesn’t get many views. However, I find enjoyment in doing up my storyboards or seeing my ideas actualised. At the end of the day, I take my beauty content creating as a hobby. My real passion is in social advocacy in Singapore, which I hope to explore on creating media content in the near future.

What are the pros and cons of being a YouTuber?

Pros:

  • There’s a monetary incentive.
  • I prefer the medium of videos rather than blogging.
  • It’s an exciting platform that’s constantly evolving in the way stories are being told.
  • Sometimes, Youtube feels almost otherworldly to me with the large content types it has to offer.
  • If you find a YouTuber you trust and has the same struggles you have, more often than not the YouTube channel transforms itself into a confidant or at the other end would be like a TV series that you regularly go back to.

Cons:

  • Constant change in algorithm annoys me, especially in the beauty review content segment of YouTube.
  • The content found on YouTube can be deceiving. Majority of the time, the reviews are not honest as some content-makers don’t care about what they are promoting.
  • Many people on YouTube get started with the intent to make it big and want to be the next big thing, which makes them susceptible to do or say anything, which is not true and it can be pretty toxic on YouTube.

What is the no. 1 myth about being a YouTuber?

That is all YouTubers make content that’s authentic to what they stand for!

Many people out there dream about being an influencer, do you see yourself as one and why?

I can quite confidently say NO. I have always grown up in a religious household and I believe that the concept/culture surrounding influencer is pretty much grounded in greed, lust, envy and otherworldly perspectives, which I do not subscribe to. I try to put out content that I would give back to people who are in my position a couple of years back where I kept myself from the world due to skin issues I had. I try to have a simple perspective on it (1) do content I love based on what inspires me/ do content surrounding products I love (2) what would I want to know about beauty products as a beginner (3) where to start if I’m starting out with makeup/skincare.

Who are your favourite YouTubers? Name one that you wish to collaborate with?

  • Violette_fr
  • Lisa Eldrige
  • Estee Lalonde
  • Joanday/ Joan Kim
  • Anna Edit

For now, my favourites surround beauty content. I would love to collaborate with Estee Lalonde since she probably was the biggest influence going into YouTube.

Can one survive on just making YouTube videos?

Probably not. Never say never, but for me, it’s unlikely unless the traction is there but even then there’s no guarantee that it’ll only go up.

What is the equipment you need to make videos? What are yours?

For YouTube, a decent camera, a mic, laptop for editing and video editing software.
I use a Canon 80D with a rode mic and a ring light. My editing software is Adobe Premiere Pro and Movie Maker.

What’s next for you?

I wish to explore curate content in the area of Social Advocacy (preliminary phase is now on my current channel) in the future probably on a channel of its own.

What advice would you give to aspiring YouTubers?

Ask yourself why you are doing it. And if it’s not authentic to your personal story or if it’s not to give back to others then take time to find the real reason. Use them as the cornerstone of your YouTube journey.


Joeven Soh - Founder, Cell-II International Pte Ltd

Fourth time’s the charm for founder of Cell-II

Forty-five years old Joeven Soh is the Founder and Regional Sales Director of Cell-II International Pte Ltd, a company that develops, manufactures and sells organic skin care products. Before you make any further guesses of his previous work experiences, let us save you some time. Joeven was not in the beauty industry before his new venture. He was in a completely different field – Oil & Gas.

So what makes him look beyond the familiarity of the energy industry to beauty? Here’s his story.

When did you start Cell-II International Pte Ltd and how did you come up with the name of your company?

We started this business in 2017, and the corporate name means generating new cells for the skin.

Before you venture into this business, what were you working as?

I worked in three different companies in the Oil & Gas Industry between 2005 and 2017, where the oil slump affected the whole Oil & Gas Industry globally.

What makes you want to leave your comfort zone and what aspire you to start your own business and become an entrepreneur?

I was working for a Marine contracting firm for seven years after leaving the Singapore Navy in 1996. I started my first company in 2005. I want to create an empire for myself rather than building on someone else’s dream.

Do you have someone you approach to seek advice? Are your parents entrepreneurs as well?

No, I do not have anyone I can approach to seek advice. My parents are not entrepreneurs, but they are very supportive and encouraging, which is one of my push factors in my journey of building my business.

Of all types of business, why beauty products? Do you come up with a business plan or do any research before you decide to go into beauty industry?

We did extensive research on Organic Skin Care products and found the potential global growth rate of 5% per annum and a market size of 196 billion by 2020.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

We plant, harvest, bottle our products in a closed loop system, which guarantees our customer the best organic experience.

Have you met with any failures and how do you overcome them? What were some of the biggest lessons learned and how had it impacted the way you run your business?

I failed three times, but I got up on the fourth try. The biggest lesson I have learned from past failure is cash flow management and company growth plan.

How do you think being an entrepreneur has changed you as a person?

Being an entrepreneur changed me in a good way because it requires strategic planning and I am responsible for our shareholders’ monies. It makes me more cautious when making financial decisions and expansion plans.

What advice would you give to people who want to start their businesses? Any specific skills needed to run a business?

The rule of thumb, you need to be consistent, persistent and always remind yourself why you started the business. My favourite quote is “Successful people don’t do anything different, but they do the same thing differently” – Shabbir

What do you want to achieve for the company in the next five years?

We plan to build this local brand “Cell-II” into a global brand and bring our company public.


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