Juliette John, Aesthetic Laser Skin Wellness Clinic

Our lead interview in the Enterprise issue of Suffolk Director business magazine is with Juliette John, Founder and Owner of Juliette John Aesthetic, Laser, Skin, Wellness Clinic in Ipswich.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019

Spirit, Drive and Determination

I feel very excited about the future. I am passionate about my work and am fortunate enough
to see instant results which make a real difference to a person’s life.”

Having known Juliette John for over twenty years, I have admired her resilience and tenacity to keep going and moving forward in the toughest of times; both personally and professionally.

However, on taking time out to sit down and really talk about her life and career, it has been a surprise to discover that Juliette’s confidence and enterprising nature is something that has been with her since childhood.

“One of my earliest memories was when I was about three years old. I was holding on to my brother’s pushchair in town and we walked past the dance school. The door swung open and I could see children older than me having lessons inside. From that moment I was hooked, and I ended up dancing until I was 16.”

Juliette was born in 1966 in Norwich Hospital. Her parents Marge, who worked in a factory, and Keith, a painter and decorator, had moved from Essex to live in Swaffham a couple of years earlier.

“Two years later, he wanted to run his own business, so the family – which now included my brother – all moved to Ipswich.

“We lived just off Norwich Road near The Inkerman Pub and I went to Handford Hall Primary School in Gatacre Road. I had a very happy fun-filled childhood with summers spent at Broomhill swimming pool. My parents were very sociable, and dad ran a Sunday morning football team where mum was the secretary.”

Juliette was already quite competitive

“I was in the athletics team and ran 100 metres for the school and I was also taking part in dance competitions. In fact, I remember winning ‘Arlington Princess’ at the Olga Wilmott Dance School and the prize was presenting a bouquet of flowers to the Queen when she visited Ipswich for her Silver Jubilee in 1977. I had practised curtseying and mum made me a dress specially. But the day before this momentous event, I was told that the Mayor’s daughter was going to do it; I was gutted!

“At 11, I went to Westbourne High School, and in my first year, I started karate. Having taken my brother to lessons at the YMCA on Norwich Road, I began to take part rather than sitting on the side lines watching him. By the time I was 14, both me and my brother were black belts. We were even interviewed by Look East Television for being the first brother and sister in the country who had achieved black belts in karate.

“Back then, there weren’t many girls doing karate, so I used to join the men’s class. At school fetes we would do demos where a man twice my size would come at me with a knife and I would take him down. It was all very tongue-in-cheek, and the spectators loved it.

“I have great memories of my time at Westbourne and I’m still friends with people from my school days.”

“I used to jump on buses to and from clubs five days a week
after school and competitions at weekends until I was sixteen.”

And aiming high to achieve her goals is probably the best indicator of why Juliette is so driven and enterprising today.

Juliette John, Aesthetic Laser Skin Wellness Clinic 1
Photo of Juliette taken by Simply C Photography

Spotting a talent

“Living nearby, I would often visit the shops on Norwich Road. Unusually, for a kid, I was always confident and would talk to everyone I met, so I knew a lot of the shopkeepers and they knew me. One day when I was 14, I had popped into the post office to do an errand for mum, and the postmaster asked me to do him a favour and take some letters upstairs to the hair and beauty salon.

“On the way up the stairs I could hear a couple of ladies in the reception having a moan to each other about being kept waiting. I could see that no-one was there, and as I was used to answering the phone for dad, who ran his business from home, I stepped in and said to the ladies, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry, it’s my fault. I should have been here to greet you. What are your names, and would you like me to make you a coffee while you are waiting?’

“Unbeknown to me, the salon owner, Mrs Edwards, was listening to what was going on, and she came out from one of the rooms. I gave her the letters and she asked whether I would mind staying on and helping out for half an hour.”

The result was that Juliette not only stayed for half an hour, but ended up being offered a part-time job in the salon working on Saturdays and in the evenings.

“I was 14, practising dance, karate and working part-time, so I definitely didn’t have any time to get into mischief.

“I was given a uniform and then Mrs Edwards started training me in doing beauty treatments. I would copy what she was doing. She would wax one leg and I would wax the other. Then after a couple of months, she paid for me to do some proper training in London.

“It was a different world to how it is today. I was 14 and a half, travelling down on the train on my own to Marble Arch every other weekend, so I could attend a private clinic where a lady called Aileen Harris would teach me how to do beauty treatments. What I didn’t realise then was that Aileen was an examiner, and a lot of the clients I was doing beauty treatments on were suffering from illnesses like low immune systems and multiple sclerosis. There were also a lot of transgender clients, so it was niche, and the sorts of things I was learning to do included electrolysis and lymphatic drainage massage: all new, high-end beauty treatments.

I have always been is very confident and independent

I am really grateful for my parents for this. They were very supportive, never judged and always encouraged me to be the best I could be.”

Juliette started working full time at the salon after leaving school. She’d already gained her ITEC Beauty Therapist qualification and she was earning £25 a week.

“From those early years when I first started working for her, Mrs Edwards was convinced I was anaemic, and she would regularly give me Guinness to drink to boost my iron levels. She was an inspirational person to me, a very strong, no-nonsense character who would do anything she could to make a situation or person better.

“Unfortunately, when I was 17, she got cancer and when I visited her in hospital, I would take her Guinness to build her up like she had done with me in those early years. I continued to do this until sadly she passed away.”

After Mrs Edwards’ death in 1984, the salon closed and Juliette went to work at Raymond’s Hairdressers & Beauty in Ipswich, where she was the only beauty therapist.

“I really enjoyed it there, as we did lots of demonstrations at fashion shows at The Corn Exchange, as well as the stage makeup for shows at The Gaumont Theatre (now the Regent) in Ipswich.”

Developing skills and experience

Then, when Juliette was 18, Suffolk College opened their doors to a full-time City & Guilds course in Beauty Therapy.

“I wanted to further my ITEC qualification and get myself into a position where I could work on cruise ships so I could travel. This meant that I had to have the City & Guilds qualification, so I gave up work and went to Suffolk College full-time for two years.

“While I was studying, I worked part-time at Shrubland Hall near Claydon to earn money to keep my car on the road. And, as I had done beauty treatments before, I also used to stay late at college to finish up treatments on clients that had come in for the students to practice on.”

After college Juliette continued working at Shrubland Hall where she carried out treatments on some well-known faces like Wendy Richards, Nigel Havers and Barbara Knox. She then decided to go self-employed, becoming a mobile therapist for two years, before applying for a job on a cruise ship.

“I applied and got a nine-month contract onboard the Ocean Princess which sailed from Copenhagen every Sunday; one week through the Fjords, then onto Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in Russia.

Returning home

“Then, after my contract ended, I returned home to Ipswich, but I couldn’t settle. By this time, I had met my first boyfriend and as we had friends and family in California, we decided to go to America for a holiday.”

From the moment Juliette landed in California, she loved it so much, she ended up staying for three and a half years.

“Eventually, I decided to get a State Board aesthetician qualification, and because of my previous experience, I was able to go straight into the exam. However, to get some practice, I walked into the best high-class clinic locally, and asked a lady on reception if I could borrow a person and a room for a couple of hours as I was going to do the State Board exam tomorrow and hadn’t practiced treatments for a while.

“She was intrigued with my accent and experience in cruise ship treatments, so we spent the next 15 hours together and I showed her everything I could do. As I left, she asked me to come back to tell her how I had got on.

“The following day, I went to San Francisco for the exam, but didn’t realise I should have brought my own model. So I dragged a student off the street, paid them $50 for the day, and did my exams.”

“I returned to the clinic to tell them I’d passed and discovered the receptionist was not only the owner, but also the wife of the Senator of California.”

“She gave me a job and thus began a really exciting time in my life. I worked in a large, busy aesthetic clinic and was occasionally flown down to San Diego to do wedding makeup. I also attended many beauty aesthetic shows in California. I was based near Napa Valley’s wine region, so many clients were well-known vineyard owners. And I also started training in semi-permanent makeup.”

Meanwhile, back home in the UK, the recession of 1991-2 had hit and Juliette’s dad, who ran a small, successful painting and decorating business, was an unfortunate casualty.

“I had to come back to the UK to help my parents at this really hard time for all of us.”

This continued for a couple of years, when Juliette was approached by a new health and beauty spa in Ipswich called Clarice House, to head up their beauty clinic.

“I was at Clarice House for six years until 1999, before leaving to have my first son Jack. I then became self-employed, working from home doing beauty therapy.”

Becoming a single parent

Over the next five years, Juliette went on to have two more boys; Tommy in 2003 and Max in 2004. But, a year after Max was born, Juliette became a single parent and was left to bring up three young children on her own.

“I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for the help and support of mum and dad. They have been fantastic, and still are to this day, helping look after Jack, Tommy and Max so I could carry on building my business and a financially secure future for the boys. They have been pivotal in helping me to raise three fantastic well-rounded young men who are constantly achieving. I am very proud of them all.

“It was at this time that I used some savings I had and invested in some semi-permanent makeup and medical micropigmentation training, new beauty treatments that weren’t well known in the UK. I also started my business as Juliette John Permanent Cosmetics.

“After completing the training, I became a trainer for Dermace and went into hospitals and taught nurses how to do areola tattooing for breast cancer patients. I excelled in these treatments and was passionate about my work.

“I built a practice and ended up working with several hospitals including Ipswich NHS Trust, James Paget in Great Yarmouth, the Nuffield in Ipswich and Bupa Hospital in Norwich. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists would refer patients to me directly to help with scar tissue and tattoo skin grafts, and I began to see a gap in the market that nobody else provided.

Pulling together in tough times

“Any money I was making was either paying to keep the roof over our heads, or being ploughed back into the business, and there was no doubt that these were tough times. As most single parents know, looking after a family is a challenge, but we all pulled together as a team. Dad helping with DIY, decorating and the school runs, and Mum looking after the boys and cooking meals on days when I was working late. Keeping everyone fed and watered was hard, and I would often have to ask my clients to come in a couple of days earlier, so I could get paid and would have enough money to go and do a supermarket shop.

“It was then however, that I was taking the time to thoroughly research medical lasers, listening to
clients’ needs, regularly attending training courses and expos, and following aesthetic clinics in this country and overseas.

“I gained more qualifications, including a BTEC in Advanced Lasers, and alongside plastic surgeons and dermatologists, I learnt all about how laser treatments can improve, enhance and repair the skin, the largest organ in the body.”

“I was excited to see the visible changes lasers could make to skin and found myself with a thirst for knowledge in aesthetics.”

Juliette John, Aesthetic Laser Skin Wellness Clinic 5
Juliette with her three boys, Tommy, Max and Jack and her parents

Taking a risk

Over the next three years, as her business picked up, Juliette converted her garage to further expand the range of services she offered. She also made her first major investment; buying her first advanced aesthetic medical laser.

“While researching, I had found a laser distributor called ABC Lasers and armed with £10,000 of savings and a plan, I got a meeting with the company’s MD. I explained that I had a young family to support and asked him to help me with finding a way to purchase the laser.

“Having a young family himself, the MD bought into what I was trying to achieve. On a handshake, and with me putting down the £10,000 deposit, he set up an arrangement where I could pay for the laser in instalments.

“I felt nervous and scared making this purchase, because I had never taken this size of financial risk before and I was worried we could lose everything. However, my instinct told me to just go for it, as I was excited at what the technology could do for my clients. It removes lines, wrinkles, sun spots, tattoos, thread veins and unwanted hair.”

The purchase was a great success, and after two years Juliette bought her second laser and broadened her treatments to cover all skin types and colours.

“I also carried on studying, travelling to Germany to focus on learning more about tattoo removal, and to America to learn more about semi-permanent makeup. Every year brings new treatments and better technologies and I am continually listening to my clients’ needs.

In 2017, with turnover growing strongly, there was a need to find new premises.

“The kids were growing up fast and I needed more space. Parking was becoming an issue and there was no room to expand further, so I decided I needed a convenient location away from the town centre traffic with lots of free parking. I also needed premises that were more private and discreet away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.

In April 2017 Juliette moved to The Lodge on Tuddenham Road in Ipswich, located between Westerfield House and Greshams.

“This was a major step for me and a massive investment, but I knew the property offered me the potential to grow the business further and to branch out into other areas.

“We launched the newly renamed business ‘Juliette John Aesthetic, Laser, Skin, Wellness Clinic’, with an open evening attended by over 140 people.”

Since then, Juliette hasn’t looked back

“Today my business has 2,000 customers, six employees and seven high tech laser machines. We pride ourselves on having the highest reputation for aesthetic and dermatology treatments in Suffolk. We recruit highly-qualified staff and invest in the latest training. We provide a personal, attentive and friendly customer service to all ages, genders and backgrounds, which sets us apart from our competitors.”

What lessons has Juliette learnt along the way?

“I think it’s fundamental that you understand what your customers want and cater for their needs. You also need to continually monitor the market for new technologies and treatments and never lose sight of what your competitors are doing. As well as always investing in training your staff, I’ve learnt to wing it a bit less and plan a bit more. Be in control of the finances and not to waste money unnecessarily”

Juliette John, Aesthetic Laser Skin Wellness Clinic 9
Photo by Warren Page Pagepix

The future is looking good too

“We are launching Suffolk’s newest Wellness Spa offering a full range of treatments and we are proud to be the first spa in the East of England to offer specialist treatments for cancer patients and those with low immune systems.

“Our new facility will also give local businesses the opportunity to run teambuilding activities or provide incentives for their staff. Bookings can be taken for small groups of up to twelve people for either relaxation, rehabilitation, or just a get together with treatments.”

Juliette is still working hard and always moving on to improve the business offering, and as you would expect, her life is flat out. When she does get some downtime, it’s spent travelling up the A12 and A14 ferrying the boys to football and rugby games.

“My passion is to make a positive difference to people’s lives. For instance, cancer patients may have lost hair through chemotherapy, but our technology can help to tattoo eyebrows and eyeliner, and also tattoo nipples where patients have had them removed through surgery.

“So often, ladies feel invisible. They may have lost their confidence through age, hormones and children leaving home, and they look back on old photos and sometimes feel that they have lost themselves.

“Our treatments are varied and extend from semi-permanent makeup and deep cleansing facials, to non-surgical liposuction and facelifts, all with the same aim: helping clients feel more youthful, slimmer and confident.

Let’s not forget the men

The number of male clients we have coming through our doors is increasing, so much so that we now have a dermatologist at the clinic. Treatments booked range from lessening the effects of male pattern baldness and alopecia, to tattoo removal and Botox.

“For me, everything is about helping to improve people’s self-confidence and I get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing I have played a part in that.”

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