Putting On Her Best Face

October 29th, 2014 Posted in From Our Alumni

By Patty Gelb

When you hear ‘Vampire Facial,” especially this time of year, you probably have visions of some sort of Halloween costume. However, the Vampire Facial is the more commonly known as PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy in aesthetic medicine. This cosmetic procedure promotes collagen production – while resurfacing the skin. Platelets that are rich in collagen are transferred to treatment areas in an effort to rejuvenate the face and other parts of the body. Julia Smirnov, a two-time UT alum, was the first in Toledo to offers this cosmetic service.

refresh_logoRefresh Center for Wellness & Cosmetic Therapy, owned by Smirnov, (BA ’94, MBA ’06), has been offering specialized, boutique-style services for nearly four years.

“When I decided to do this, I looked for ways we could be unique,” said Smirnov. “I wanted to know what we could do differently, and what no one else in town was doing, in addition to providing exceptional products and services in a boutique-style, green spa.”

Vampire-1PRP therapy is certainly one of those services. You might have heard of it because Kim Kardashian had the procedure done on her reality television show. PRP is unique in that the patients’ own blood drawn and put into a centrifuge for about 10 minutes on a high speed. Through the use of patented technology, plasma that is rich in Collagen is separated from plasma that is poor in Collagen (PPP). Then, with a micro-needling device, the PRP is put back into the dermal layers of the skin by creating micro-channels.

“Through this treatment, cells receive high doses of one’s own Collagen, causing them to go into overdrive if you will,” said Smirnov. “The Micro-Pen resurfaces the skin and allows for Collagen induction. Your skin literally tightens as the procedure is happening, and downtime is minimal. The Vampire Facial and PRP treatments are excellent for scars, acne, uneven skin tones, hyper-pigmentation, aging skin, stretch marks and hair loss. It really gives your cells a huge boost of your own Collagen, which slows way down as we age. The treatment takes an hour and involves either a physician or RN, as well as an trained aesthetician”

IMG_7342Another specialized service offered through her spa is the application of Xtreme Lashes®. Individual lash extensions are adhered to each individual lash to provide additional length, volume and thickness. It took Smirnov eight months of training to get certified in this service, and something she takes very seriously. “Anyone doing lash extensions needs to have proper training, and use glues specific to this service.” Xtreme Lashes is the only medical-grade eyelash extension company in the industry. Smirnov is the only certified Xtreme Lashes stylist in the Toledo area.

It took a lot of moxie to take the step of starting her own business, but Smirnov always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Born in Toledo, her family moved to Temperance, Mich., where she went to high school. Following high school, Smirnov attended The University of Toledo for her undergraduate degree, then moved to Houston, followed by San Francisco. She started her career in more traditional corporate environments, working for such companies as Arthur Anderson, Mazda and Envirotest.

DSC02960After returning back to Toledo in the late 90s, Smirnov landed a position with the first tele-radiology company in the U.S. in sales. Her position then turned into more of an operational position, opening medical imaging offices, both nationally and regionally. While employed with ProMedica in Corporate Regionalization, Julia decided to return to school for her MBA, after watching her boss go through a similar program, and seeing how much ProMedica supported education.

“It was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” said Smirnov. “I was one of two women in the program at the time. The whole program was tough, but it was designed to be tough. There were many days I felt like quitting, but I am not wired that way”

One area Smirnov struggled with while getting her MBA was finance. The classes were tough, and working full-time made it that much more difficult. She remembered one of her finance professors offering to help when she considered quitting. He started tutoring Smirnov once a week, telling her, “You can do this. Stop allowing this subject to intimidate you.”

“Initially it was just myself and my professor meeting on Wednesday evenings,” said Smirnov. “Then two more people showed up, then four, and by the end of our quarter, the whole class was coming. There were a lot of great professors at UT, and my finance professor was just one of them.”

IMG_7299Smirnov completed her MBA while still working at ProMedica. She really loved her position there but a new opportunity presented itself. Smirnov moved into radiology capital equipment sales in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, until the economy collapsed and she was one of 75 who was let go.

“As someone who was raised in an entrepreneurial family, I have always been drawn to self-starters and have been an entrepreneur in one way or another since childhood,” said Smirnov. “At the same time, I appreciate the structure of a corporate entity and what it takes to run a successful business.”

She took her years in the healthcare field, which gave her experience in areas including sales, marketing, business development, supply chain management and operations, and decided to open Refresh Center for Wellness & Cosmetic Therapy.

Smirnov wrote a business plan and worked with the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce SBA (Small Business Administration). Ironically, she ended up working with one of her former UT professors who was there at the time.

IMG_7310“We looked at my business to see if it was viable, and did a feasibility study,” said Smirnov. “When everything on paper looked good, I decided to go for it, and never looked back!”

Smirnov has always been fond of spas and beauty care products. She also enjoys researching and studying new products and procedures, and wanted to marry her passion for business and the beauty industry. The spa is located at 4026 Secor Rd.

makeup bar 2Refresh opened in December of 2011. Julia turned her vision into a reality and created a facility that is inviting and comfortable. The spa includes massage rooms, specialized treatment areas, a makeup bar and a 500 square foot studio space that is now used for yoga, fitness classes, and salsa dancing lessons.

“I designed everything,” said Smirnov. “I literally gutted the building from floor to ceiling, and would be there most days for 15 – 16 hours. I probably drove the construction crew to distraction because I kept pushing, but I had a vision and a timeline”

IMG_7316Refresh Center for Wellness & Cosmetic Therapy offers a variety of specialized massages, organic spray tanning, waxing services, Botox, dermal fillers, PRP therapy, makeup services and more. Smirnov pulled together an incredible team of experienced people to be able to provide high-quality services – many unique to the Toledo market.

One of the things that Smirnov is most proud of is being a “green” spa. All of their products and services are free of parabens, artificial dyes, fragrances, sulfate, lanolin, mineral oils, alcohol and other ingredients that can irritate and even harm the skin.

IMG_7321After three years of being a business owner, Smirnov has a new-found respect for entrepreneurs. She started out doing everything from cleaning toilets to marketing, staffing, handling the books, and providing services. Things are going well for the unique boutique spa and Smirnov hopes that it just continues to grow and thrive. She also has a location in Marblehead, Ohio.

“Owning your own business is a commitment,” said Smirnov. “It is dedication. It is not 8 a.m.to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday with weekends off. It is a lot of hard work, especially in the front end. But, it has been so worth it.”

To learn more about Refresh Center for Wellness & Cosmetic Surgery, click here to visit their website.

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