Mall med spas offer Botox without the hassle

Herald-Tribune, By Maggie Clark, Published: Monday, May 16, 2016

Back in 2009, few people had extra money for cosmetic surgeries or other anti-aging luxuries. But Sarasota entrepreneur Bill Clarke saw an opportunity. In June of that year, he opened the first Venus Med Spa™ in Westfield Southgate Mall and offered clients access to injectable neurotoxins, such as Botox and Dysport, in a convenient location for $89 to $600 per treatment.

Fast forward six years, and Venus Med Spa has grown to 10 locations in Florida and the Chicago area, including a second Sarasota location in the Mall at University Town Center. The company is part of a growing trend of lifestyle-oriented medical businesses known as medical spas, which offer the convenience of a day spa with some of the medical services traditionally reserved for a physician’s office.

Medical spas are a third place, in between a medical office and a day spa. They specialize in mid-level services, such as facial injections to reverse the signs of aging, chemical peels, laser hair removal and other non-surgical treatments designed to perk up both the skin and self-confidence.

Unlike at a day spa, where most of the people performing treatments are massage therapists or estheticians, in a medical spa the employees performing treatments must be nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants or medical doctors. The required credentials vary from state to state, with Florida among the most restrictive on who can administer the drugs and other treatments.

While the facilities are offering a medical service, they don’t look like traditional doctor’s offices. For clients — most medical spas refer to their customers as clients, rather than patients — medical spas are the best of both worlds: medical treatments from a professional in a relaxing and fun atmosphere.

The businesses began to emerge about 15 years ago, but took a large hit during the recession when people were cutting back on personal care services.

But as the economy was recovering, the injectables appealed to baby boomers putting off plastic surgery who still wanted to stay youthful looking. With customer rewards programs, discounts and walk-in service available in malls, Venus Med Spa and others offer a convenient alternative to the routine of making an appointment and going to a physician’s office. And if a more serious condition arises, the staff at Venus Med Spa can refer their clients directly to their medical director, Dr. Joshua Kreithen, a plastic surgeon and partner with the Sarasota-based Holcomb and Kreithen Plastic Surgery and Med Spa.

Now, Clarke said, the treatments have become a staple for Venus’ 41,000 clients across the country, including 7,000 in the Sarasota area.

“By all accounts, our clients say the treatments are more important than going shopping and buying purses and shoes,” Clarke said. “I ask them, ‘What would you choose if you could only dye your hair or get Botox?’ and they say, ‘I’d go gray.’”

Sarasota / Venus Med Spa at University Town Center
Sarasota / Venus Med Spa™ at University Town Center

Hybrid business

When Botox first came on the scene as an anti-wrinkle treatment in the late 1990s, it was usually only available in a dermatologist or cosmetic surgery office.

Dr. Marguerite Barnett, a cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, was among the doctors whose offices fielded increasing requests for Botox treatments. She began to see injectables and other medical anti-aging treatments as a way to infuse some cash into her then-Venice-based practice, which was struggling under the weight of reductions in reimbursements from Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors.

“I found it difficult to provide quality care to my patients because they kept cutting reimbursement, and I was thinking through my options and I decided I would add medical spa services,” Barnett said.

Opening the Sarasota-based Mandala Med Spa 13 years ago offered her the opportunity to set her own rates for services and to offer her patients a more holistic approach to anti-aging care.

“I realized I could do this beautiful face lift but if the patient isn’t eating right, or they’re smoking or stressed, the surgery wouldn’t help much,” Barnett said. “The clients are coming to talk about wrinkles, but we’re also talking to them about food and exercise.”

As the owner of perhaps the longest-operating medical spa in Sarasota, Barnett has seen the evolution of the business from one that was largely unregulated and filled with people looking to make a quick dollar to a more professional, regulated and safer industry.

“It’s a difficult business, and there have been a bunch of med spas open and close — all the ones that were opened when I started are now out of business,” Barnett said. “It’s not as easy as just providing the treatments. The clients are looking for an experience.”

Growth forecast

Analysts predict that the med-spa industry will generate $3.6 billion in revenue this year and grow at a rate of 18 percent per year, according to market projections from research firm Marketdata Enterprises.

Last year, 6.7 million Americans got a Botox injection and another 2.4 million received soft tissue fillers to fill out their faces, according to the annual report of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The number of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, such as injections, laser treatments and chemical peels, was nearly 14 times higher than the number of more invasive cosmetic surgical procedures such as face lifts or breast augmentations.

As the popularity of the procedures increases and more pharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs used in these procedures, Clarke expects prices to eventually drop so women and men from all walks of life can make medical-spa procedures part of their regular beauty routine, just like dying their hair or getting their nails done.

“When I compare us with other industries, I like to think about the hair dye company Clairol,” Clarke said. “Their goal was to get 1 percent of Americans to dye their hair, and now that’s history.”

“Right now, only about 2 percent of people have gotten these treatments, so the industry is in its infancy.”

Clarke said people already are no longer embarrassed to admit they get anti-aging treatments.

“It’s not taboo anymore.”

Amy Nguyen, right, a nurse practitioner with Venus Med Spa at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, gives a consultation to client Nicole Brandt of Ellenton about a Botox treatment.


What’s the difference?

Day spa: A business providing services to improve health, beauty and relaxation through treatments such as hair styling, makeup, massages and facials.

Medical spa: A business in which a licensed medical provider administers a drug designed to promote health and beauty, typically to reduce the signs of aging. The treatments are minimally invasive and typically not permanent.

Medical office: A business in which one or more licensed medical doctors counsel and treat patients with cosmetic or significant health concerns. 

Alina Belova greets clients at the Venus Med Spa at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota County.
Alina Belova greets clients at the Venus Med Spa at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota County.
Alina Belova, an employee and a client at Venus Med Spa at the Mall at University Town Center, receives a treatment from nurse practitioner Amy Nguyen. The Venus Legacy is supposed to tighten skin and sculpt areas of the body.
Alina Belova, an employee and a client at Venus Med Spa at the Mall at University Town Center, receives a treatment from nurse practitioner Amy Nguyen. The Venus Legacy is supposed to tighten skin and sculpt areas of the body.


licensed esthetician

Shelby Escosa born and raised in small town Redding, California moved to Florida to pursue her dreams as a Dancer. Being surrounded by people who felt embarrassed and less empowered due to issues with their skin, she then found her true passion for esthetics. Wanting to help others feel healthy and beautiful both during and after treatments pushed her to achieve her License from Boca Beauty Academy and be able to do just that.

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Nurse Practitioner




Elmhurst Manager

Candace enjoyed a 35 year as a Health Care Administrator and Consultant. After retiring still
wanting to stay involved in the health care field she decided to explore the aesthetic industry
Happily landing at Venus Med Spa in 2019. Becoming Manager on 2022. And reports “the best
of my job is our amazing Clients and my wonderful work family”!

Photo Makayla



Makayla is a licensed esthetician at Venus Med Spa at our Elmhurst IL location. She received her education at Naperville Skin Institute after a lifetime of wanting to work in the beauty industryMakayla’s goal is to emphasize everyone’s true beauty and bring confidence back. She believes in good vibes and making comfort a priorityWhen Makayla is out of the office, she’s most likely snuggling up with her fur babies and enjoying the sunshine.



Nurse Practitioner

Patrycja graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in nursing and is an ANCC board certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Patrycja has over 8 years of experience working as a nurse practitioner at the Level 1 trauma center emergency department. She has completed hundreds of skin procedures, laceration repairs, wound and burn treatments throughout her career.

Patrycja performed numerous facial procedures at the emergency department which ultimately made her want to transition into aesthetic medicine.

Patrycja is dedicated to making a difference in patient care management and achieving patients’ goals in aesthetics. She believes that working together on a skincare regimen and building a customized plan for each client will bring her patients desired outcomes.

Her goal is to make her clients feel comfortable by communicating effectively and implementing the best care plan to achieve natural-looking results.

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Alastin model, Venus Med Spa



The fastest-growing physician-dispensed skincare brand, with innovative, scientifically proven and clinically tested products.

Founded in 2015, ALASTIN Skincare provides a comprehensive collection of cutting-edge products for optimal procedure results and daily skincare regimens. 

CBD model, Venus Med Spa



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Neocutis model, Venus Med Spa



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Kirsten obtained her doctorate degree as a family nurse practitioner from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). She has experience working in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit as well as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and most recently works as a Family Nurse Practitioner in primary care. Kirsten developed a passion for aesthetics and dermatology in 2020. She then decided to further her education and is now trained in neuromodulators and dermal fillers. Kirsten has a passion for enhancing natural beauty. Kirsten believes aesthetic medicine is an art and that communication and close attention to detail are both key components to achieving optimal results. In Kirsten’s free time she enjoys spending time with her daughter. She also loves nature, traveling, photography and music.

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Obagi Skincare


Obagi is a leading skincare brand that is known for its high-quality, science-backed formulations.

Obagi offers a comprehensive range of skincare products that are designed to address a variety of concerns, from acne to aging. Whether you’re looking for a cleanser, moisturizer, or targeted treatment, Obagi has a product that’s right for you.




Nurse Practitioner

Deena is a Nurse Practitioner who grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Marquette University followed by her Master of Science degree in Nursing from Lewis University. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Deena has over 5 years of nursing experience after working on a pediatric medical/surgical unit where she cared for children and their families.

Deena has always had a passion for aesthetics. Having received aesthetic treatments herself, she can connect with her clients through personal experience. Deena believes it is important to build trusting and positive relationships with her clients in order to help them feel confident and comfortable in their own skin. Her goal is to help clients enhance their natural beauty with the utmost quality and safety.

During her time off, Deena enjoys playing tennis, binge watching reality TV shows, trying out new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends.



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Originally from Buffalo, NY, Kelly moved to the Sarasota area in 2021 to be closer to family. Her undergraduate education was completed at Daemen College in Amherst, NY with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and then obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing at Daemen college and post Master’s in Family Medicine at D’Youville University in Buffalo, NY. She am board certified through the ANCC and my experience stems from the emergency department where I practiced for over 20 years.

Kelly is excited to be part of the Venus family to help clients achieve their goals. Knowing that feeling confident on the outside gives people an overall sense of well-being.

Kelly is married with 4 grown children who live in NY, Chicago, and Honolulu.

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His career started in Illinois and extended for 18 years in the fitness industry. Subsequent to that he moved to Cape Coral and built waterfront homes. He started Venus Med Spa in June 2009.

With a strong background in management , sales, and marketing, his goal is to continue to make Venus an industry leader which has been the case since 2012. His emphasize on staff development and client relationships set Venus apart from the rest. He prides himself on being able to give clients the best experience, price, and quality while still making it convenient.

Cierra Head Shot


Physician Assistant

Cierra Phillips is a board certified Physician Assistant who completed her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, and then received her Master of Medical Science degree from Yale University’s PA program. She re-located to Sarasota in 2020 and is now proud to call Sarasota home! Outside of work, you can find her spending time with her husband and their baby girl. They love to travel, drink good coffee, and be outside as much as possible.

Cierra was drawn to the field of aesthetic medicine because it allows her to incorporate her knowledge of medicine and anatomy into a practice that helps clients gain confidence in their own skin. She also has an artistic and detailed eye, which helps make her a skilled injector. She makes it a point to build an individualized relationship with each client and looks forward to helping you reach your cosmetic injection goals!







NUrse practitioner

Alexis is from a small town in North Dakota, but has called Florida home for the last 5 years. She is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner with over 6 years of nursing experience ranging from surgery, critical care, and trauma. Alexis received her Master’s Degree from the University of South Alabama. She has a passion for all things beauty, health, and wellness. Her passion for aesthetics has been present since she was young and has grown into a career. Alexis’s goal as an injector is to help clients achieve their desired beauty goals with natural results. When Alexis is not at work you can find her walking her dogs, riding her horse, and spending time with her husband.

Emma Ridenour Esthetician Photo


LIcensed Esthetician

Emma is a Licensed Esthetician and native Floridian who has received formal training at the Aveda Institute in Clearwater, Florida. Her approach is one that encompasses all of the technical knowledge, with a relaxing and calming touch. She offers preventative maintenance and corrective care for your skin using a combination of high-performance modalities and medical grade, restorative skincare. “Continuing Education” in this exciting field is a top priority for her continued learning, growth, and most importantly, client satisfaction. Using safe and effective products for facials and other luxury treatments such as microneedling (Collagen Induction Therapy), chemical peels, and Venus Legacy body tightening while taking a detailed approach to ensure that every single client leaves feeling refreshed, revitalized and beautiful.

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Sarasota Manager

BIO: Lana has 15+ years experience working in customer service, business sales, marketing, and social media.

Success-driven professional with customer service, sales, and store operations experience. Proven ability to effectively communicate brand’s mission, design outreach plans and generate revenue streams in retail. Lana has a background in dermatology, pediatrics and retail management.

She has strong leadership experience and works effectively across organizations, building strong relationships with peers, senior leaders, and clients.

“I have a reputation for my positive attitude and ability to master new roles with excellent working knowledge of business, sales, and customer service.”