One woman’s resolve, others’ resource: The Skin Institute

ST. GEORGE – At one point or another in many lives, circumstances take a turn for the worse, important concerns and prized responsibilities weigh heavy, and succumbing to defeat almost looks like it would bring relief.

It might have been so ten years or so ago for Mary Ronnow, founder of The Skin Institute in St. George, had it not been for an especial intent she held to resolve her problems – especial intent and what for her was a fortuitous new law.

At the time, Ronnow was raising four children alone and working with meager means, it was a desperate time but she, intent on solving her quandary, took notice of new legislation introduced during Utah’s 2001 General Session: Licensure would be required beginning that year for anyone practicing esthetics, master-level esthetics, esthetics instruction, or operating an esthetics school.

Now, esthetics was Ronnow’s area of expertise, it had been her trade in fact for some 25 years. So, in the new law, she saw an opportunity that inspired her to business and ignited her interest in training others. Her vision found credibility with start-up resources, and Ronnow opened The Skin Institute in 2002.

In the years that followed, Ronnow would identify the growing demands of the skin care and anti-aging marketplace and adapt educational programs to the advantage of her students, placing them in the rapidly evolving workforce of estheticians.

The Skin Institute’s alumni can be found at Green Valley and Red Mountain spas, one has built her own mobile business, Ronnow said, operating out of the trunk of her car. Some have ventured to large hotels including Amangiri in Canyon Point, Casa Blanca and Bellagio, in Nevada, The Royal Hawaiian in Hawaii, and cruise ships. Still others work in medi-spa and medical practices, employed to assist dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Ronnow’s philosophy of education

Mary Ronnow | Photo courtesy of The Skin Institute

It is, in fact, Ronnow’s own entrepreneurial odyssey from meager times to success that enhances her impact on students and stimulates them to success. That and her focused grace and meticulous pride of purpose.

The Skin Institute’s programs equip students beyond the theoretical and practical skill sets, teaching what its Director of Education, Kelli Charlton, said are life skills.

Students are prepared for business ownership and for finding employment. Professionalism, among other things, means being a responsible employee, Ronnow said. Students learn early in the program, for example, that one minute tardiness costs them $10 – or at one time $20 – out of their pocket as a fine right then and there. An employer won’t tolerate them being late, Ronnow said, and so she does not tolerate it either.

Customer service and retailing savvy are developed, etiquette, manners, and social interaction are carefully schooled – much like youth in some societies are groomed through cotillions and charm schools.

Generosity and participation in one’s community are also priorities of Ronnow’s. She engages her students in skin care services for the elderly, cancer awareness programs, and her pet charity, the HeartWalk Foundation – through HeartWalk, they support an effort that helps Peruvian tribes achieve self-sufficiency, much as, Charlton said, the school’s programs help the students themselves achieve new means of self-sufficiency.

Medical esthetics and training with 

Dr. Bhupendra Patel | Photo courtesy of The Skin Institute

Esthetics primarily pertains to skin care procedures for cosmetic purposes, its processes are many from facials, to peelings, tattoo removal to lasers. Supervision, indirect or direct, is required with some nonmedical procedures and for an esthetician’s assistance to medical professionals in treatments of medical, physical, or mental ailments.

The Skin Institute’s teaching team boasts Dr. Bhupendra Patel, the University of Utah Medical Center’s Chief of Oculoplastics, physician at the John Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, and renown teacher in new surgical methods both in Utah and abroad.

Patel teaches master-esthetics students twice each month at the institute, as they shadow and assist him as he performs laser and photo facial procedures and consults with patients.

“It is a rare privilege for our students to have access to him,” the Institute’s material states.

Appealing and transforming

Student estheticians at work, The Skin Institute
Student estheticians at work, The Skin Institute, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2012 | Photo by Melynda Thorpe Burt, St. George News

Compared to many educational and career development tracks, the esthetics programs yield results quickly: Full-time students can complete each program in just over three months, achieving master esthetician licensure within an eight month period, part-timers can reach the same goal in about twice the time.

The bridge from unskilled to skilled for a well-paying job is quite accessible. It offers personal transformation.

“They want to blame their lack of success on children or ex-spouses,” Charlton said, “and part of my role as principal is semi-mentor and life coach – we have all been single parents at some point – you can have kids and that is not an excuse for failure, if nothing else it’s a motivator for success.”

Charlton said the change seen in students from the basic to master’s programs is night and day.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” she said.

Class in session, The Skin Institute, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2012 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

Student testimonials

Brianna LeDuc, 30, is a divorced mother of two who said she knew The Skin Institute was for her after her introductory tour. “It was a positive, supportive and sophisticated environment,” she said, also appreciating its 8-month combined basic and master program and its location suited to her own family support system.

“Going back to traditional school as a single mom was just out of my spectrum and range,” LeDuc said, currently on track to graduate in May with plans to work at a medi-spa with structure and benefits.

“I know that things are going to be OK,” she said. “The students that I go to school with have become my family and they have my back.

“I rely more on people now.”

Coming from another phase of life, Chantra Gooch, 40, has been married 23 years, is the mother of five and finally finds time for herself as her kids are now in school. Gooch chose an education in esthetics because she wanted to help others and, she said, because it offers her career options.

“Coming to school here has given me courage,” Gooch said. “It teaches me to have more confidence in myself.”

Before entering the program, Gooch said she felt like “just the mom” – the most important thing to her – But she said: “My kids are proud of me … it allows me to come out of my little shell, I feel good about myself.”

Continuing into the master program, Gooch is entertaining the idea of her own small practice, she said she loves the idea of having her time flexible while her children are still home.

Student classroom, The Skin Institute, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2012 | Photo by Melynda Thorpe Burt, St. George News

The Skin Institute at 10 years

The Skin Institute moved into new facilities at 552 N. Dixie Drive in August 2012, providing separate classrooms for theory and practical learning, dispensaries, a beautiful retail and reception area, and more.

In December 2012 the institute’s winter term graduated five master-estheticians who have all already found employment, it also graduated 22 from its basic program, most of who are continuing on into the master program. The Institute’s Spring 2013 term starts Jan. 7 with full enrollment.

Applications are being accepted for the summer and coming winter terms. Cost per term is just shy of $7,000; scholarship and grant funds are available to qualified applicants.

The school asserts a six-year average student-completion rate of 97 percent, with 100 percent licensure rate and 68 percent employment within the esthetics industry. It enjoys state and national certifications and is approved by federal and vocational programs.

Three of Ronnow’s four children, her daughters, all serve the public today as master-estheticians, some of them at or previously at the Institute from time to time.

International reach

The Skin Institute has graduated students from Mexico and Russia with honors, has established a sister-school in Seoul, Korea, and will host delegations of Korean students this year.

In the past, Ronnow has housed students at her own home and it is not inconceivable that she will do so again. She said:

“We are actively pursuing students in Cambodia and Thailand.”

For more information on The Skin Institute’s educational programs or to acquaint yourself with its delicious menu of spa and skin treatment services that will leave you more relaxed than you imagine possible, competitively priced and available to the public

Visit The Skin Institute’s website or location.

Address:  552 N. Dixie Drive, St. George, Utah, 84770

Telephone: 435-673-7696

New student orientation at The Skin Institute in St. George
Founder and institute owner, Mary Ronnow, addresses new students at Spring term 2013 orientation, The Skin Institute, St. George, Utah, Jan 7, 2013 | Photo by Melynda Thorpe Burt, St. George News

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • conspiracygirl January 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

    What a depressing article. There is a word for using the regulatory state and the law to force people to buy a product they don’t want: corporatism. This article reminds me of the Utah’s legislature’s attempt to force hair braiders to get cosmetology licenses at a cost of $10,000 to $20,000 — putting them out of work — even though cosmetology schools didn’t even teach African hair braiding. And who wanted these hair braiders to require such expensive licensing anyway…? Was it their clients…? No. It was the cosmetology schools.

    And this bit about Ronnow fining her students for being a minute late…? She justifies her tyranny by claiming an employer won’t tolerate tardiness — and maybe that’s true — but she is not her students’ employer. She is in fact the employee of the student who pays her to teach a specific skill. 

Ick all around….

    • suckitconspiracygirl January 24, 2013 at 1:50 am

      You clearly have no clue what you are talking about! What a great article this was! It gave a great amount of detail to such a wonderful school that offers such a beautiful trade! Individuals clearly have the choice to decide for themselves what product they are buying and they don’t want to get involved in! Its called the government who regulates everything!! You have no idea what goes into a business that the government over sees! There are so many state rules and regulations that go into touching anyone from head to toe! You can’t touch hair without a license, you can’t paint a nail without a license and you sure as hell can’t put a laser to someone’s face with out the proper training and licensing! Its all apart of life, You can’t drive a car without a license, you can’t practice law without law school! Have you caught on yet!? Last I checked these are all pricing things to pay for if you want to be trained in the trade sweetie! So it was not the schools that decided to charge to teach a trade. Ronnow has a beautiful, prestigious school with amazing staff that teach young women so much from etiquette to life skills, respect, and most important cutover service and the best skin care training in the country! As an owner to a business you can do whatever you want to when fining student at a private institution or even a client for being late to an apt that they no-showed on! Its quite common! And it teaches the girls reality and what is tolerated and what is not in the business word! Its putting an end to poor behavior and lack of responsibility! Ronnow can act as the students employer! As she should! The students will just get a better education from the get go anyway! She doesn’t offer such a wonderful product to the community to allow students to get away with inappropriate things! If they pay to be there and to take 4 to 8 months out of their life they better be there and involved a 100% to learn the skills from the best of the best! Clearly you have no idea what you are talking about!!

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