Dr. Alina Sholar, known for true connection with her patients, grew up in Orange, TX. After receiving a full-tuition merit scholarship from the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in Orange, she received her BS degree in Biomedical Science with Magna Cum Laude honors at Texas A&M University in 1994 and an MD degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1999. She was there awarded the prestigious Janet M. Glasgow Memorial Award and Achievement Citation for Women in Medicine. She completed a full five-year residency, including Chief Resident, in General Surgery at the University of Louisville in 2004, where she was awarded Best Resident Instructor and Mentor by the students of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She continued her study of surgery by completing an additional residency in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Tennessee, serving as Chief Resident in 2006. She received multiple awards and publications in research areas such as the efficacy of treatment at Tertiary Care Wound Centers and the advanced reconstructive techniques required after major facial trauma and infections. She was certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery in 2008.
Today, Dr. Sholar owns Skin Science Soul by Dr. Sholar, her plastic surgery and medical aesthetic practice, as well as being the owner and CEO of Serenity Medical Centers in Austin and San Antonio, and Sage Practice Solutions- a medical practice consulting firm in Austin. Skin Science Soul, Sage Practice Solutions, and Serenity Medical Centers have a global service initiative as well as locally in the Austin community. Skin Science Soul purposefully supports woman-owned businesses and donates to causes that benefit women and children and the communities they live in. For example, she held “Beauty Brunch” events, where she used profits to purchase a school bus for a community church to bring women and children in need to their doctor’s appointments, to attend church and take advantage of church resources, and to be able to come together and connect at community functions.
Dr. Sholar also provides pro bono business consulting for women entrepreneurs in need. On the global scale, Dr. Sholar encouraged and coached a young woman- a single mother of two in Chennai, India- who was financially and physically oppressed by her employers, to start her own medical billing business. Through close counsel of Dr. Sholar, she now has been in business for more than one year and has gained financial independence for herself, but she also now employs 3 other women whose families are 100% sustained by her business as well- a beautiful example of the ripple effect we have on women.
Dr. Sholar mentors young female physicians and non-physician entrepreneurs. In the medical field, only 35% of physicians are women, so it already starts out as a lonely group. By the time they finish residency, only 19% of surgeons are female. As far as plastic surgeons, just 2% are women. And to narrow it down even further, an estimated measly .025% are also independent entrepreneurs running their own businesses full of regulation and commitment above and beyond any ordinary business environment. So, she fully understands how difficult it can be. Some of the issues challenging women in leadership positions in medicine are the same as those in the non-medical business world such as pay disparity, sexual harassment, gender inequality and perception from colleagues, the public, and patients alike. Dr. Sholar herself has been the target of more instances of these types of issues that she cared to admit. It is difficult for women in any business to navigate without mentorship and support, so Dr. Sholar has dedicated herself to be available for them. They together even tackle topics like body shaming, imposter syndrome, and other issues that are bothersome for many female leaders and can hold them back. She has female college students and medical students shadow her in the operating room, in the business office, and in executive meetings, guiding them to make solid decisions for their careers in and outside of medicine.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
When I became a plastic surgeon, I really had the vision of providing not just cosmetic surgery for my patients, but a complete support system where they could feel empowered to be their best. I wanted to operate a totally different type of medical practice business philosophically and literally. After 20 years in surgical practice, I realized that women need a better way to beauty- smarter skincare with scientific substance- but it’s just as much about her soul. I wanted to encourage women to reflect their beauty and strength within to the outside, and in turn, feel their most confident, sexy, and strong in their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. I wanted to give women Beauty With Substance much more than any regular “medspa” ever could, thus Skin Science Soul was born.Skin Science Soul Medical Aesthetics is where I have brought together all my surgical knowledge, aesthetic artist’s eye, and clinical wisdom as a plastic surgeon with my life’s mission to empower women to feel confident and beautiful both inside and out. However, not only have I been a physician, but my entrepreneurial experience of the last 11 years brings more to the table.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First things first, I start the day at home at a slower pace with my rescue dogs and a cup of coffee, then some prayer and meditation. I then hit the ground running, managing daily business administrative tasks while my staff preps for patients. They do the ultimate job in making our office the most comfortable and safe experience possible for our patients. I typically spend some time each day on budgeting, accounting tasks, following up on delegated duties, and, most importantly, idea development. I need that thinking-time to keep my creativity flowing and keep my mind refreshed. I make sure to give dedicated time to each function, prioritizing by need and time-blocking for maximum efficiency, rather than attempting to multitask- which never works. At the end of the day, the most important tasks on my checklist are complete and I can start the next day with a refreshed sense of accomplishment.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When the lightbulb goes off, I write it down. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, I’ll be sure to write down my thoughts right then and there. The ideas never coalesce like when they first pop into your head. Then, I make a plan. I break down the goal into a step by step action plan. The rest is delegation of individual action items to the right people to carry them out, orchestrating the individual pieces to be glued together, and finally, persistence until it materializes. If I find I am spending too much time on an idea without it going anywhere, or worse, procrastinating, then it’s time to reach out to my best staff members and allow them to take off with the idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend in aesthetic medicine that really excites me is all the new technological innovation in non-invasive, non-surgical skin and body rejuvenation. In my office, we understand the science behind the tech and the biology beneath the skin to really make our patients’ results far beyond what your average medspa could ever offer. So, when we offer new tech like our Skin Rx Biometric Analysis or the VirtueRF Microneedling, we see really exciting things happen for our patients. This is just as fulfilling for our staff, too. That excitement from the patient drives them to learn more and perform better every day. We provide many services that are completely unique to us in the area, so it elevates the business beyond the average medspa.
Then, in the business world in general, one trend I always get some tug on the heartstrings about is brands with purpose. I just adore that companies are bringing some soul to the typically hard business space with a lovely message or a heart-felt purpose. What the world needs now is love, so it’s a beautiful thing when positivity and business come together.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Cultivating a vision. I sculpt and mold those middle-of-the-night ideas into a vision of what I want my business to look like. I am very clear and specific on WHY my vision is what it is, and what the business’ overarching purpose in the world is meant to be. I don’t keep it to myself either. I share it with my staff, which ensures that all are aligned with the vision, our purpose, and our goals. I constantly hold that entrepreneurial vision out ahead of me, considering what I want my business venture to become, what it will look like, what the driving forces are to bring it to fruition, and what values and culture should surround it. Maintaining that vision keeps me, and my staff as well, on track.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen to your inner queen, because she’s right about who you are. Keep finding the inspiration to be the best version of yourself every day, and don’t lose sight of that- even if the naysayers tell you that you are not good enough and that you should settle for less. Because, when all is said and done, the only person you answer to is yourself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Self-proclaimed “experts” are a dime a dozen, but there are genuine experts out there to guide you and serve you. Invest in your business by using them! The value of their experienced advice is worth the money. For instance, there really is a science to what we do in aesthetic medicine. Not just anyone can do aesthetic medicine. It takes years of accumulation of expertise and skill, including formal and diverse medical education and training, to become a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon. Someone may go to an aesthetician injector and think their experience is just fine, but they are missing out on a plastic surgeon’s experienced hand, a trained and keen eye for the art of beauty, the knowledge that something can always go wrong, and knowing how to best prevent complications from occurring. Then if they do, how to properly treat those issues. They are also missing out on a true connection with their plastic surgeon- the sacred doctor-patient relationship that exists only between doctors and their patients. In my practice, it’s one thing that patients over and over state they love about coming to see us- the connection that comes from listening to their needs and understanding what their goals are.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Delegate smartly, inspect what you expect daily, and execute thoughtfully. And read a lot. I am constantly learning and curating ideas from books and articles that I can implement in my business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There actually is a strategy to it all- mostly cultivating my vision from the start, then holding it as the standard to which all choices are measured, asking myself, “does this fit in my plan or not?” From there, business growth occurs at the level of overcoming any obstacles that may pop up, then learning how to forsee those barriers to success in order to avoid them from that point onward. I also break down growth into specific areas of my business- staff development, capital investment, and community outreach and visibility, for instance. Each area requires a strategic plan to make the full vision materialize.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One? Failures are truly part of the process.
Failure number one. The first mistake of my career was a real doozy! I made the mistake of partnering with someone who I didn’t know very well. I got caught up in the idea of “making it big” and didn’t take the time to learn who he was, what his values were (or lack thereof, in this case), and what his ulterior motives may be. Because our ethics and core values were at odds, so much time and attention was taken away from my practice focus and business goals. When I finally learned the truth about him, I was sickened that I, in many ways, had been inadvertently endorsing my partner and his dealings inside and outside of the business. Unfortunately, his way of doing life was very different from mine. I finally had to make the decision that I had to remove myself, and the resulting avalanche that followed was a terrible disaster. However, it was the right decision, and it ultimately pushed me into another passion- to create my own business and be my own boss.
Failure number two. Years ago I made the decision to move back home to Texas, and I had carefully planned to continue the medspa part of my practice in another state. It was making enough income to self-sustain without my plastic surgery income, so it should have been very successful. However, I did not anticipate the value of my physical presence in the practice. When I flew in and saw patients, things were great. Each time I returned to Texas, the medspa completely fell apart. And, even though I communicated with staff over the phone daily, it just never worked. As it turned out, it was the energy of my leadership that maintained it. I had to close that business and it was a major financial blow, not to mention a blow to my ego. How did I overcome it? I just kept moving forward, with one more lesson learned under my belt. Attitude is everything.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would love a digital version of my daily “to-do” lists. I could enter my top priority items to get accomplished for the day, then any additions that pop up throughout the day. An app could send me periodic affirmations to cheer me on to get the tasks done, and have at the ready for the following day anything that remains. Then, with each item completed you get a little digital celebration on-screen to boot!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just indulged in a gorgeous pair of Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses that absolutely make me feel fabulous every time I wear them! That, and I would say that every dollar spent on a beautiful and functional website, plus sound reputation management, is money well-spent.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use Podium to schedule patients, send appointment confirmations, communicate two-way via SMS, and web chat securely and on the fly. We love the easy access our patients have to us- anything to break down barriers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”.
What is your favorite quote?
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~Audre Lorde
“People don’t buy what you do: they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” ~Simon Sinek
● Follow your heart, not what other people think you should be doing. You know you best.
● Figure out your WHY, then compare everything to be aligned with that purpose.
● Failure is not the same as losing. Failure is an essential piece of your growth, and a solution-based mindset is necessary. Always look for a solution because obstacles can always be overcome and growth is an inevitable side effect.
● Invest in yourself by reading, by honing your craft, by enjoying a little indulgence now and then. Invest in your business with a solid web presence and community presence.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.