NEW HAIR NEW CAREER: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BOBBY KANG (ESTE MEDICAL GROUP)
By Scott McLeod
Bobby Kang is the Managing Director of Este Medical Group’s Glasgow clinic and a major factor in the skin and hair care specialists expanding into Scotland.
For this former prison guard from the West Midlands, losing his hair turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. He went to Este Medical Group to take advantage of their state of the art hair transplant treatments when a chance encounter with the company’s founder Sam Cinkir changed everything.
Bobby said: “By the age of 24 I was completely bald and I went to Este to have a hair transplant which is where I met Sam. After some time chatting he invited me to come onboard as a consultant. I told him I’ve got no background and he said he’d send me on the right courses and push me in the right direction.
So I went to study trichology and I became a specialist in hair loss. After my hair transplant I became a consultant at the Birmingham clinic. ”
As a consultant Bobby used his new qualifications to recognise the signs of hair loss, meet with clients and recommend what treatments would best suit them.
Having done this for 6 years, Bobby started to get aspirations of opening a clinic of his own. He went to Sam with every intention of handing in his resignation only for Sam to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The end goal I wanted to achieve was to open my own clinic. I told Sam I’m going to go open my own clinic and he said why don’t we do it together? Why don’t you become a business partner? Two years later I’m still based in Glasgow running the clinic here.
It was never that I wanted to move away from Este; it was that I never thought Sam would give me the opportunity. I hadn’t had a conversation with him I just didn’t think he trusted in me but obviously he did. Maybe on my part I was lacking in the confidence.”
Bobby took a major risk uprooting himself, his wife and their two young daughters from their home in the West Midlands to Glasgow in order to launch Este’s fist clinic in Scotland. He was made a partner and establishing Este Medical Group in Glasgow was the kind of challenge he had been looking for.
Bobby had noticed that several clients that had come for a consultation in Birmingham had travelled down from Scotland because there wasn’t a clinic like Este for them to go to. The best options people in Scotland had were beauty salons which didn’t have as extensive an array of treatments or a private hospital like Spire which would cost them thousands of pounds.
The goal for Bobby had never been about making money but about changing people’s lives. If could change the lives of just 10 people who walked through the clinic doors he would be happy. So he knew that bringing Este to Scotland was a natural next step for the company and for his career ambitions.
Immediately they had an opportunity to stand out in a new market as the unique treatments that Este offers such as Magic Needle and EMSculpt were not available anywhere else.
However there was still no guarantee that the clinic would be successful which put a lot of pressure on Bobby’s shoulders.
Adding to the stress is the fact that the Glasgow Clinic opened its doors in October of 2020 at a time of high cases of Covid and the world was dealing with so much uncertainty. As quickly as the doors opened Bobby had close them as the country prepared for another lockdown.
“October 5th 2020 is when we opened I remember that date. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Even working in a prison it was easier handling that environment than setting up your own business because there was a real chance it could have failed.
Even though we did all the market research and invested in the best technology there was no guarantee we were going to get people through the door.”
“We’d only been open eight weeks before we had to close and because we hadn’t opened before March 2020 we had no furlough or government funding. We went into another lockdown in December 2020 and it was very scary as we were not financially stable at all but my staff were very understanding.
I told them I physically don’t have the money to pay you but one thing I guarantee you is that if Este Medical is able to open back up in Glasgow you will be guaranteed a job. In fact Sam and I actually paid out of our own pocket, to make sure my staff were taken care of during covid.”
During such a difficult time Bobby remained determined because he had too much lose if the clinic didn’t open up again post lockdown. It wasn’t just the financial investment he’d put in but the fact he’d moved his family to a new city and his kids were just staring at new school.
Bobby was amazed by the support from his customers, many of whom had paid for treatments before lockdown and choose to wait for the clinic to reopen rather than asking for their money back. This only further motivated him too be able to reopen as he didn’t want to let the customers or his colleagues down.
Este Glasgow would reopen in early 2022 and the clinic is going from strength to strength ever since. They have has received several accolades including winning Cosmetic Clinic at the Scottish Hair & Beauty Awards 2021.
“It was a great achievement that within 12 months of us opening in Glasgow we’d won the award. I’d say for us that was our proudest moment and one of the best awards we’d won.”
Bobby’s wife Sonia has also taken a role in the business helping to run the Glasgow clinic. Initially the clinic only five staff members including Bobby and Sonia so everyone had to help out with the various aspects of keeping the business running from meeting with clients to keeping the place tidy.
Bobby loves having his wife by his side saying “When it comes to work we are very professional. We close at 8pm so before then we are colleagues and we can tell each other what to do. After 8 that’s when we’re family again and I think that when family members don’t have that balance that’s when it can cause problems.
She’s been a great help. She’s the heart of the business and if it wasn’t for her I don’t think we’d be as successful. Sam has always said that she’s the real business partner.”
The couple do try to spend as much time together as possible outside of work hours to help maintain that work/home life balance. For them coming home to spend time with their children helps melt away any stresses from the day.
When not working Bobby also likes indulge in his love of football, being a lifelong fan of Arsenal. For him being able to catch a game allows him to briefly zone out from the stresses of work.
The team at the Glasgow clinic is now made up of 14 staff members including the five therapists, two receptionists and three admin staff. Despite the success in Glasgow Bobby is not willing to rest on his laurels, having already outlined plans that will see five Este clinics under his umbrella.
Bobby spoke on this expansion saying: “The goal is to have three in Scotland (Glasgow, Aberdeen & Edinburgh) but I’ll also be opening in Belfast and Newcastle. For Este we want to go from 11 clinics to 25. We’ve got a location in Dubai and we’re going to be opening in New York so we’re going to be focusing on international as well as the UK.”
Bobby detailed another major development for Este with the launch of their new app.
“Recently we’ve launched an app. Every time a customer spends money with us they get loyalty points on items that they buy, they can book appointments or depending on the treatments that they’ve had we can send them messages on what they should be doing for the next 24 hours.
It took us two years to create this app. We wanted to create an app where it would be automated so that the app would recognise what treatment the customer has had and know the kind of products they should be using. We know how long a product should last so we can send them a message reminding them when to use it and when to come in for a refill.”