Episode 138: Dr. Marc Ronert, Co-Founder of Image Skincare, Owner and Founder of Hush & Hush

While he might look like a serial entrepreneur, Dr. Marc Ronert never set out to be one. He just wanted to accomplish a few things in the beauty and wellness space and each of them became a different enterprise. These include Image, a science-based skincare line created with his wife, his authorship of an amazing book on aging, Age Later, written during a sabbatical boldly taken as Image was blossoming, and his wellness company Hush & Hush that takes a holistic approach to being your best at any age.

In this episode, the board-certified plastic surgeon shares how each evolved from the other, the importance of taking time to step away and look at what you’re doing from a distance and how lucky he is to have found his soulmate and business partner in one person. Do listen!

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody. It's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. I am so grateful that you tuned in. This week's episode features Dr. Marc Ronert. He is the co-Founder of Image Skincare and the co-Founder and Creator of Hush and Hush. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Tanya Zuckerbrot. She is the founder of F-Factor. Happy listening.

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I am pleased to be sitting with Dr. Marc Ronert. He is the co-Founder of Image Skincare and the Owner and Founder of Hush and Hush. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Dr. Marc RonertGreat to be here. Super excited.
Jodi KatzSo let's start with my favorite question because I love learning about everyone's minutiae. How will you be spending your day today?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, it's a great day for me. Love the city, always excited to come here. Flew in last night, so I had plenty of time this morning to clear my thoughts. Did some yoga and meditation. Worked out a little bit, had a great breakfast at the hotel for over an hour, just sit there and read the newspaper. I just had a great day so far, and now I'm talking to you, and I'm going to meet with my publicist a little bit later for lunch. Talk a little bit about social media events and opportunities and then going to catch a flight back to Palm Beach to tuck the kids back in bed. So that's my plan for today.
Jodi KatzHow old are your kids?
Dr. Marc Ronert10 years.
Jodi KatzOh, they're twins.
Dr. Marc RonertTwins, boy and a girl.
Jodi KatzOh, how fun.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, it's a fun time.
Jodi KatzIt's a good age.
Dr. Marc RonertGreat age. You know, we're still at the point where they're listening to you so you have a little bit of an impact. So we really enjoying the time right now.
Jodi KatzWell we have a lot of ideas that go through because your background is really fascinating. So you have a medical background.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah.
Jodi KatzTalk us through why you wanted to be a physician.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, that's a great question for me. The honest truth is it never really faced me. In early age, three years, four years old, I always wanted to become a physician. I cannot explain it. It's just the way how, how I guess I was wired. We didn't have any background in the family, no relatives that were physicians, but I always wanted to become a doctor. It was just totally natural to me, and so I was interested in physiology, how the body functions, how the cells communicate with each other, what can go wrong, and for a short period of time I went to the United States as an exchange student, played tennis in a tennis camp. But when I came back, I finished high school and I knew I wanted to go to medical school and that's what I did.

Went to medical school in Dusseldorf, but also in the University of Copenhagen and New York and Miami and that's kind of how it all started. What I learned about myself during the phase of medical school though is that I was very emotionally attached to patients, so if they would have chronic diseases, or some serious issues going on, I would take that back home. I would get very emotional about it or really, really impacted my emotional state of wellbeing. So I knew I couldn't deal with really sick people, and I was trying to find something that would be fulfilling. So I was looking at orthopedic surgery or other specialties where I could fulfill my passion, but I would see immediate results. You know, if you do a surgery after two or three hours, you see the result, you have the success.

And one day I was attending a lecture, huge auditorium and the professor of plastic surgery was giving a lecture about plastic surgery. And I was sitting there just with one other girl next to me. I still remember that like it was yesterday. And that was the defining moment because he talked to us two people in this huge room, like the entire room would be filled. He had such a passion and enthusiasm for the subject of plastic surgery. I know at that moment I want to become a plastic surgeon. And that was was in the second year of medical school. And that really changed my life from that day on.
Jodi KatzSo the way you fell into beauty is a really interesting story because wanting to be a plastic surgeon, going to school for it all those many years, and then fast forward and you're a co-owner of a skincare brand. A lot happened in between.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah. For sure.
Jodi KatzSo how did you go from finishing all your education around plastic surgery to getting into the beauty business?
Dr. Marc RonertSo in in total I spent about 12 years in the medical field and in 2004, that was one of those other defining moments in my life where I was traveling back then with my former chief of plastic surgery, Professor Albridge is his name, he was German, President of the Association of German Plastic Surgeons. Very well regarded. We were traveling to Houston, Texas to a conference and I was supposed to give a presentation and then after three days I would fly back home to Dusseldorf and that was all great. Back then in our clinic we did a ton of clinical research. For example, we invented small tiny little tissue expanders we would put underneath the skin and it would absorb body fluids and it would swell up and then we use that skin to either reconstruct breasts after breast cancer or we would do tumor defect coverage. So it was very great, interesting research we did around those little, what we called osmotic tissue expanders.

And I was traveling around the world giving lectures and presentations about our findings, and it happened to be in August, 2000 on 21st I still remember, of course, the day that changed my life, and hopefully also the life of my future wife that I met at that conference. And it was coincidence, call it faith, fate, destiny, or sheer luck, but we met there. Our stories differ a little bit how we met.
Jodi KatzReally?
Dr. Marc RonertBut I keep that a secret. But we met there and we found such an incredible emotional connection and we were so much in line with our visions and dreams about our life and the career we wanted to start and the passion for business and entrepreneurship. I mean for me being in residency for plastic surgery, I had my path completely mapped out, you know? After six year years of residency, I wanted to open my own private practice. I wanted to start my business. I could never picture myself working for somebody else. And then obviously when we met, we had some very tough decisions to make very, very quickly, because she was living in Houston, Texas. I was living in Germany. We would see each other on the weekends, flying 13, 14 hours on a Friday and flying back home on Sunday. And we did that for a little bit. But we knew if we could combine our forces together, we could create something very special.

She was a business woman, she was an aesthetician. And with my medical background, we really had a vision how we could combine this and create a skincare brand that is based on science, on clinical evidence, on results, on something that people could feel the difference and improvement in their skin really quickly. And it really made sense. So I basically sold everything when I became board certified and I moved to Texas.
Jodi KatzSo I just want to recap this. You trained, you traveled to Texas, that day you met a woman.
Dr. Marc RonertCorrect, yeah.
Jodi KatzYou had enough conversation to understand her aspirations, dreams and goals for business, but also for her life.
Dr. Marc RonertWell that didn't happen in just one conversation. So that evolved over continuing talking on the phone, visiting each other. I did a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in October that same year. And she would visit me there. I would fly to Houston and we would obviously get to know each other more and more. It was a long distance relationship, but we had such a great connection that we started to talk about business fairly quickly, and I was super interested in what she was doing. She just started this company a year before and I was just super impressed and I hope that she might've been also a little bit impressed about myself. So.
Jodi KatzWell you met and made enough of a spark, right, that you wanted to have these conversations.
Dr. Marc RonertRight, right.
Jodi KatzSo I think the lesson to all the listeners is to attend the medical conferences.
Dr. Marc RonertI think the message is you never know what's going to happen. You just have to be open for any opportunity that presents itself.
Jodi KatzSo you are traveling back and forth to see each other, not the most ideal circumstances. What decision did you land on?
Dr. Marc RonertSo the decision I landed on is that I have to marry this girl. Fairly quickly, before Christmas. And I invited her for the holidays to Germany to meet my parents and they were super excited to meet this very intelligent, driven, motivated girl that happened to like me a lot. So I didn't flunk very long and proposed to her in March on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, something that you probably have to do for an American girl. That was my plan and that's what I did.
Jodi KatzAnd she said yes.
Dr. Marc RonertAnd she said, yes. Yeah.
Jodi KatzSo where do you live? You live in Germany? What happens there?
Dr. Marc RonertSo what happened is obviously it was a tough choice for myself too. For the outside friends and people, it would probably look like I would have given up my career, but I never pictured it that way. I gained more than I gave up. So we discussed it. Am I going to open my practice? Is she going to move to Germany? Not speaking one speck of German? Is an opportunity for us to get together and do something together? And that's what where we ended up. So like I said, I sold everything that I owned, the apartment, the furniture, the cars, well, the one car that owned and I moved to Texas, and then we got married the year afterwards.

And from there it really has been an incredible journey together. We built this local brand out to become a global skincare line. We sell our products in 60 countries. We supply about 20000 spas in the United States. So it's been really a great, great story together, been a fun, fun, wild ride.
Jodi KatzAnd this business, Image Skincare, is it still family owned?
Dr. Marc RonertIt's, 2015 we brought in a private equity firm, but it's privately, independently owned. We have a significant portion and our partner has a significantly portion and we still own the company. It's still our baby. You know, I'm on the board of the company, I'm the chairman of the development, innovation side and my wife is the chairwoman of the board. So we're very intensely involved in the vision and the continuation of the success of the company.
Jodi KatzSo let's just back up, when you decided to move to the US you couldn't practice?
Dr. Marc RonertNo, I couldn't because I wasn't licensed here. So that's a little tricky because if you're an American, you come to Europe, it's fairly easy to apply for your papers. And for me, I would have had to do all the United States licensing, medical examinations, I would have to do residency all over, and I was just not ready to do that. I did take the American medical license, the examination I took, but I didn't follow through and I never, never wanted to repeat my education again. It would have been another five years. Wouldn't make sense.
Jodi KatzSo you dove into the building of the brand together.
Dr. Marc RonertThat's what we did, yeah.
Jodi KatzWell, where do you think the courage inside of you came from to say, I just spent 12 years building this for myself in Germany and I'm going to do what some people would see as a risk or some people would judge you around like well, what are you doing all that education, knowing you can't practice in the US. What gave you that courage to just make the decision that you felt was the right one?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, great question. I think I got to give my parents all the credit for the way how they raised me because they told me whatever makes you happy, pursue your passion and dreams. They originally wanted me to go to a banking education, which I totally declined and they were fine with it. And I think besides my friends that all thought I would be nuts to give all this up after so many years, my parents were in full support and said go for it. Try something different. If that makes you happy, you need to do it. So for myself, I've never looked at this as something that I gave up or that it needed a ton of courage. I think I had full faith in my wife Jana. I trusted her 100%. I trusted ourselves, I trusted myself that we can make this a total success. I never doubted it in one second.

So it came natural and easy. Even if it looks like a total courageous move, which it wasn't in my head. And I mean theoretically, if it would have not worked out, I could've still go back, you know? Back then in Germany we were 250 board certified plastic surgeons. The opportunity was wide open. I could have gone back a few years later and open my shop still back then. So, but I didn't think about that.
Jodi KatzSo what was it that most inspired you about her vision for Image Skincare?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, she had a very crystal clear vision of how this company should be structured and I liked every aspect of it, the way how she set up the initial products. They were all color coded. They were divided into categories that would match skin conditions. There was a prescription pad that you would, it's almost like a physician would fill out a prescription for you, to educate you on what you should take. So they had a very medical touch and the product spoke for themselves. They had really great results. We had very active chemical peels that physicians would use only or aestheticians and just very effective products that really did something that they promise to do, and they were not lost in marketing hype. You know what, what nowadays is so, such a noisy industry of full of hype and claims and marketing gimmicks, that none of that was there. It was just based on results that everybody could see and feel.

And she built it up grassroots with zero money and back then we didn't have any money. We on doors one time, one door at a time. We didn't spend any marketing dollars in the first six, seven years because A, we didn't have it, and B we just did a very grassroots approach.
Jodi KatzAnd the brand, is it physician dispensed?
Dr. Marc RonertIt's only licensed professionals. So we are pretty strict or we are very strict to whom we sell. We wouldn't sell to supermarkets or department stores for a very long time. We did not want to sell it online, which nowadays you have to. But we would only sell to licensed physicians and aestheticians. That would be our market. Very niche market that we would operate in.
Jodi KatzAnd the aestheticians would use the products during their treatments.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, there's home care products that you could take home after your treatment and there are treatment and peeling products that the aestheticians or the physician would use and apply in the office.
Jodi KatzSo I want to fast forward, because you told me something that I was really inspired by that recently you took, after many, many years running Image with your wife, you took a sabbatical.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, I did. Yeah.
Jodi KatzAnd the thought of that is really intriguing to me. Tell me what the process was for you in terms of what your head space was leading up to the sabbatical. Like, why do it, why even consider it? And what were your goals for that time and how'd you spend your time?
Dr. Marc RonertSo first of all, I didn't have any goal. I did it because I felt I have to change something, and many dimensions of reasoning and one of the reasons was Image was very successful. We built a great management team and I just didn't feel like I needed to go to the office on a day to day basis. I didn't see the need for myself anymore. I was very involved in the product development and we had a pipeline for the next three years, we had it all mapped out. So I didn't, I didn't feel, I guess, needed any more on a day to day basis.

The second point was that I did it for so many years, we were very successful and I was kind of missing something in my life, because it became routine and we became too complacent or too comfortable with the situation overall. And I wanted to get challenged again. I wanted to do something else. I didn't know what at that time, what I wanted to do but I knew I needed to do to change something for the better.

And then the last point is back then we had eight year old twins. I was 150 days of the year gone, on the road, traveling, servicing 60 countries that we built, from Saudi Arabia to Dubai to Switzerland to Germany to Ireland. Several times a year I would fly to Ireland because that happened to be our number one market for Image. So I realized if I don't change something now, I'm not going to see the kids growing up. You know, I'm not, I wouldn't feel happy and I wanted to feel happy again and I wanted to feel great about getting out of bed and doing something different.

So I made the very tough choice, an emotional choice to leave the baby that grew up and went to college basically, and clear my head. And I got into meditation. I got into yoga. I had days where I didn't do anything.
Jodi KatzWait, I have a question. When you started the sabbatical, did you really stop checking your email? Like did you have?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, that's tough, huh?
Jodi KatzRight? Like our hands and our brains are used to people wanting us.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, it's terrible.
Jodi KatzRight? So that first week, did you?
Dr. Marc RonertNightmare.
Jodi KatzI want to know.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, very emotional, several weeks. Yeah. The emails are still on, trying to get an assistant for all the activities that were still happening in the background. We own an apartment in Berlin, we have a house in Italy, so there was a lot of things going on. We also own a little winery in Tuscany. So there was still stuff going on. I couldn't just sign off, you know? And that was very, very tough for the first several weeks. And I have a Type A hyperactive wife that if I would sit somewhere and do nothing, even though if I want to clear my head, she would look at me funny and "Say, you know what, you don't want to do anything in your life. You're still so young." So that was a struggle.
Jodi KatzAnd she was not on sabbatical. She was still working.
Dr. Marc RonertNo, she could never, she could not sit five minutes still. Absolutely not. Impossible.
Jodi KatzSo when the emails stop rolling in for me, for whatever reason, maybe like people are taking care of business and they just don't need me, my body is wondering why there aren't emails. Like did your body responds to like getting pulled out of the day to day and wonder why the messages weren't coming in?
Dr. Marc RonertNo, no. I was actually happy when not so many emails came in and I think the company did a good job getting me a little isolated from the day to day. And that was good because I didn't want to get pulled in on a day to day basis. That wasn't the point, you know? If you step back and then you still have to answer questions and come in that would defeat the purpose. So I wasn't upset about less emails or more emails, but emails would still come in, and we have international partners that would email me that wouldn't fully comprehend what the situation was and would still feel like they needed to talk to me. But, but overall best decision of my life, absolutely don't regret it at all.
Jodi KatzAnd during that time, were you taking the kids to school?
Dr. Marc RonertI did. In the morning I'd drop them off and then I had a long eight, nine hour time frame for myself. I played a lot of tennis. I did a lot of meditation that super helped me. Picked the kids up again. And but what I forgot to tell you is I was also in the process of writing a book, so it wasn't like the street bum would sit there on the couch and eat potato chips. That wasn't the case. So I knew that I had much more time to focus on the book that I wanted to write.
Jodi KatzAnd what is the book about?
Dr. Marc RonertBook is called Age Later: How to live younger or look younger in seven years in just seven weeks. And what I found fascinating is plastic surgery is not the Holy Grail for looking younger. You know, skincare is not the Holy Grail to age later. You have to see it in a holistic way, what you can do yourself. And I think that's the biggest message from the book, that you've got it in your own hands, how you can delay the aging process, how you can look younger for a longer period of time. And I did a ton of research. The book has almost 300 references of clinical data. So it's all based on science and the latest research that tells us that only 20% of our genetic makeup is responsible for the way how we age, and 80% is environmental and responsible our daily living choices that we make throughout the day.

So I can take the escalator or can take the stairs, I can eat French fries for lunch or I can eat a salad. It doesn't seem significant, each of those little puzzle pieces, but if you put them all together over a course of days, years, months coming, it makes a huge, significant impact on your life, the way how you age and that's what the book is about.
Jodi KatzAnd did the research of the book lead to the development of Hush and Hush.
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, right. That that was the logic step for myself. When I wrote the book I learned so much how food changes everything from your mind, from your wellbeing, from your mental wellbeing. Stress has a huge impact on your life, nutrition, exercise, all those parts make such a big impact that I created kind of a longterm vision for myself that I said eventually everything that I put on my skin, or put in my mouth, I want to create myself. I want to be in 100% control what I'm doing to my body. So I was thinking about deodorants. I was thinking about shampoos and conditioners. I was thinking about the vitamins I would take periodically, but not consistently because I didn't really believe in it. And that's how the idea around Hush and Hush evolved, to create a company that is a health care company, because the skincare we got covered with Image. And now want to focus on the overall health and educate people how to make better choices throughout their life.

And we developed very specific products. Just a few, to help you with specific things. So for example, I'm a vegetarian, I don't eat any meat, so I always had a problem, how do I find some vegan, organic protein? So I developed a protein powder. So selfish reasons basically why I developed those products.
Jodi KatzSo my last question, I think probably most of our listeners would really be excited to hear the answer to. So for, you mentioned Type A, right? You're married to a Type A and my guess is you're a little Type A-ish?
Dr. Marc Ronertyeah, a little A, A-B.
Jodi KatzMaybe she's A plus and you're I?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, she's a triple, triple plus, yeah.
Jodi KatzI can't wait to meet her. So what are some tips to help other Type A people slow down, even if it doesn't mean a whole sabbatical, but having the time to maybe like feel a little serenity or a little more joy or just like some moments of actually not being pulled in multiple directions. So after the sabbatical and the transition into the sabbatical and out of the sabbatical, what are some tips that you can give our listeners?
Dr. Marc RonertYeah, see I live in both worlds, in Germany and in the United States, so I also, I see the best out of both worlds and what we have in Germany is mandatory vacations, which sounds crazy in this country, to take six weeks off, but it shows us something about productivity and effectiveness. You know, you don't have to work hard every single day of the year. I think you got to force yourself to slow down and make some mindful decisions, to not check your emails the second you step out of your bed, you got to take the half an hour in your day to reflect and be a little bit more mindful about what you're doing and just smell the roses once in a while without being so much engraved in this hamster wheel. It's absolutely necessary for your entire wellbeing and longevity that you think about yourself and give yourself a little bit time during the day and not race from one appointment to another. I think there's a difference between balance and being effective and being constructive, and just being busy and work hard. Everybody's trying to work so hard, you know, I don't get it. You got to balance your life out in order to be effective.
Jodi KatzWhy do you think that people are so fearful to be away from their work?
Dr. Marc RonertGreat question. I don't know. I think that this society that does not build it in enough that this should be an integral part of our wellbeing and lifestyle. You hear those CEOs and even the President brag about that they only need two hours of sleep, you know, so you kind of feel guilty if you don't do it. But I think science has proven us wrong, that you need your sleep. Sleep is super essential for your wellbeing, the same way as feeling accomplished and productive and make a difference in the world. On the other hand, you also need to balance that out and relax and just hear yourself breathe and clear your mind.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. It was so great to get to know you and your story.
Dr. Marc RonertMy pleasure.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Dr. Marc. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeauty™ Podcast.
AnnoucnerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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