Episode 206: Alisa Lask, Chief Commercial Officer at Rion
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Alisa’s got a piggy bank full of pennies, collected for the realization of her biggest goals in life. At every step of her career journey — from working at a grocery store, to working as the Chief Commercial Officer at Rion, she’s made sure to evaluate whether these decisions contribute towards a bigger picture. She’s had to work hard to get where she is now, and part of that is making sure that each piece fits inside her life’s puzzle.

Dan Hodgdon
Molly D’AmatoHi, Esperanza.
Esperanza RosenbaumHi, Molly. How are you doing today?
Molly D’AmatoI think I’m doing all right. How are you doing?
Esperanza RosenbaumI think I’m doing all right too. I think I’m getting through the day.
Molly D’AmatoTotally.
Esperanza RosenbaumThis week on the podcast, we have Alisa Lask, who is the COO at Rion. She was such a cool person to hear from. I’d never heard of Rion before, so it was really awesome to learn about it. And I feel like we have gotten to learn a lot of different elements of the esthetics, and skincare, and different technology having to do with skincare this whole quarter, so it was so awesome to hear from here.
Molly D’AmatoRight. Yeah. I thought that Alisa was a very unique guest. It’s very interesting to hear about Rion and regenerative technology.
Esperanza RosenbaumYeah.
Molly D’AmatoAnd I really loved that it could be used for aesthetics, but it could also be used for medical reasons too.
Esperanza RosenbaumTotally.
Molly D’AmatoSo, it’s just really interesting. I think she’s a really unique person to have on the show.
Esperanza RosenbaumYeah, I definitely think we haven’t had anybody like her on the show before, and I think it’s just such a good episode and such a unique episode, that I think anyone listening is really going to enjoy.
Molly D’AmatoAbsolutely. I definitely learned something new. Let’s hop in.
Jodi KatzI’m really excited now to introduce my guest today, because our theme this quarter is technology. And I’m here with Alisa Lask. She’s the chief commercial officer at Rion. Welcome, Alisa.
Alisa LaskHi. Thanks for having me.
Jodi KatzI’m very excited to do this. We actually tried to do this a few months ago, so I’m glad that we were finally able to make this happen.
Alisa LaskYes. Been a busy few months.
Jodi KatzSo, first, I’m gonna ask my favorite question, but then I want to understand actually what you’re doing today at Rion, because I don’t understand it at all, and I need translation. But my favorite question is, you know, since we’re a career journey show, let’s go back in time to your 11-year-old self. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Alisa LaskI wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals. And I still tease my husband to this day that in a fire, I’m saving the dogs first. So, I don’t know what made me change my mind along the way. Maybe I wasn’t great in chemistry. But I was a veterinarian for many, many years, and probably till I got to high school.
Jodi KatzAnd how old were you when you had your first pet?
Alisa LaskWell, I begged and cried and made PowerPoint presentations probably for my family for years. And I think I was a teenager when I got my first golden retriever. Best dog ever.
Jodi KatzAw, that’s so sweet. And do you have pets now?
Alisa LaskI do. I’m very involved in rescue dogs, and then we have horses. So, I try not to count. It gets my husband upset. We just tell him we have a lot, and we move them around so he never knows how many.
Jodi KatzThat’s awesome.
Alisa LaskHopefully, he doesn’t watch this.
Jodi KatzI don’t think I’ve ever had a guest that hides the quantity of horses that she has. So, this is a first for Where Brains Meet Beauty podcast. Thank you for being so revealing. Okay, so let’s talk about Rion, because I met you when you were deep in aesthetics. And when I go to the Rion website, I’m trying to understand what’s going on here, and I really need a little help. So, the theme is technology, so it makes perfect sense that you would educate me today.
Alisa LaskYeah, absolutely. So, Rion was actually founded by two physicians at Mayo Clinic. So, this is Mayo Clinic Technology. So, over 15 years, the physicians, who are both specialists—they’re cardiologists, and they specialize in heart transplant—they led the stem cell lab at Mayo Clinic, and they tried to understand, why is it you do really well with stem cells, but then the five other people that went and spent all this money and traveled didn’t have good results? So, what is it about regenerative medicine that is and isn’t working?

And so, they basically made a breakthrough discovery when they were studying all these patients that were successful with stem cells. And what they realized was, it’s not stem cells that actually do the regeneration. It’s these things called exosomes. And exosomes is not a word I even knew what it was when I started last year. But exosomes are simply little messengers that tell your cells what to do. So, for instance, when you cut yourself and you see blood, that’s basically exosomes signaling those cells, “I’m injured! I’m injured! You need to heal.” And those exosomes are signaling soft tissue healing. And so, the discovery and the breakthrough at Rion is that they have been able to create shelf stable regenerative medicine and put trillions of exosomes in a little bottle. So, we’re doing FDA studies for very noble causes, like women’s health, stress urinary incontinence there, wounds, heart attack, degenerative joint disease, and then we have an entire esthetics division as well as veterinary division. So, in esthetics, we have skincare, working on hair loss, wrinkles; and then veterinary, very similar to the human studies.
Jodi KatzAnd when you’re in your role as chief commercial officer, are you commercializing it across medical, esthetics, and vet, or are you focusing in one area?
Alisa LaskSo, I focus across areas. So, I’ll go one call where we’re talking—we were just on the phone talking about horses in our horse study. And the next call, we’re talking about degenerative joint disease in humans. So, that’s what makes it fun. That’s what’s so cool about this discovery at Mayo Clinic, is it’s a breakthrough technology, and it’s platform, so it’s across all kinds of uses. And in fact, Mayo Clinic’s the Disneyland of medicine, so we have so many other ideas for the future. We’re just getting started right now with these exosomes and regenerative medicine.
Jodi KatzAnd how did this opportunity find you? This is so fascinating and so new. What was that process like?
Alisa LaskYeah. So, actually, I have a very good physician friend that when I left Galderma said, “You really need to talk to these guys at Mayo Clinic. They have something really special, and they need someone like you who can come in and figure out, how do you commercialize this?” How do you take this great, really cool scientific idea and make it understandable to your mom, your dad? Able to explain it to a patient that’s sitting there trying to decide what to do in hospital, or to the esthetic patient that’s trying to decide, am I getting—buying this skincare or doing something else?

So, I went up and spent some time consulting with the business and really decided this was some of the best technology I’d seen in my entire career. And I love building things. And this was an opportunity to build something very special in the future.
Jodi KatzAnd when the founders of the business and the brand, the founders of the technology, came to you and explained it, were they explaining it to you in a way that was easy to understand, or did you have to figure out what that is?
Alisa LaskSo, I joked in the beginning, and these are physician scientists that specialize in heart transplant at Mayo Clinic, that I understood 40% of what they were telling me in the beginning. I was excited it was like, over 25%. And but I think that’s why it’s such a great partnership. These guys are so smart, and they’ve done so many studies, and really looked at it again and again to test their hypothesis. And they needed a commercial person to come in and be a partner to say, how do we get this to the everyday person? How do we explain that in hospital?
Jodi KatzYou know, you’ve worked at some really impressive, well-established brands and businesses, right? So, it’s a big leap of faith to walk into this situation and say, “I’m going to tackle it. I’m going to go for it.” What was inside of you at that moment that made you want to really take a risk?
Alisa LaskSo, you’re right. I’ve worked for big companies my entire career. And it’s really hard when you suddenly go to a startup, and you don’t have that team and those resources, and all these things to turn around. But I love building things because I like to turn around and see the progress. You know, when you work for a big company, it’s like the Titanic. There’s 50 people, and when you start from going to north to northeast, you’re not really sure, was that your impact or someone else’s? But when you’re in a startup, boy, it’s like a Ski Nautique. You’re in a very tiny speedboat, and you know exactly who’s driving that and who’s helping go whatever direction you’re trying to lead. And I just got excited about really changing the course of medicine. I truly believe regenerative medicine, whether it’s in beauty or whether it’s in medical healthcare or more noble causes, is the future of medicine. And I wanted to be a part of it.
Jodi KatzAnd have you been hiring on the team, and have you found other people are so excited to build this with you?
Alisa LaskWe’ve just started hiring. We’re in the middle of a capital raise on the esthetic side, so we’ll be hiring an entire beauty team later this year. But yeah, when people hear the story and they meet the co-founders, and then they start seeing the data, the pre-clinical data that we have, and the skincare data that we’re getting back for our skincare product, (plated)™ SkinScience, is phenomenal. So, I think they’re very excited, and everyone, again, wants to be part of something that’s going to change the course of what we’re doing in all of our lives.
Jodi KatzAlisa, we can use this podcast as like, a recruiting call for you to build that team, right? Since our fans are all beauty people.
Alisa LaskAbsolutely. We love people that are passionate about beauty and about medicine and technology.
Jodi KatzOkay. Now we’re going to go back in time again. I love hearing about career journey from the start. So, what was the first job you had where you actually earned money?
Alisa LaskI actually—well, my first job I think really was selling Girl Scout cookies. And I was always wanting to be the top seller. So, I didn’t really make money, but I made money for the Girl Scouts. And then I worked as a waitress, was my first job. And that was very humbling, serving people, serving food, working in that fast-paced environment.
Jodi KatzAnd do you remember what you did with those earnings?
Alisa LaskAbsolutely. I spent every dime on horses. I was the little girl that was addicted.
Jodi KatzWhat does that mean, to spend money on horses when you’re younger?
Alisa LaskTo buy lessons, and riding equipment, and brushes, and anything that had horses on it, I’m sure, is where I put my money.
Jodi KatzThat’s awesome. Okay, so let’s go to a job after school. I read that your first career was in grocery. How did you end up in that space?
Alisa LaskYeah, so I was interviewing out of undergrad. It was my first job. And it was just a great opportunity to really have some leadership experience. So, it was a district manager job where I managed six grocery stores and 60 employees right out of school. And they had a training program. So, my first six months were running the register, stocking the store, cleaning the trash, emptying the dumpster. Nothing glorious, but really taught you understanding the business, empathizing for people that are on the floors in those grocery stores and what they have to deal with on a daily basis to make it easy for you and I when we’re running in and we need to get our list.
Jodi KatzDo you find yourself as like, you’re an empathetic when you walk into stores?
Alisa LaskMuch more so. And I think my waitressing as well, I’m very sympathetic, because I remember the angry customers, the food that I screwed up, or whatever happened. So, I think it’s, when you walk in someone’s shoes, you see it differently when you’re there on the other side.
Jodi KatzAlisa, in college, I had a job as like, a trainee in an Italian restaurant. And it was so challenging. All the food looked the same to me. When it was time to go in the kitchen and grab what your table ordered, I had no idea what anything was. And I just remember like, this person asked me for a straw. And I never brought them the straw. I’m 46 years old. This is like, 30 years ago, but I still remember that I never got them that straw. It is tough.
Alisa LaskIt is tough. And, you know, it’s hard. It’s very fast-paced. But I learned so many good skills about grit and really, you know, you have to work hard to get to where you want to be, to customer service, the importance of that. Even when we run big businesses now, just those little things about customer service make a difference in whether someone feels great about your brand and the experience, or whether someone just is mediocre and they’re not a raving fan.
Jodi KatzI never made it from trainee to full waiter. I didn’t make the cut. So, I’ve since learned how to be better at customer service. So, after grocery, Alisa, how did you make your way to pharma?
Alisa LaskSo, I went back to school, and I was accepted to the University of Michigan to get my MBA. Go Blue! I have to do a shot-out. And I really wanted—I had a lot of opportunities to work at consumer product companies because I came from the grocery background, and several offers there. But I really wanted to do something a little more complicated with technology and sophisticated, which is why I chose an internship with Eli Lily in pharmaceuticals. So, that was really how I got my foot in the door. They had a big recruiting program at Michigan. And then I spent the next 10 years of my career there, really learning everything, soup to nuts, working on women’s health as well as neuroscience.
Jodi KatzSo, you’ve been in the industry on the pharma side, in the esthetics side. Now you’re really blending those two jobs together, right, at your current role. What are you most excited about in terms of innovation?
Alisa LaskI think, for so many years, we’ve put chemicals into our body. We’ve put plant extracts into our body. And then for the first time, we’re going to start using human-derived options to help us heal from within, beauty from within. And I think that’s really exciting because it’s completely game-changing. The power of the body to heal is amazing, and we’ve finally found a way to leverage that at a scale and cost that will be available to anyone.
Jodi KatzI’m excited to see where you take this business because it sounds incredible. I want to talk to you a little bit about, I guess, time management as you grow in your career. I use the word “seductive” to grow my business. It feels really seductive, right? I get a little taste of success or a taste of my goals, and then I want more, more, more, like sugar. You know how I am with sugar. I’m wondering if, through your carer, that pursuit of success has been seductive for you as well.
Alisa LaskYeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, I had a really good mentor along the way that always told me, as I looked at jobs, to think two jobs ahead. So, don’t get caught up in the shiny penny that’s in front of you. Think about what your goal is beyond that, so you’re always planning and making sure that that shiny penny actually gets you to the next step. And I’ve done that in every move. And I think it’s really helped make sure that I really achieve the goals that I want for myself.
Jodi KatzAnd when you’re thinking ahead in that way, but you’re kind of dealing with the energy that you have in that moment, how do you sort of press pause to think about what’s most important here? Do you have techniques or skills that you use when you’re in these situations?
Alisa LaskI think in any situation where you’re forced to make a big life-changing decision, it’s good to have perspective. It’s not good to make those decisions when you’re in the moment, or you’re stressed, or you have a deadline. Even if you have a deadline that’s the next day, go and take a walk. Work out. Walk the dog. Whatever it may be to take you away and get perspective, I think you always come back with a better vision of what’s happening, a better vision of the options and what it means for you.
Jodi KatzAnd I mean, we touched on this a little bit before, but when you’re not working and you’re not with your horses, how are you spending your time?
Alisa LaskI love being outside, and I love traveling. So, these years with COVID have been rough, because I love going outside the US. But hopefully, things are back to normal, so we’ll be traveling again soon.
Jodi KatzGreat. So, Alisa, our last segment here is fan questions. So, thank you to our fans on Instagram for submitting these questions for Alisa. So, I’m going to read you the questions from our fans, and hopefully they’re listening to hear the answer. So, in regards to esthetics in skincare, what do you want to see more of in the future?
Alisa LaskSo, I think I want to see more transparency from the companies, and I think higher levels of clinical studies. There’s a lot of companies that make claims that aren’t really founded in things. And now that I’ve seen with our (plated)™ SkinScience that we’ll be launching later this year, the level of studies that you can do on cosmetics that we’ve done at Mayo Clinic for this brand, I really want to see us elevate all of it, because I think science is important when we make decisions on what we’re doing for beauty.
Jodi KatzAnd what advice do you give to people who want to work in esthetics?
Alisa LaskIt’s an amazing industry. And persevere. There’s all kinds of ways to get in, so don’t feel like you have to go to one of the top injectable companies first. There’s skincare, there’s devices. Don’t be afraid to start in some of the younger startups, because once you get into the offices, you see the passion, the energy, you understand the business model, you’ll be able to write whatever path you want into esthetics.
Jodi KatzOkay, last question. This is a good one. You’re a growing business now. How can somebody get a job at your company?
Alisa LaskGreat question. So, obviously, through the channels that all of our jobs are posted on, Rion Esthetics on LinkedIn, or Rion on LinkedIn, and then of course, our website, Rion Esthetics, and riontx.com.
Jodi KatzGreat. Well, Alisa, I want to thank you so much for joining us for this episode. This is amazing, and I’m so happy to see you again.
Alisa LaskThank you. And now I’m going to go to the grocery store, and I’ll know exactly what I’m going to have to spend.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Alisa. Please subscribe to our series on your favorite podcast app. And for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram, @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.

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