Ignacio Fanlo, the Founder of Vansanity, talks about his idea for starting the brand, the origin of the company name, and why is branding important.
What is the story behind Vansanity?
It begins in 2017, while my family (Iggy/founder) was still in the Bay Area (Mill Valley). At first, I was alone looking at this problem.
One of our closest family friends is an orthopedic surgeon in the Bay Area. Over many conversations and cocktails, he explained the travails of both starting and developing a medical practice. He tried it alone, with a small group and with a sponsoring hospital, and even some combinations of those. It worked partially but never really brought him the income and flexibility and control he had sought alongside the joy he experienced while practicing medicine. I “knew” that if I could find the right vertical and the right model, we might be able to change things.
First, narrow down the problem… Medical vertical must-haves: Consumer pay (insurance reimbursement was too big a problem to tackle); critical mass, high growth rate, high margins (our opportunity). Result: non-invasive and minimally invasive medical aesthetics.
This is a large and fast-growing market. Demand is large and growing quickly. The US total addressable market (TAM) stands at $7 billion while the global TAM stands at $12.5 billion with CAGR at 11.5%. The supply of practitioners is growing as well.
Next, find the right model/solution. We considered a subscription model and ran it by various industry and financial professionals. The response was intriguing (and perhaps polite), but not the surprise and delight you want to hear with a really good idea. Subscriptions sounded interesting, but they told me to consider facilities sharing. In fact, one of the people I asked about the concept was the new buyer of my home. The husband was part of the founding team of WeWork and the wife was a 10+ year veteran as a dermatology assistant. The wife told me that at her previous practice (NYC) of 2 owners/MDs and ~18-20 employee/MDs, ~90%(all but 2) of the employee/MDs had directly asked her if her husband (and/or WeWork) would consider a WeWork for medical aesthetics. That led us on the path to Vansanity, which expanded well beyond facilities to the “Cloud Med Spa” model we have today.
Moved to Boston area for family reasons! Fortunately, it’s a national problem and solution.
Validate the problem and solution.
I sought out more industry experts and professionals that were living this every day. I wanted to not only hear/see/feel that the problem was real and the solution viable, but I also wanted to see if these same folks would devote substantial time AND money (as investors) to this solution.
WOW! The response was amazing.
All my team joined up either part-time or full-time and anyone who was accredited (legal) invested $15-200k. Mike, Blake, John, Shannon, Sara, Daniel and Rachel all joined and we had the beginnings of a team and a full Seed financing. Ciro wasn’t an industry expert, but the perfect client-facing business partner.
Now we needed space, architects, contractors, lawyers, bank accounts, lasers, chairs …. Fortunately, we had just about every challenge covered in terms of real-life experience between one or a combination of us.
From July 2018 through March 2019, with help of an advisor and my long-time friend (Emily Ou and Greg Hylton, Cushman Wakefield partner) we visited
dozens of potential properties, interviewed architects and contractors, negotiated leases and terms and finally signed in late March.
Construction went smoothly (thanks Rob, Eric, and teams). By the end of September 2019, we had finished construction and had our certificate of occupancy.
The finished product:
Opening the doors! October 2019 we took our first customers/members, bookings and revenue. The roller-coaster begins!
When did you start thinking about your brand name and how did you settle on Vansanity?
The thinking behind the brand began right away. The goal was to empower entrepreneurs but also appeal to an industry audience that was often treated as trivial. A good friend and professor of psychology at Stanford had helped me with several projects before and she told me that this was the best idea yet. I was somewhat surprised. She told me that these procedures were much more about how one felt about themselves than how one looked to the outside world. It was bringing sanity and good psychological health into what appeared to be a vanity industry. So, VAN-SANITY. Vansanity was born.
How did you get the domain name Vansanity.com for your brand? Why did you select that one exactly?
I was fortunate to get the brand name from a defunct punk band that hadn’t used the name for several years.
How has owning Vansanity.com affected your business? Do you own any other domain names?
The name today is just beginning to have meaning in the Boston area. We’re expanding into Dallas in the next few months and then more national expansion thereafter. Today,. It’s hard to measure the impact of the name other than its uniqueness and memorability which is high.
How do you keep your brand consistent across different channels online and offline?
This is something we are working on now as we completely redesign the website, our marketing collateral and our backend offerings.
What would you do differently if you were entering your category market as a challenger brand today?
Probably not much since we are in a completely new category. To our knowledge, no other entity is providing a full suite of products and services for the medical aesthetics “solo-preneur”.
Why should entrepreneurs value their brand?
The brand is your customers first filter. It’s not unlike an Ivy League degree in that it CAN provide strong signals to potential customers. In our case, we’re going for flexibility, profitability and independence, but brands and their signals are created over long periods of time.
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
Yes, in an enormous way. We were required to shut down for 4+ months and in our category of human-to-human services, it’s still not out of the COVID fog.
What do you do to make sure your marketing is effective?
We’re a B2B (or B2b) company so typical consumer branding is less important. We’re concerned more about brand consistency so that in every location, providers/practitioners will know what to expect.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, in general, and when it comes to branding and naming?
Probably like planting a tree. Important work upfront, the heavy lifting, but then consistent watering, feeding and pruning over time to build lasting strength and value.
Where do you see your business in the future and how does your brand name fit into that vision?
We can see us having both O&O as well as “powering” other med-spa or medical aesthetics business owners. We’re building a platform that will initially encompass providers, but then up the stack to owners and evenly potentially down the stack to patients.
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. If you want to say hi or have any questions about naming, branding, and domain names get in touch, we’re always happy to hear from you.
Find out more about Vansanity