Featured Sponsor & Nominee
Dr. Kenya Lee
Colorado Springs, CO
An Interview With Dr. Kenya Lee
Kenya Lee, MD, is the co-founder and lead physician at PureLee Redefined (Medspa) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is a board-certified physician providing expert skincare and body contouring services to all her patients.
Please tell us about your educational background.
I was educated in the Tennessee public school system. I was the first Black valedictorian of my high school, McNairy Central High School, which was located in a rural part of the state. I attended college at Middle Tennessee State University on a full academic scholarship, where I double-majored in Chemistry and Biology. After graduation, I went directly to Morehouse School of Medicine, where I obtained my MD degree. This was followed by completion of an internship and residency at Le Bonheur St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. I entered active duty upon completion of my residency and served as an Air Force physician here at the Air Force Academy. Later I completed Aesthetics Training with the American Board of Aesthetic Medicine.
What are some of the reasons why you joined the military?
I originally joined the military because I come from a military family, it was a legacy. Every generation that I can recall has been in the military. My family members had been in every branch of the military except for the Air Force, so I joined the Air Force. In addition to that, I needed to pay back some of my student loan debt, and the Air Force helped me accomplish that goal.
What were some of your roles as a military physician?
I served as a staff pediatrician responsible for the direct care of patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. I was also chair of the Morbidity, Mortality, and Process Improvement Committee as well as serving as the pediatric representative to the Critical Care Committee. I further served as the Medical Liaison for the Child Development Center / Youth Services Department and the Medical Advisory Board for District 20. Readiness Skills Verification Coordinator and Program Director of Pediatric Advanced Life Support was also part of my responsibilities as well.
As a military pediatrician, I also had the opportunity to provide care to indigenous residents of South America as part of a humanitarian and diplomatic assignment. I provided pediatric care to over one- hundred and twenty patients a day, practicing third world medicine as well as training local providers in pediatric medical care. I was honored to be part of a great team of medical and dental experts providing care to people in need and to help build an infrastructure for continued support within that community.
What made you want to get into the medical field?
I feel like I was born with the desire to be a physician. My mother reports that at the age of 3 years old I announced I would become a doctor. I never deviated from that goal. I have always been an enthusiastic helper who loved science, anatomy, and people. I also had a relentless curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Medicine seemed to come naturally and just fed my soul.
How did you get the idea or concept for PureLee Redefined?
PureLee Redefined came about as I was getting older and I started to see aging changes in my own skin. Good skincare and prevention of aging was not really a topic of discussion in my family. We truly believed myths like “black don’t crack” and that people with melanin didn’t need sunscreen. This is simply not true. Here in Colorado, especially, the environment is very harsh. The proximity to the sun and the lack of humidity is damaging to all skin. This process called “photoaging“ is the number one cause of premature aging and I was seeing the signs.
I decided to look for aesthetic practices to see how they could help me with my skin concerns. However, it became obvious to me that most providers were not comfortable with skin of color. They seemed to focus only on the possible complications based solely upon ethnicity. I was never asked whether my skin was prone to the potential complications of hyper-pigmentation, keloids and scarring; it was simply assumed so because of my race. Basically, they were uncomfortable taking care of skin that looked like mine and their discomfort made me uncomfortable. My plan B was to travel to a city where I could access aesthetics doctors comfortable with skin of color. However, I recognized that I had the foundation to perform these services myself. Therefore, I decided to seek out the best training and learn it for myself. I also convinced my husband, Dr. Marvin Lee, to train alongside me just in case I needed a little help.
After completion of training, we began performing injectables and minor procedures in our home on each other. Later we began treating friends as they began to notice the improvement in our skin and appearance. When I realized that we possessed a talent for medical aesthetics, that we were passionate about it, that other people would be interested and could benefit from similar services, the idea was born. Furthermore it made sense to tap into a market that had essentially been ignored by focusing on services and products that were inclusive and safe in all skin types. This became a foundational principle of our medspa, PureLee Redefined, which opened April of 2019.
What are some of the services that you offer?
We have one esthetician who does hydro-facials and a variety of different facials. We like to do a lot of collagen induction therapy and use many stem cells that help to rejuvenate your skin and boost collagen. We also do various chemical peels; the doctors, myself, and my husband are the only ones who do anything that really breaks the skin because I feel like that is a medical procedure. We also do botox, fillers, micro-needling, minor lesion removals, and we take care of acne and some minor skin conditions.
We also specialize in body contouring, including fat reduction using cold therapy, muscle toning using electromagnetic energy, and skin tightening using radio frequency energy.
It’s great to make those minor changes and see people’s faces light up because it encourages them to keep going, or it helps with their quality of life. We want everybody to get the best result possible, and we do whatever it takes to make sure that is happening.
What is the importance of a healthy skincare regimen, in your opinion?
To me, it is about aging gracefully and also reducing your chances for cancer. Like I said before, many people of color don’t think we need to wear sunscreen or protect our skin from the sun. The reality is that we actually do get skin cancers, and we do need to protect our skin just as much as anyone else. The sun and the environment will break down your collagen and cause more fine lines and wrinkles. Most people will want to look young for as long as possible, and a healthy skin regimen is necessary to do that.
Were there any setbacks when you first founded PureLee Redefined?
Of course, we found that it is not easy to get funding for minority-owned businesses. Fortunately, my husband and I were in a position where we could do it ourselves. Having to self-fund an entire business was definitely a significant setback. Still, we try to be very mindful and make sure that we stay within our brand, and we want to make everything as affordable as possible.
It was also challenging to find the right location, but we finally did, and it is now growing and thriving. I feel like we’ve done the right stuff, and we’ve done it kind of all on our own. You’ve got to just keep moving forward despite the setbacks.
What was it like working with your husband and creating a business together?
Fortunately, my husband and I have been married for over 20 years, so we have learned each other’s boundaries. The tricky part is separating the relationship from the business because when you’re a small business owner, it can become all about competition and many other things.
It is essential to set these boundaries, rules, and roles. Sometimes, you have to have difficult conversations from the business side, and we didn’t want it to affect our personal side. It was definitely very difficult at first, but now it is great, and I love it.
Our goal is to build more generational wealth. We’ve got kids, and we want to teach them how to be successful. We get to be the pioneers in doing that.
How do you balance family life with work life?
My kids are both independent adults, so, fortunately, we started our business later in life. They are seeing the struggles, the work ethic, and the passion that goes into the development of the business. I want to teach them to do what they love, but realize that since any job does require a lot of energy and time, you don’t want to be doing something that you hate.
My husband and I also take the occasional date night to slow down to focus on what is really important.
What are some of the benefits that have come with running your own business?
There are so many, but the first that comes to mind is the benefit of independence. I love that I can get creative, be passionate about what I do. I love to determine my own agenda based on what I’m good at and what I love to do!
What do you consider success?
I would say to be able to retire by the time I’m 55, but maybe continuing to work because I love it so much. I would also consider myself successful once I’ve seen most of the world because I am an avid traveler!
Is there any advice that you have for other entrepreneurs?
My advice is to start because there’s never going to be a perfect time. There will always be some kind of challenge or some sort of limitation that you perceive. Also, learn as much as you can. I don’t believe in luck. I believe that success comes when your preparation meets opportunity. So always be prepared.
Lastly, I would say to believe in yourself and trust yourself. There will be many people trying to tell you what to do, but your dream is for you to create. Trust yourself. We have that intuition for a reason.
Interview By Talisa Caldwell