Empowering Patients at Arium Clinic

by Marianne Tan
Photography by Chino Sardea, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
Styling by CK Koo
Hair and makeup by Nikki Fu using Dior Beauty
04 Jul 2022

When it comes to realizing her dream of running her own business, no task is too small for Dr Donna Chow.

Dr Donna Chow, medical aesthetician and founder of Arium Clinic, sees many parallels between her passion for gardening and her entrepreneurial journey.

“In order to grow healthy vegetables, you need the right conditions, keep pests away, and have plenty of patience. It is like managing a business – you cannot simply expect to find success overnight,” she explains.

“However, with time, you will develop stronger roots and more branches to help you weather a bigger storm. It has taught me some important lessons in life such as risk management and succession planning.”

And she would know plenty about taking calculated risks. Despite holding a comfortable job working in private practice and not having had prior experience in running her own business, Dr Chow took her first step into her entrepreneurial journey in 2020, opening Arium Clinic at Forum The Shopping Mall. She was adamant about taking a fully hands-on approach, handling every aspect of the clinic’s birth along the way, from renovation to the creation of marketing materials.

The timing, unfortunately, could not have been worse. Just three days after Arium Clinic officially opened, the very first Circuit Breaker was imposed on the nation.


“The shopping mall in which my clinic was located became completely empty and devoid of shoppers,” she recalls. “It was a tough period for me, but with the help of my family, I managed to stay in positive spirits during those few months.”

The given conditions were not ideal, but much like in her gardening analogy, Dr Chow found ways around the limitations to make the most out of the situation for her business. Luckily, she picked up video editing and enrolled herself into a social media marketing course to learn how to better engage with her clients through various social media tools, even before the Circuit Breaker was in effect.

“For the business, we were grateful that the Government eventually implemented rental relief measures and provided aid for staff remuneration through the Job Support Scheme. It was not a smooth journey, but we managed to overcome it through positivity and hope,” she said.


A Need for Change

Unlike most entrepreneurs, Dr Chow’s desire to set up her own practice didn’t stem from a purely business motivation.

During her time in private practice, she had noticed that customers were often pressured to sign up for templated packages that did not always target their skin concerns effectively.

She saw the need to play not just doctor, but also devil’s advocate – to curate the most appropriate treatments for them and also inform them on any lifestyle habits that might be hindering improvements. This brand of personalized care, she describes as “balancing both the patients' needs and desires”.

She summarises: “At Arium Clinic, we set realistic expectations for the patients and for ourselves, both in terms of the expected results, as well as the time required to achieve them.”

This approach, she says, is meant to counter a pervasive notion among many patients seeking treatment that there is always a quick solution to any problem.

For us, [setting up Arium Clinic] is ultimately a quest to put a smile on the faces of our patients and ourselves rather than an obsession with competing with other clinics.

“For example, they may not realize that their pigmentation issue is a result of years of sun damage. Sometimes, they observe celebrities with frozen faces or excessive dermal filler injections and think that’s the way to go. Therefore, our duty to our patients is to educate them on proper skincare and the appropriate anti-ageing treatments.” 

Besides having access to standard aesthetic treatments like fillers, laser treatments, and facelifts, patients, depending on their individual needs, may also be put on customisable and flexible skincare programs that can be adjusted according to their skin condition during each visit.

But great skin can only get you so far, and Dr Chow is a firm advocate that her patients also need to have good physical health; Arium Clinic thus offers health screening packages for female patients that include mammogram screening, pap smear tests, and general health check-ups, so that they can easily keep up with their annual health screenings.

“It is my belief that beauty and confidence do not stop at just our physical appearance. We need to have good physical health to glow from within.”

“For us, [setting up Arium Clinic] is ultimately a quest to put a smile on the faces of our patients and ourselves rather than an obsession with competing with other clinics,” she says.


Navigating Challenges

Before her foray into running her own business, Dr Chow had already accumulated over a decade’s worth of experience at various medical aesthetics clinics, specializing in procedures that include aesthetics injections, chemical peels, lasers for pigmentation, skin resurfacing, and more.

While she is familiar with this core part of the business, she readily admits that navigating the other aspects of being an entrepreneur aren’t always as intuitive.

“When I was working for others, I did not devote much thought to administrative or staff matters. However, I soon realized that I had to be able to put together a good team so my business could run smoothly; there are a lot of soft skills needed to manage and retain staff, so I read books relating to human resources and even spoke to other clinic owners to find out more about different management styles.”

And then there is the challenge of standing out from stiff competition – not just through product offering, but also through marketing efforts.

Besides tapping on the social media marketing course she enrolled herself into during Circuit Breaker to find ways to engage potential customers, she also employs transparent pricing; on the clinic’s Instagram page, prices of aesthetic treatments are clearly stated.

Ultimately, it’s all about building a circle of trust with her employees and patients, and it’s an approach that has served her and the clinic well. Since its opening, Arium Clinic has served over 600 clients, all of whom were handled personally by Dr Chow. Many of them found Arium Clinic through word-of-mouth or referrals.

“One of the highlights as a business owner is meeting old patients who looked me up on the Internet. Over the years, I have had patients who followed me to the various clinics that I worked with.”

“I hope to empower my clients with knowledge on how to make better skincare choices for themselves, and establish Arium Clinic as a trusted and go-to brand for aesthetics treatments. We want our patients to come to us because they value the relationship, our work ethic, and our personable service to them.”