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Home Features 'I just had to try here first'

‘I just had to try here first’

When Oneida's Katie Byrd decided to open an esthetics clinic, she knew Scott County was where she needed to be

The Skin Clinic team: From left, Katie Byrd, Ashley Ford, Evie Newport and Jatolia McDowell.

When Katie Byrd was ready to open her own shop in the aesthetics industry, she knew that Scott County was where she wanted to be. Partly, because she had listened to her mother — Scott County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stacey Swann — drill home the necessity of giving back to the community you call home for much of her life.

That was the basis for the beginning of The Skin Clinic, Oneida’s first esthetician shop, offering facials and massages.

“I knew if it wasn’t going to work and I couldn’t make it here, I’d try to go somewhere else,” Byrd said. “But I just had to try here first. I didn’t want people here to have to go to Knoxville for those services.”

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The Skin Clinic opened in March, then endured a closure that was forced by the coronavirus outbreak before opening its doors once again last week to what Byrd said felt like “a grand re-opening.”

The team at the clinic includes Byrd; fellow Scott Countian Jatolia Keeton McDowell, who does massages; Ashley Ford, who makes the commute from Knoxville to Oneida and specializes in lash extensions and also does facials; and Evie Newport, who works the front desk.

Discovering a calling

“I was that person in school who never knew what they wanted to do.”

That’s how Katie Byrd describes her time in high school. After graduating, she worked at different part-time jobs — “I was still stuck,” she said — until her husband, pharmacist Casey Byrd, talked her into the beauty industry.

“I didn’t want to do hair, but he mentioned the aesthetics field,” she said. “It was something that, honestly, I just took a chance on. I didn’t know I would get hooked on it. But, from day one, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do. I get chills talking about it because I never grew up thinking anything about skin care. And once I started, I knew I would never do anything else. This is definitely what I was made for.”

Part of the fun of Byrd’s job is being able to pamper people and help them boost their self-confidence. The other part is helping to educate them on the importance of skin care. She’s convinced that many in Scott County see skin care as a luxury instead of a necessity. It doesn’t have to be that way, she says.

And, of course, if she was going to open her own clinic, it was going to be in Oneida. After all, she grew up with Scott County’s foremost advocate — Swann — as her mother.

“Every time I talked about doing something, my mom always told me to grow up someday and give something back to Scott County,” she said. “And, so, when I got into aesthetics, I knew from very early on that I wanted to do something in Scott County. We don’t have anything like this here and so many people aren’t educated on skin care.”

A grand re-opening

With McDowell, Ford and Newport joining her, Byrd opened The Skin Clinic in Craig Allen’s former Farmers Insurance building in mid-town Oneida — just down the street from Big South Fork Medical Center and essentially next-door to Baby J’s Pizza. Things were just getting started when the coronavirus outbreak took hold. That interrupted everything.

“We were’t entirely forced to shut down at first, but when you’re in this field, sanitation and the safety of your health is the No. 1 priority,” Byrd said. “We decided as a team to shut down and close our doors until further notice.

“It was difficult because we were so excited to get open and we had people booked,” she added. “Each week you’re hanging onto that hope that you’re going to be able to re-open next week, and the next week, but it doesn’t happen. That’s really discouraging.”

Last week, the clinic was finally able to reopen. And clients responded by booking every slot available.

“It felt like a grand re-opening,” Byrd said. “It’s really exciting to be open again.”

McDowell isn’t yet able to begin offering massages again; that has to wait until May 29 because the state board that governs those services is a bit stricter than the boards governing other close-contact industries. But every other service at the clinic is available, and massages will soon return.

“I’m just really excited to bring this new business to Scott County,” Byrd said. “I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

A necessity, not a luxury

Too many people see skin care as a luxury, Byrd says; as a once-a-year spa day you treat yourself to. That’s an attitude she wants to change.

“You’re carrying that body that you have every single day,” she said. “You can be a woman who doesn’t care about makeup or pampering yourself or anything like that, but overall, everyone has some kind of self-confidence concern. They care about what they look like.

Too many people neglect their skin without even realizing it, Byrd said.

“Just getting someone in for a facial and them seeing how transforming it is — it just gives them a self-condience boost,” she said.

And it’s not just facials. It’s self-care, too. Part of Byrd’s education for her clients involves simple things like the importance of washing your face every day and wearing sunscreen every day.

“People around here don’t wear sunscreen unless they’re going to the beach,” she said. “(But) sun is the single biggest aging factor for skin.

“If you don’t take care of your skin, it ages prematurely,” she added. “I feel like it’s really important to educate people on that.”

The Skin Clinic offers both the necessities of skin care and the services that might be considered a bit more luxurious. Among the services offered are all-CBD facials, enzyme masks, acne facials, dermaplaning, microdermabrasian, lash fill-ins and extensions, waxes — back, chest, arm, underarm, brow, nose and lip, and more. And, yes, the services are for guys, too. There is the Just For Him facial that will help men look their best.

“Nine out of 10 clients that come in have never had a facial before,” Byrd said. “We have the opportunity to give them their first facial and introduce them to the skin-care world, and to educate them on how to take care of their skin and reach their skin-care goals. That’s basically why I started here, and I am completely over the moon that it has been as successful as it has been so far.”

In fact, it’s not just Scott Countians who are enjoying the services that The Skin Clinic offers. Folks are driving from places like Somerset and Knoxville, too. And Byrd said a big goal going forward is to increase the clientele from those areas.

“We feel like it’s more of an experience here; not your typical place,” she said. “We feel like it’s something they aren’t seeing in Knoxville. You can go anywhere and find facial massages or lash extensions but I want to offer more of that here. I want to offer a relaxing experience, and a personalized and friendly experience.

“I feel like we’re a lot closer to our clients than if you went to Knoxville for the same services,” she added. “A lot of times when you’re in places like that, you’re just in and out and they don’t even know your name.”

This story is the May 2020 installment of Business Spotlight, presented by the Scott County Chamber of Commerce on the third week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series. A print version of this article can be found on Page A9 of the May 21, 2020 edition of the Independent Herald.
Ben Garrett
Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com. Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.
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