Karen Cronholm has spent the past 25 years in the life sciences and medical device industry. She managed the body contouring franchise at Cynosure, directing marketing and product management of several aesthetic product lines for treatment of cellulite and fat reduction. She has a track record of launching exceptionally successful products and building commercial teams while spearheading operational improvements to drive productivity and increase value for the company.
Previously, Karen was Head of Marketing for the Lab Solutions business at EMD Millipore. Through her 12 year tenure there she successfully developed many new technologies, held various roles such as marketing manager, research and development scientist, and quality manager. She began her career in the biotech industry working with TransKaryotic Therapies.
In 2017, Karen was named President and CEO of Cytrellis Biosystems, Inc., a venture-backed medical technology company that was in the process of developing a new, proprietary category of micro-coring devices designed to remove sagging skin.* The devices have the potential to provide aesthetic practitioners with a novel tool to treat aging skin and she has been busily working to develop this unique technology with the help of leading dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Through pre-clinical and clinical research, Cytrellis has established in-depth knowledge of their device and developed ideal treatment parameters. They have treated 200 subjects to date in clinical studies, the most recent of which demonstrated significant positive results on the mid and lower face.
Wendy Lewis sat down with Karen to find out what she has learned along her path to the CEO of an emerging aesthetics company.
Who were some of your mentors throughout your career?
We are very fortunate to have Drs. Rox Anderson and William (Jay) Austen as founders of Cytrellis. They have both been wonderful mentors to me as we have developed our technology and clinical applications. Rox and Jay have inspired me to challenge myself and my team to think outside the box. Their perspectives have helped me build something very unique and special for patients and an innovative technology for physicians to add to their practices.
How did you get your start in the aesthetics field?
I spent the first several years of my career behind the bench as a scientist in the life science and medical device industries. I was looking for a change after I earned my MBA and wanted to work more closely with customers on the commercial side of the business. In 2008, I jumped at the opportunity to work for Cynosure as a product manager where I could learn more B2B and B2C marketing and sales from the best team in the industry. I was captivated by the exciting world of aesthetic medicine and intrigued by the opportunity to help people look and feel better.
What advice do you have for women who are rising stars in this industry?
As a leader, it’s important to commit yourself to lifelong learning. I think we should always be the student with a continuous learning mindset to keep up on new developments in this fast-paced global industry. It’s critical to be skilled in the art and science of trust. This may sound very basic, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is. Trust is the glue that brings leaders and teams together for successful outcomes and it is the foundation of a great workplace.
How would your colleagues describe your management style?
I believe that different situations call for different leadership styles. I think my colleagues would describe my natural style as transformational and collaborative. At Cytrellis, we have been working very quickly to find a new and better solution to an old problem—skin tightening and wrinkle reduction—so I’ve looked for ways to inspire and motivate the team to be creative and also to be comfortable with change. I place a great emphasis on transparency, cooperation, and open lines of communication in order to achieve our goals, and so far it seems to be working for us.
Name a quote or quotes that best describe your philosophy.
“Champions keep playing until they get it right,” from Billie Jean King.
This quote embodies the passion and persistence it takes to bring an idea and vision into reality. At Cytrellis, we are always asking ourselves, “How can we make our product and treatment the best it can be for patients and physicians?”
*The Cytrellis device is an investigational product limited by federal law to investigational use. The Cytrellis device has not been cleared for marketing by the FDA.