Beauty Is Wilson Lee’s Business

At the tender age of 28, Wilson Lee has eclipsed his peers, achieving the stuff of dreams for many of his contemporaries in holding the stewardship of a beauty and wellness conglomerate, as CEO of EMAX Beaute International. To say that he is a consummate professional is an understatement.

Wilson Lee on the cover of 2023’s <em>Leading Force</em>. He wears a wool cape coat and pants by Fendi; trainers by Balenciaga.
Wilson Lee on the cover of 2023’s Leading Force. He wears a wool cape coat and pants by Fendi; trainers by Balenciaga.

The morning started bright and early. When I set foot into the gymnastics training centre where the first half of the photoshoot took place, Wilson was already getting his hair set and outfit straightened out. His enthusiasm was palpable. In fact, it was justified. When the concept of the photoshoot was agreed upon, Wilson pressed ahead and signed up for gymnastics training, just so he would look the part when it was time for lights, camera and action.

“I am not a model. I am not blessed with great features. I don’t want to show just my face,” Wilson says with a hint of conviction while tying his disposition with the photoshoot.

“What I do possess is energy and an indomitable spirit. I want that to come through and the only way to go about is through action. Today I have had to set my mind on channelling the right energy and hope that my determination, strength and personality are reflected in the pictures.”

Wilson’s energy on the day was boundless and infectious. He leaped into the air while flashing a smile. He tried his best to please the photographer and gain a nod of approval from the creative director. One could see evidence from his comportment that made him a capable leader who leads by example.

A purveyor of all things beauty

EMAX Beauté International is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. The beauty and wellness conglomerate has many tentacles, each firmly established in its respective niche. What started off as a single brand now has four main concerns. Founded in 2011, the company now counts 19 outlets across the Klang Valley, with more in the pipeline. The latest is located at Pavilion Bukit Jalil.

Within the group, Beauté Library primarily focuses on facial treatment, while Venusde adds to facial treatment with additional hair and scalp services. Apart from that, Curvena is home to slimming and body wellness with a distinct focus on non-invasive body shaping treatment. EMAX’s newest offering is revolutionary cutting-edge anti-ageing and aesthetic procedures and technologies housed in the B+ Clinic.

“I love all things beauty,” Wilson states, adding that they are unlike any other beauty salons out there.

“For me, the most important factors that set us apart are our pledge on client satisfaction, brand image, and most of all, safety. We don’t take our customers for granted just because they have signed up for treatment with us.”

For that, EMAX works with experts in the beauty and wellness industry to develop holistic treatment and solutions to aid customers in addressing their needs and concerns. It is this commitment to delivering the best that has garnered them the acknowledgement they deserve. B+ Clinic was recently named a finalist at the The DRUM Awards for Marketing APAC 2023.

<br>Wool suit by Thom Browne, available at Club 21 Pavilion KL; shoulder bag by GUCCI; rubber shoes by Bottega Veneta

Wool suit by Thom Browne, available at Club 21 Pavilion KL; shoulder bag by GUCCI; rubber shoes by Bottega Veneta

Passion is his business 

While it was passion that ushered Wilson into the beauty and wellness industry, to be where he is today was all hard work. His entrepreneurial aspirations were honed from a young age. The precocious business acumen he harboured at the time led to the discovery of an untapped potential. The industry was still underdeveloped and all that was needed was a concerted push for holistic beauty and wellness services that transcend industry standards. And push he did. His business decisions proved to be the right ones as he is now enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Not one to rest on his laurels, however, Wilson has set sight on spreading their presence to other regions of the country, with Penang and Johor top of his list.

Magic sparks when customers first waltz into their experiential beauty and wellness centres. The preparedness Wilson put into his photoshoot can be similarly discerned on the interiors of their salons where every corner of the room, pane of glass and placement of furniture is carefully considered to ensure beauty and wellness seekers feel right at home. Experienced beauty and wellness consultants are on hand to advise and guide customers in their journey towards better selves. Their salons are perhaps best called retreats, because after all, customers are destined to leave energised, rejuvenated and satisfied.

Utility vest, chest rig, and trousers by ALYX, available at M Store Pavilion KL; shirt and tie by Hilditch & Key; chelsea boots by Celine
Utility vest, chest rig, and trousers by ALYX, available at M Store Pavilion KL; shirt and tie by Hilditch & Key; chelsea boots by Celine

But wait, there’s more, as Wilson reveals that for their new outlets, everyone will exude a distinct theme and pull factor. “No two outlets will be the same,” he purrs.

As CEO, husband and father, Wilson wears many hats. But with such a heavy load on his shoulders, he remains undaunted. “I consider responsibility a privilege. No doubt that there’s pressure, but it only serves as a form of motivation, for me to always outdo myself and be a better person,” he says with a firm voice.

Wilson tells me he is very much on a never-ending road of self-improvement. When COVID hit hard, forcing salons to take a breather, he took the recess to recalibrate and found time to reacquaint with books. He sought solace in finance and business psychology. The latter of which he found especially useful in recruitment and today’s environment where the workforce is transitioning to another generation. Wilson took the opportunity to strengthen the management team. When business rebounded post-pandemic, they were poised for growth.

“I found the pandemic was the best time to hire because so many talented people suddenly became available to us. They joined us during the tumultuous period and are with us today because the difficult period we went through together really solidified our bond. We have built something special together,” he says with a smile.

<br>Jacket by Junya Watanabe Man X Karrimor; trousers by Junya Watanabe Man; sling bag by Junya Watanabe Man X Innerraum, available at Club 21 Pavilion KL; loafers by Prada

Jacket by Junya Watanabe Man X Karrimor; trousers by Junya Watanabe Man; sling bag by Junya Watanabe Man X Innerraum, available at Club 21 Pavilion KL; loafers by Prada

Building greener credentials

Together they have greater ambition for the business. With the world moving towards a greener future, Wilson envisages a sustainable business model that benefits not only customers but also Earth. Every little bit helps in waste and carbon footprint reduction, he says.

The first to go was paper. As early as 2016, they have embarked on a shift towards greener pastures. Under Wilson’s insistence, the paperless invoice system piloted at the Pavilion Bukit Jalil outlet will be rolled out nationwide. They are also looking into biodegradable and recyclable packaging for their skincare products. Even within outlets, energy consumption is optimised for efficiency.

The next chapter of their sustainability endeavours will see EMAX branching out in the great outdoors. Initiatives include tree planting and adoption at Taman Tugu. They are also actively seeking out NGOs for collaborative projects that go beyond sustainability and into the social economical realm.

“This sustainability journey presents its own set of challenges,” Wilson says, “but we recognise that it is a must for the well-being of our planet, our communities and the prosperity of our business.”

A project he looks forward to is the art exhibition showcasing the work of women artists for the upcoming International Women’s Day.

<br>Bomber, shirt and trousers by OAMC, available at Club 21, Pavilion KL; clogs by Crocs X Feng Chen Wang

Bomber, shirt and trousers by OAMC, available at Club 21, Pavilion KL; clogs by Crocs X Feng Chen Wang

Home sweet home

Away from the office, the young patriarch heads a tight-knit family of five. Parenting duties are shared with his wife. The youngest aged five, while two step children are well into their adolescence, ready to graduate to higher education. As their father, he sees no pressing need to exert much pressure on them to take after his entrepreneurial aspirations. Wilson is rather philosophical about it. For now, he wants them to be happy and live life to the fullest.

“I don’t want to force them into business. But I will say this: The way that I lead them is to educate and instil them with good values that will be helpful in entrepreneurial ventures, in incubating them to become future leaders.”

At work, he is striving for business growth, while at home, he recasts himself as a doting parent. To juggle between domestic and professional responsibilities, he subscribes to the concept of multiple selves. When he arrives home, he flicks the switch, goes into family mode and devotes himself to his loved ones.

Perseverance, he adds, is key to success. Being a high achiever himself, he always advises his children that whatever they endeavour, they must strive for the best and take ownership.

The values he imparts to his children are not only discipline and perseverance but also humility and the spirit of sharing. “As business leaders, we always think of ways to make more money. But in reality, we don’t really need all that much. What we should do more is to give back to society,” Wilson says in earnest.

<br>Denim jacket by Boss; silver band-aid by Alan Crocetti

Denim jacket by Boss; silver band-aid by Alan Crocetti

Question time with Wilson Lee

What’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Observe the trend. Follow it, but don’t just copy and paste it. Understand how and why the trend arises. The reason being if you don’t follow the trend, you will have to expend more energy and resources by going against the flow. There is no harm in selling consumers what they want and giving them what they need. You also have to be alert about the upcoming trend and move fast.

With Gen Z entering the workforce, any pointer you would like to share?

Gen Z employees are looking out for sound leaders who can provide guidance and be their mentors. Guidance doesn’t equate instructions. They don’t want managers who bark orders. What they expect are leaders who can guide them, and at the same time, trust them to be able to do a good job. Gen Z employees will be with us for a long time and they will grow and ascend the ladder. Therefore, managers have to embrace them. If you are stuck in a rut, looking for a breakthrough, speak with them; you will be surprised with their creativity and problem-solving skills.

What’s your advice for Gen Z?

Speaking as a CEO, it is imperative that one understands finance. Likewise for the young generation, it is important to be financially literate. Today’s economy is driven by consumption, which means we are always shopping and courting the next “it”. But if you only know what to buy and not when to save, it becomes a financial problem and that leads to money anxiety. I hope that young adults learn how to manage their finances.

Apart from that, they will have to learn to manage stress, avoid burnout and how to go beyond their limits. How not to burn out is to know your limit. Once you know where it is, you will learn when and how to push through your limit and achieve great things.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

There is so much going on in the world right now – wars, climate change, poverty, etc. I hope I will be a kinder person. I wish the world had more benevolence and I hope I can be one of them who can show the world that we care and to achieve peace and make the world a better place to live.

I hope I will possess better composure whether it is in business or life. I know that a cool head comes with life experience, which I am prepared to learn and grow along the way. Whatever that happens to me now will be better for me in future. Life is about moving forward. It doesn’t matter that today didn’t go as well as I had anticipated because tomorrow is a new day, a better day.

BANNER IMAGE: Argyle sweater, kilt, pants and trainers by Dior Men

Words by JUSTIN NG
Photography by CHUAN LOOI
Styling by WEECHEE
Make-up by YUAN
Hair by HAN
Art installation by MONEY WANG