Not at Face Value: Karli Plunkett ’14, DMSc, Opens Two Thriving Clinical Practices
Pictured above, Karli Plunkett ’14 works on a patient at Nectar Aesthetics, one of her two clinical practices in Central Florida.
By Camille Dolan ’98
Karli Plunkett ’14 had her first job when she was just 14 years old. She spent the summer at her grandmother’s in Michigan, where she assisted in landscaping projects throughout the neighborhood.
Two years later, Plunkett was running her own construction cleaning business.
“After the builders finished a home, they hired me to come in and give the house a thorough cleaning. I got so busy that I had to hire people to keep up with the demand,” Plunkett recalls.
It was a seminal moment for Plunkett. She learned that she liked making her own money and not having to depend on anyone else to pave her way.
Plunkett and her husband, Jesse, are the owners of Nectar Aesthetics in Sanford and Orlando.
Plunkett initially headed to UCF with plans to pursue a nursing career.
“When I was shadowing nurses as they rounded on their patients, I loved the way they could make them feel better. But nursing is so much more than just that, and I wasn’t feeling passion for the other aspects of the profession,” Plunkett says.
One day, she was talking to her cousin, and noticed that her skin looked great. Plunkett wanted to know her secret. Her cousin told her she had been to an esthetician. “I had never heard of that field,” Plunkett says.
Plunkett learned that, in Florida, an esthetician is a skin care specialist who can examine the condition of the skin and perform treatments like facials, hair removal and makeup application.
“Estheticians help people feel better about themselves and the way they look,” Plunkett says. “I liked the idea of helping people in that way; I think we all need a boost from time to time.”
Plunkett switched her major to exercise science, with the goal of becoming a physician assistant. She had earned an associate degree in paramedical skincare and had also begun working as an esthetician as an undergraduate, earning about $50 an hour. Going to classes every day and working every weekend was tough, but Plunkett was on a mission.
“I came out of my undergrad with almost no debt,” Plunkett says.
In addition to her earnings as an esthetician, she was also learning important business practices that would benefit her later, she says.
She also learned that she wanted to own her own business.
“Even though I was just starting out,” Plunkett says, “I knew that this business was something that could feed my soul.”
After graduating from UCF, Plunkett was accepted into the Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant studies at Nova Southeastern University. She also started her own business as a facialist, which she continued to run as she completed her studies.
“Grad school is anywhere between a 60 to 80 hour a week commitment,” Plunkett says. “I worked every weekend all through school and to build a business.”
At times, Plunkett says, the grueling pace of grad school coupled with building her business was overwhelming. She was torn between the six-figure salary she was making on the weekends and the long-held dream of becoming a physician assistant.
“It took everything in me to keep going in school,” Plunkett says. “I will always be grateful to my husband, Jesse, who kept pushing me to stay in school. He knew that school meant everything to me.”
When Karli Plunkett became a physician assistant, she retained her book of facial clients, and thought that she could expand her practice by turning it into a medical esthetics practice. The latter includes the use of injectables like Botox and fillers and incorporates lasers and other methods to clear people’s faces rather than just chemical peels and facials.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Plunkett recalls. “I have always been gutsy, and I think I’ve been very, very lucky with my business decisions, but this one was scary even to me. I signed a lease that took me from 100 sq. ft. to 2100 sq ft.”
She signed the lease when she graduated with her master’s degree in 2017. She was also focused on completing her doctoral program in medical science. Along the way, Plunkett also shifted the focus of her practice to exclusively esthetics.
She even rebranded herself.
Plunkett dyed her hair platinum blond with pink tips, decorated her practice in a variety of beautiful florals to represent the new name of the practice, Nectar.
“In just three years, we have tripled our revenue,” Plunkett says. “Even during the pandemic, surprisingly.” Plunkett says that her clients told her they wanted to “look better” for their Zoom meetings.
“Before we rebranded our practice, our patients were coming to us for joint injections, stem cell infusions, things like that,” Plunkett says. “Now, because we are solely esthetics, most of my patients are looking for Botox, fillers, lasers and other non-surgical interventions.”
Plunkett says that because of the internet and especially social media – Plunkett is on Instagram – her patients are pretty savvy about the types of treatment they prefer and have chosen her practice because of the quality of her work.
“We’re kind of known for our lips,” Plunkett says. “Everyone is extremely well trained, and I am a national trainer for Allergan Medical Institute, they are the licensed reps for Botox and Juvederm.”
There are approximately 500 trainers across the nation, Plunkett says, and it is very rare to be selected by the company for one of the coveted spots.
Plunkett’s search for training has led her around the world, to Paris, London and Monaco.
“I am learning techniques and approaches and procedures that are all used over in Europe and bringing them here and teaching our staff. So, we are all very, very well trained.”
Of course, a large part of Plunkett’s business is focused on making people look more in line with what they want to look like, or to make them look like they did years ago. One of her favorite things to do is to turn the clock back, because “aging doesn’t always feel great for people.”
“We are definitely not trying to make everyone look like Kim Kardashian,” Plunkett says. “Sometimes, people hear about esthetics, and they may think that it’s so superficial. There are so many times where we have patients who have been through a traumatic experience, and we are all here to help them heal.”
The healing process is an important part of Plunkett’s work today; even though she has accomplished much in her life so far, she credits her husband, Jesse, and her grandmother in Michigan for helping correct the early course she was on.
“Jesse is my biggest cheerleader and probably the best human being I’ve ever met in my life,” Plunkett says. “We are a good team, and we are so grateful to the Central Florida community for supporting our business. As a first-generation student, I never in my wildest dreams thought that this would happen. I want my fellow Knights to know that their dreams can come true, too. Keep Charging On!”