Finding Hope and Joy After Devastation: An Entrepreneur’s Journey, With Cynthia Rager

By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner

Surround yourself with the best—the best people, the best products, the best skills. Don’t try to juggle it all. Don’t think you cannot afford them.”
Cynthia Rager is a partner, and the President and COO of SmartGraft® by Vision Medical, Inc., a manufacturer of hair replacement surgery equipment and products. Cynthia was founder and owner of several medical, aesthetic, and beauty driven businesses including a medical spa which she operated for 18 years, and a skin care and cosmetics manufacturing company. She developed brands for sale and acted as a guest host on Home Shopping Network for several years.
She is the mother of three daughters, and her middle child was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at the age of two. Cynthia helped to develop a tri-county chapter of JDRF in southwest Florida and was acting President for two years. Trying to help her daughters develop independence and a sense of advocacy, mother and daughters worked as a team to raise awareness and funds for research, hosting fundraisers, lobbying Congress, and speaking at events. Sadly, her daughter passed away from complications of the disease at the age of 22. From this challenge, it became apparent that learning to find joy in life was essential, and that it starts with appreciation.
As a sole business owner and woman in business from 1980 through the
present, developing balance in work and life while pursuing interests with passion has always presented challenges. She said, “I admire all women who have navigated those paths with grace while under pressure.”

Can you tell me about some interesting projects you are currently working on?

At Vision Medical, we are always developing new technology in the medical
aesthetics field. We currently have projects in research and development that include hi-tech microscopic cameras, photon and low level light therapy. I have been following regenerative medicine research for 15 years, since my involvement with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which gives me some background in the applications of biologics such as growth factors that align with protocols for our SmartGraft hair restoration technology. I’m most excited about getting back into product development and skincare manufacturing with the topical hair restoration line I’m cultivating. I still love getting my hands (literally!) into benchwork formulating and I confess to homogenizing creams and gel samples in my kitchen.

What is the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became the president and COO of SmartGraft?

We like to keep it light and fun in our office. We play Elf on the Shelf with a life-size cutout of the Dos Equis man. He will pop up in a window or when people are walking around the corner. It’s gotten endless laughs, and I think that’s really vital to a great work environment.

How would you say your business is bringing goodness to the world?

Hair loss may be devastating and can have huge emotional impact, and I love to hear how SmartGraft and our products have helped change people’s lives by rebuilding their self-confidence. I speak to many physicians who add this modality to their practice purposefully because of their understanding of the positive effects for their patients.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch or breakfast with, and why?

I lost my 22-year-old daughter to Juvenile Diabetes, and lived with the trauma and devastation it brought. I seek out women who have overcome extreme adversity and grief, but are still able to find joy in life. My whole career has been about giving people back their confidence. In that vein, I’d like to have lunch with women who are striving for empowerment in their careers and lives. I am overjoyed to see recent developments regarding women who have worked for the right to be who they are without reservation and who celebrate it. Oprah, are you available?

Sharing a table with a group of empowered women from all ages and walks of life, who have met challenges and maintain their empathy while retaining their sense of self would be a wonderful experience.

What are the “5 things you wish you had known before you started,” and why?

  1. Surround yourself with the best. The best people, the best products, the best skills. Don’t try to juggle it all. Don’t think you cannot afford them. When you surround yourself with the best, it allows you to delegate.
  2. Set your boundaries. Know what they are and be firm. At the same time learn to be gentler and kinder. Learn how to partner, in business and in life. Striking a balance here is key in success and in everything.
  3. Find your joy. Find what brings you joy in life starting with the small things. Don’t stop and don’t settle. Practice being good to yourself through what you do in your work and in your life.
  4. Pivot. Don’t be afraid to move on. Don’t be afraid of opportunities. Keep searching out what brings you joy and pursue what interests you. Keep educating yourself. It should be a life-long pursuit.
  5. Mentor. Collaborate! Share your knowledge—teach classes, seek press opportunities, and write articles. Be generous with what you’ve learned. Everyone wins.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. It was very inspiring.

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