The tanning salon industry consists of a very large and diverse group of entrepreneurs. Many have interesting stories to share about how they came to be in the tanning business. Such is the case with Simona Sferle, Owner of disposable eye protection brand, My Eyesunshields ray blockers®. Her story illustrates the hardships she and her family overcame to pursue the American dream and the drive that it took to succeed. I know you’ll enjoy this one!
IST: Simona, let’s begin with your family origins. Tell us about your early years.
SS: I was born in communist Romania, one of six children. In 1981, my father left the country to escape the communist regime, wanting his children to have a better life, as any parent would. I was five years old at the time and did not really understand what was going on except that my father was gone. My dear mother was left at home to take care of us kids, a farm, animals, a garden and all the daily chores. Of course, the hardest thing for her was not knowing if she would ever see my father again.
IST: Many of us endure hardships in life, but few have gone through what you have. Can you put it into perspective for us?
SS: Joe, my parents risked everything to give their kids a better future. Through a series of circumstances (arduous, but too many to recount) my family was reunited on U.S. soil in 1983. My parents did not speak English and with two suitcases in hand, we embarked on a new life in America. I remember going to a grocery store for the very first time as a child, and I couldn’t believe all the shelves full of food, drinks, etc. In Romania, we would have to wait in long lines for hours only to be turned away with virtually nothing, only the bare necessities.
Needless to say, I love this country and what it has done for our family. I thank God for this great privilege each and every day.”
IST: I think there are many in this country who really have no idea what it means to walk into a grocery store filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, canned goods, just about anything you could want. You certainly understand how blessed we are to have so much available. Was it difficult for your father to make a living?
SS: My dad sometimes worked two jobs making only about $4 an hour. In the evenings, he and my mother would also attend school to learn English. They both believed in a work ethic that I will never forget and that my siblings and I were fortunate to have instilled in us.
IST: For many American parents, the drive is to provide a better life than the one they had. Unfortunately, the work ethic your parents had can be lost among many of the younger generation who have only known prosperity. I say this not as a generalization, but to illustrate how we, as Americans, really have every opportunity for successful and healthy lives. Obviously, this is not true around the world.
SS: I agree! Needless to say, I love this country and what it has done for our family. I thank God for this great privilege each and every day. My parents taught me to work hard and make the most of every opportunity. Through life’s challenges, setbacks and hardships, I have learned to persevere and not give up. I graduated high school and wanted to pursue a college degree. School did not come easy for me. I had to work very hard at it, but eventually, I achieved that goal and got my degree.
IST: Share with our readers the impetus to start your company.
SS: MY EYESUNSHIELDS ray blockers® became a reality after I spent some time trying to find a product to shield my eyes from harmful UV rays while sunbathing. I was looking for something comfortable, disposable, and that had the capability of eliminating tan lines around my eyes.
IST: Thanks for sharing your story with IST, Simona. All the best to you in your professional endeavors!
A 26-year industry veteran, Joe has taught certified salon operator training for the last 15 years, as well as advocating indoor tanning in many capacities. Joe is a sought-after speaker and presenter at both national & regional trade events, also interacting with the FDA, state & local regulatory agencies. During his most recent tenure with the ITA, he served as director of membership.
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