Owner: Allison Miller
Years in Business: 12 (salon has been in Washington, MO since the 80s)
UV Tanning Units: 10
Lotions: Devoted Creations
Salon Software: SunLync
Other Services: VersaSpa, Custom Airbrush by Norvell, FIT Bodywrap
Salon Operator Training: IST’s Sun is Life®, Smart Tan
Distributor Partner: Four Seasons
Best-selling Lotion: Devoted Creations’ Woke Up Like This, Spa Luxury, Girl Code, Camo King/Queen,
Most Popular Package: All-Access Month
Our April Salon of Distinction hails from the “Corncob Pipe Capital of the World!” Yep – welcome to Washington, MO. This suburb west of St. Louis is home to Copper Tan Tanning Salon, operated by Allison Miller and her son, Tyler.
As our season kicked into high gear, I caught up with both of them for an interview. Read on and see what makes this family-owned-and-operated salon work.
IST: So, Allison, let’s start with the standard question: When did you get Copper Tan started?
AM: Back in 2005, a local salon was for sale and some of my friends thought it would be a great business opportunity for me. The salon had been around since the 80s and was in need of some work. I was already running a business, but wanted to get “another set of eyes” on the numbers, so I went to my Dad, who is really sharp at assessing the books. I waited for his answer, and it came back quickly: “Do it!”
IST: Upon taking control of the salon, did you give it a big makeover?
AM: Well, I added a few pieces of equipment, but I knew I needed more room. The next year, I moved down the street into a better location, and then again to our present facility in 2015. We just fell in love with the site and it was a new building, so the move was a really easy decision to make.
IST: Certain key factors are critical to small business success. Without spilling trade secrets, how do you make it happen?
AM: Joe, it’s cross-marketing. We have a great relationship with a hair salon next door. They used to compete with us with their own tanning beds, but found it was better to let us do what we do best and let them work on hair and nails. They sold their equipment, and now we have an awesome, mutually beneficial arrangement that utilizes both clienteles to our respective advantages.
IST: Missouri has a 17-and-under restriction on UV indoor tanning (with parental consent). How has this affected you?
AM: It’s changed our sunbed tanner demographics somewhat, but has been great for our sunless business!
IST: What has been Copper Tan’s biggest business obstacle?
AM: Without a doubt, it’s staffing the salon.
Tyler: It’s so hard to find good people who actually want to work! I’m the same age as most of them, but was brought up in a working household. I’ve worked since I was a young kid. I go by the adage, “work hard and make your own success.” Many of the young adults who want to work for us see our salon as kind of a “free ride” and even expect higher than minimum wage pay.
IST: A “free ride?” Please explain.
Tyler: Yes – they want to do the absolute least amount of work and get paid top dollar!
IST: You recently took IST’s Sun is Life® Training. What are your thoughts on the program?
AM: Having correct and factual answers to questions is so important, not only to our current guests, but also to prospective customers. All salons should get on the same page when sharing this information. Sun is Life has been a home run for us!
IST: Let’s shift gears a bit. What are your goals for Copper Tan?
AM: We want to continue providing our tanners with the best service in a stress-free atmosphere where they can relax. We really work to remember their names and faces – that’s really important in making them feel appreciated and comfortable. I’m in the salon just about every day, and our guests really notice when I’m not! We will continue to look into ancillary services and products, like our infrared therapy system and custom airbrush. When the right ones come along, we’ll certainly consider adding them to the menu.
IST: What would you say is your claim to fame?
AM: Hey, we were selected as “Best Weddings” favorite tanning salon in Washington, MO!
Well, there you have it. Family-run and successful, as well. Great job, Allison and Tyler – all the best for continued success!
(L-R) Copper Tan Owner Allison Miller & Senior Tanning Representative Aubrey Beste take pride in the level of customer service they offer their guests.
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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