This month’s Salon of Distinction comes from Missouri. I took some time to interview Kathy Oberbeck, Owner of Indulgence Tanning & Massage as she was shaking off the late winter chill. As a bucolic virtual visual, picture us sitting by a fireplace sipping a hot cup of coffee.
IST: Always the ice-breaker: how did you get your start in the tan biz?
KO: We were looking for a way to grow a small inheritance and the salon was for sale. I had not been a tanner prior to buying it – a complete newbie! We took ownership September 1, 2019.
IST: Interesting! Typical new salon owners have experience as indoor tanners. Dealing with the pandemic has certainly impacted many small businesses. How did you fare over the last year? How does your business compare with this time in 2021?
KO: Our salon is one of two in our town of about 15,000 people. The other has about half the number of beds and is open fewer hours. We see our salon as an indulgence to our guests, and strive to make them feel pampered and appreciated.
The prior owner seemed to really only be concerned about short-term profit, not long-term relationships. She owned the salon for two years and the second year, her sales decreased by half. She would “save money” by turning off lights during the day, which made the salon look dark and unwelcoming. Her decor was stark black and white with only some tanning posters on the walls. We painted and redecorated with a beach theme, and we ask our guests who are going on vacation to bring us back a postcard to hang up. So far, 2022 is going well! Some weeks, we miss our goal of 10% growth, but then we’ll exceed it the next week which has kept us on target for year-to-date goals.
IST: Hey, the postcard idea is pretty cool! Let’s move on to cleanliness. Have your sanitization standards changed? If so, how?
KO: The only change we have made due to COVID was to discontinue leaving a clean towel in the room after cleaning it. Towels are now kept behind the desk and offered to guests as they check in, so they know only staff have touched the towel before they do.
IST: You told me that you enjoyed the Sun is Life Certification course. What insights did you gain from the class? How important is it to have a staff fully-trained with Sun is Life?
KO: I believe the training is of utmost importance – when it comes to selling anything, knowledge is power. You can’t sell what you don’t understand. I really enjoyed the Sun is Life training.
IST: What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?
KO: Joe, when we took ownership of the salon, it had a different name and a bad reputation. During the process of choosing a new name, I had talked with existing customers and realized that we had to distance ourselves as much as possible. We decided on Indulgence Tanning and Massage Therapy to help people realize we were not affiliated with the previous owner.
IST: It would appear that you’ve cleared that hurdle! What are your goals for the next 1-3 years?
KO: By this time next year, I hope to stop leasing space and instead, build my own building. I’d like to open a second location. Next, I’d like to hire an assistant manager so I am not needed so much for the day-to-day operations, but can instead focus on growth.
A nice story Kathy. All the best to achieving those goals!
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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