I have always said that one of the key factors in the longevity of the indoor tanning industry has been our resilience – the abilities of salon operators all over the country to overcome the “brick walls” that can impede our business, be they regulatory, economic or the result of negative media among others. Well, Michelle Fulp of Tan by Michelle in Williamsport, PA is certainly a fine example of that. Want to know more? Read on!
IST: Michelle, let’s start at the beginning. How did you get involved in the tan biz?
MF: My father started in the tanning industry back in 1989. It was a great opportunity to work side-by-side with him. I learned so much! By the time I graduated from college, my father had two facilities and wanted to open a third. In 2002, we found a location and became partners. We refurbished an old video store and started Tan By Michelle as an investment. After installing 19 (now 17) tanning units, we opened our doors in January 2003. This is the start of our 19th year!
IST: Wow! That’s quite a strong run! Bet you’ve seen a lot in those 19 years. Dealing with COVID has certainly impacted many small businesses. How did you survive over the last year? How would you compare your business against this time last year?
MF: Pennsylvania’s closing of indoor tanning and related businesses due to COVID was pretty rough for many. After four long months of being closed, we reopened and quickly resumed operations as normal.
IST: Have your sanitization standards changed since the pandemic? If so, how?
MF: Joe, we have always prided ourselves on the cleanliness of our salon, so I wouldn’t say our procedures have changed a lot. We were and still are known to be extremely clean and sanitary. But, we now offer our guests face masks and hand sanitizers throughout the salon.
IST: You told me earlier that you enjoyed taking our Sun is Life® Certification class. What insights did you gain? How important is it to have a staff that is fully trained with Sun is Life?
MF: I feel that Sun is Life Certification is very important. Operators and staff can learn so many key facts about the tanning process – factual information that is so important to share with your customers to help you meet their specific tanning needs. I feel that all salon staff should be certified so they, too, can be knowledgeable about the tanning services we offer.
IST: You have a really nice social media page featuring updates and a list of diversified service offerings, as well as good customer reviews. Do you have guests who come in only for those services or do you have a good mix of cross-over customers?
MF: We have a good mix of cross-over clientele. Most are loyal customers who have had enjoyable experiences at our salon. As they say, “it’s easier to retain your happy customers than constantly try to find new ones.” But there also are those who are new to the area and will look on social media such as Facebook to see business reviews. We really drive to provide great tanning and sunless experiences to get that positive feedback!
IST: What are your business goals for the next 1-3 years?
MF: I hope to get new high-output UV tanning units and upgrade our current equipment mix. I also would like to become more of a full-service salon, incorporating cosmetic services such as a hair stylist, nail technician or esthetician.
IST: Michelle, thanks for your time and all the best in 2022!
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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