In late spring, I had the opportunity to visit one of the nicest areas of coastal South Carolina, Murrells Inlet – great beaches and awesome seafood. As if tanning salon operators don’t have enough challenges, I often contemplate the hurdles faced by a salon located at the beach. Well, Tantalizing Tanning & Spray clears those hurdles and more! The last time I checked in with them, they were just getting things back together after their area was ravaged by a hurricane. Here’s a look at overcoming adversity with owner Nikki Capps … read on!
IST: Nikki, it’s nice to catch up with you again! Remind our readers how and when you got your start in the tan biz.
NC: I often helped a friend at her salon and thought that it was quite an intriguing business. In the midst of helping her, I found a salon for sale and in January 2010, decided to dive in! At first, I thought it would just be fun, but I had no idea I had so much to learn – I knew nothing! But we got certified with sun is life® training, started attending industry expos and just kept learning. We bought the second facility the next year and another in 2014. Although we ended up closing the second salon, we opened a fourth in march 2020 and I’m proud to report it’s going strong!
IST: Is being located in a beach town an added challenge for your business?
NC: Joe, it really isn’t as hard as you would think. People here are always wearing minimal clothing and of course, they want to be tan! Most don’t want tan lines and don’t have time to lay out in the sun every day. There are those who cancel or want to freeze their accounts in the summer because they say they will just go to the beach. To keep them using their memberships, we try to focus on the benefits of our add-on services, such as red light and infrared sessions. We also stress the importance of skin care and sunburn prevention. Many of our customers even enjoy getting spray-tans in addition to a day in the sun.
IST: You and your team have completed Sun is Life Training – how important is it to have a fully trained staff?
NC: Education and certification are extremely important and it is South Carolina law. I can’t leave an employee alone in the salon until they have passed the sun is life course. It also assures that we’re all on the same page with factual information. It’s an absolute for my staff to educate our salon guests about our services the right way. They also get a sense of accomplishment and pride when they see they have passed the test and get their sun is life certificates! We usually do a social media post and let everyone know that we have newly-certified employees and we hang all their certificates on the wall.
IST: I was vacationing in your area recently, just as COVID mask restrictions were being eased. Certainly, the virus impacted many small businesses. How did you survive over the last year? Was the hurricane a couple of years ago harder or easier to recover from?
NC: I am sure you have heard “covid blessing” stories from others and we are definitely one of them! I have never felt so blessed to live in the south! We were asked to close for the month of April, and in May, people just ran through the doors! Our guests have told us that we are their “escape back to reality.” My staff have never worn masks, we have never required our guests to wear masks, yet we continued to keep a clean salon and business as usual and our customers appreciate that. Actually, 2020 was one of our best years and 2021 is projecting to be the best year ever for TANtalizing. Coming back from hurricanes was definitely harder – the clean-up time, extra expenses – people are just preoccupied before and after the storm. I also kept my staff on payroll the entire time, so I didn’t lose anyone because of the temporary shutdown. Now, hiring this spring was a challenge! I have hired more younger girls than ever before because so many adults are still on unemployment. I love mentoring and teaching them life skills, so it has been fun to watch them grow and learn. I know not all salons have been as fortunate and my heart goes out to them.
IST: Nicole, that’s really admirable. So let’s move on to goals. Where do you want to be in the next 1-3 years?
NC: God willing, I have plans to open a wellness spa focusing on red light, infrared and some other preventative care services. I also plan to open one or two more tanning facilities. I believe that finding the right staff is key to keeping the culture and excellent customer service we are known for in our area.
Nikki, thanks for taking time out for our interview and we wish you all the best in the future!
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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