As we continue the process of returning (somewhat!) to normalcy after a crazy 2020, we’ve missed a lot of the industry happenings. The annual expo events have always been great battery chargers for salon operators.
After a long layoff, Missouri-based distributor Heartland Tanning created a novel method to give a “group hug” with their first-ever Networking Retreat. In June, “Mind Your Business” exclusively for salon owners and operators was held at The Elm Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, MO. I was honored to serve as the emcee for this event and it gave me a great opportunity to chat with a wide variety of tan biz folks. Attendees included many first-time owners with two years or less in the business. I always enjoy seeing “veteran” operators (you know who you are), but think it’s a good sign to see fresh faces, as well. Enter John and Kristine Grish of Electric Sun in Gaylord, MI. I had some great conversations with them during my stay at The Elm and they, of course, are proud graduates of IST Magazine’s Sun is Life® Training & Certification program. Enjoy the details!
IST: The Elm is a really cool place to have this event and perfect for our interview. So, let’s begin with the basics. Tell me about your start in the tanning industry.
JG: It’s kind of a funny story. I was at lunch with my boss who owns quite a few properties and he told me that I should buy his tanning salon. I thought he was joking, but he said it would be a good investment and a great place to put our daughters to work and in charge. Well, my daughter Emylee was sitting right next to me and of course said, “Dad, you should!” So, I reviewed the financials and thought, “not bad.” That night, I told Kristine about the idea and could tell by the look on her face that she was not excited about it at all; she had just started her career as a cosmetologist. Well, the next day was Thanksgiving and we both got up after getting very little sleep, thinking about tanning. Later that day, my girls came over and talked more about it and that Saturday, we toured the salon. That next Wednesday, we had a meeting with my boss and signed the papers. So within less than a week, we went from not even thinking about starting a business to becoming business owners. We took over January 1 2021. We are now six months into this and love every minute of it!
IST: Having a salon with a variety of different services can be a challenge. Tell us how you focus and overcome it.
JG: You have to grow the business. As we all know, the “JASON” months in the back half of the year are hard for many salons to survive – we are going through our first one. So, we diversified to offer more than just UV services. We offer BleachBright Teeth Whitening, red-light therapy, a massage chair and we really market our spray-tanning.
IST: You and your wife have taken the Sun is Life course. How did you like it and how important is a fully-trained staff?
JG: Oh, my gosh! Training is so important. Kristine and I took Sun is Life online and it’s fantastic training. We learned so much and now make sure that our staff also completes it. If you think you know it all, you don’t! We highly recommend everyone invest in this training.
IST: What tips can you share with first time salon owners?
JG: Our salon has been in the same location for 14 years. If you are looking for a new location, make sure you have enough room to expand one day. One of the most important things is to make sure your lease space has enough “juice!” We were kind of limited with the power supply coming to the building and are at the point right now where we can spend the cash to expand it. Let me tell you, it is not a cheap thing! But if you want to keep up with the industry and compete, you have to do what needs to be done.
IST: What do you feel is more important and why: a website or a Facebook page, or both?
JG: We have both. We believe the younger generation will do research on a business before going to the physical location. We just created a new website in March, but we are also very active on Facebook. We want to provide just enough information to keep our customers engaged with what’s going on and try to make our posts more educational. Our website has solid coverage of our salon info: our hours, information on our spray-tanning (basically, the do’s and don’ts) and our red-light therapy. We also operate with Tan-Link software and through that, we have an online store linked to our website. Customers can see and purchase memberships, schedule appointments for spray-tans and teeth-whitening, with more services to come.
IST: I checked out both and they’re well done. Thumbs up from Joe! So, let’s move on. What are your goals in the next 1-3 years?
JG: Salon expansion and diversifying are in the plan, for sure. The new expanded space will open us into a medspa with esthetician services, health and wellness, skincare and so on. Believe it or not, this was our three-year plan, but it is happening within the next month!
John and Kristine Grish, all the best to you both and Emylee as well, for a strong remainder of the year and 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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