BramaSolé Tanning Salon in Prescott, AZ represents one woman’s need for new challenges… and a community’s desire to look and feel good.
Believe it or not, BramaSolé Tanning Salon began as one used sunbed in the back room of a nail salon. Nail technician Shelly Michelbrink added the tanning unit in order to offer an extra service to her nail clients; but soon, her curiosity and thirst for knowledge inspired her to learn more about UV tanning. This little “research project” evolved into an 11-unit facility known as much for its relaxing, spa-like experience as it is for the results it delivers. Now, as Shelly looks to the future, the image of an additional BramaSolé Tanning Salon continues to become clearer in her mind’s eye.
Beginning in 1989, Shelly Michelbrink was a nail technician who had developed a solid client base, had won competitions and travelled around the country to educate other nail techs. “I had really reached the pinnacle of what I could do in the nail field and I was looking for something else to dive into,” said Shelly. “In 2003, a friend was closing her tanning salon, so I purchased one of her tanning beds and put it in my nail salon. As more people took an interest in it, I realized that there was an entire industry out there that I needed to learn about. I began to see that I could operate a tanning salon as a business separate from my nail salon.”
Nail techs come and go, Shelly says, and as they left her salon, she replaced them with more tanning units. In 2010, Shelly renamed her business BramaSolé Tanning Salon and had seven tanning units to offer her ever-expanding client base. “Another tanning salon in Prescott went out of business, so I purchased its five tanning units and placed them in my salon,” she recalled. “Everything just kept growing to the point where I decided to move my nail salon into the space next door in order to turn my original facility into BramaSolé in 2010.” Shelly’s business has grown so much that she has expanded again: “In July, we added another 600 square feet, bringing our total number of tanning rooms to eleven.”
BramaSolé features a décor reminiscent of a high-end spa – slate stone and granite countertop, cherry wood accents and textured walls that give the place a warm, rich feel. The business features 10 UV tanning units – three uwe Tropical, two uwe Silver Bullet, two uwe Lotus, two Puretan Ellipse 3 and a SunCapsule Super Cyclone. There is also a Magic Tan sunless booth. The salon operates with SunTouch software and sells lotions by Australian Gold, California Tan, Designer Skin, Ed Hardy Tanning, Supre Tan and Swedish Beauty. “Our greatest asset is our staff, who works hard to keep the salon clean and our tanners happy,” Shelly said. “They’re a big part of why we’ve been so well received by our community, and they continue to make me proud each day.”
When it comes to promoting her business, Shelly says there’s nothing better than positive word-of-mouth within her community, and she knows exactly what to do to get people talking about BramaSolé . Shelly and all of her staff make a concerted effort to provide the kind of service that keeps clients coming back. “Customer service is very important to me,” she said. “It’s not just about being friendly to our clients when we greet them. We don’t want to be known as a business that’s only nice to people until they give us their money; when a client is in our space, we give them the same level of friendly service throughout the entire process. Our staff is required to thank each client and wish them a good day as the tanner is leaving.”
While Shelly doesn’t claim to know the secret to finding the perfect employee, there are a few things she has learned over the years. “I ask every interviewee to reach into my purse, pull out the first thing they find and try to sell me that item,” she said. “This is a great way to get a feel for their improvisational skill and for how well they’re able to speak to people under a little bit of pressure – a trick I learned from David McFarland of Performance Brands.” Prospective employees who pass Shelly’s first test advance to her second – a “working interview” that allows them to work with a senior staff member for one hour. “The prospects who jump in and help out without being asked tend to be the ones we hire,” she added.
As the BramaSolé staff heads into this year’s peak season, Shelly sees that all eleven of her salon’s tanning units are consistently busy. “This has gotten me thinking about the possibility of opening another salon about 15 miles away,” she said. “An older salon went up for sale in that area; but after taking a look at it and seeing that all of the equipment was outdated and the business doesn’t have three-phase electrical wiring, I had to ask myself, ‘What exactly would I be buying here?’ At that point, it would be better to open my own salon and build it exactly the way I want it.” This, Shelly decided, is exactly what she will do… when the time is right. Until then, she and her staff plan to continue offering the tans and service for which the salon is known.
After five years of selling sunshine, Shelly says she’s only now hitting her stride. “Whenever you help people create something beautiful, you create satisfaction for yourself and for your clients,” she said. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing our customers appreciate what we’re doing for them and from seeing them looking and feeling better about themselves in the process. All that positive energy keeps me excited and wanting to move forward.”
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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