If the success of Fake Bake Tanning Salon is any indication, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in America!
The idea of tanning salon ownership was sprung on Ashley Muller just a year ago; but she really hit the ground running… as the success of Fake Bake Tanning Salon of Lowell, IN attests. Yes, she chose a rather humorous name for her business, but there’s nothing funny about the salon’s performance. In its first year, the small facility has gained more than 800 loyal clients, thanks to Ashley’s friendly customer service and marketing savvy, and it continues to grow. Looking back on everything, she says her husband’s sudden choice to open a salon for her to operate was a great idea… and she plans more improvements for Fake Bake in the near future.
One year ago, life seemed simple for Ashley Muller. She was working as a receptionist for an auto repair business, but this all changed the day her husband decided to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions. “Jason is shop foreman at a BMW dealership, but he’s always wanted to operate his own business,” said Ashley. “He originally thought about a pizza place, because we worked at one many years ago, and thought we could utilize that experience. After thinking about it, though, he decided that a tanning salon would be the kind of business I could operate while he continued his career.”
“Within days of telling me he wanted to open a salon, Jason found a space in a small shopping plaza and signed the lease,” Ashley said. “It was a small storefront between a hair salon and nail salon, and was located directly across the street from the high school. It took a little longer than we expected to get the place remodeled and ready to open, but we’re very thankful for all the help we received from our family and friends.” Ashley and Jason’s Fake Bake Tanning Salon opened its doors on September 19, 2011. “There are so many salons with the words ‘beach’, ‘tropical’ or ‘sun’ in their names, so I decided to go with something different,” she said. “When I first started tanning indoors, people used to call it ‘fake-baking’, so I decided to use it. It’s a little on the funny side, but it’s also easy for people to remember.”
Decorated with burnt orange walls, brown carpet and a subdued theme, Fake Bake has an ambiance that Ashley describes as simple, clean and calming. Operated with the TanTrack software system, the salon has seven UV tanning units – three Tropical Rayz SF 281 sunbeds, two High Intensity UVB 322, a Wide-Body Ultra Bronzer VHR383 and a South Beach 48VHR stand-up unit. Lotions by Australian Gold, Designer Skin, Supre Tan and Swedish Beauty fill the product displays, and retail sales include items from the California Clothing line by Heartland Tanning, Inc. “We stock a few of the more popular styles, and place the catalog in the lobby for clients to view,” Ashley said. “These items have become very popular with our younger tanners.”
Spreading the Word
Ashley believes that word-of-mouth has helped build a loyal client base at Fake Bake, but she still works at promoting her salon. “We used to advertise a lot in the local newspaper but that gets very expensive to do on a regular basis, and the returns aren’t always steady,” she said. “Now, we only use it to advertise holiday specials and in-store events.” In lieu of traditional print-media advertising, Ashley has taken a guerilla marketing approach – distributing flyers, cross-promoting with local businesses and sending holiday cards and coupons to clients in her database – and the results, she reports, have been successful. “Lately, we’ve done a lot of marketing on Facebook, and we continue to get great response,” she said.
What’s in a Name?
Today, Ashley Muller is a tanning salon owner who’s as happy about her new career as she is successful in it. As she continues to serve her existing tanners and build her client base, she contemplates plans for the salon’s future.
“I know a lot of owners want to open multiple locations as soon as they can, but I don’t think we want to do that now, nor even in the next few years,” she said. “We do have an extra room, though, and I would like to add custom airbrush tanning because many of our clients have asked for it. Plus, with the name Fake Bake, people expect us to offer some type of sunless option.”
When the Mullers opened Fake Bake Tanning Salon, Ashley was behind the counter seven days a week, which helped her discover what she enjoys most about salon ownership. “I love meeting our clients and getting to know as many of them as I can,” she said. “After a year, I know most of them by first name and many are now my friends. I don’t know any other job that provides this kind of camaraderie!”
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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