Spray tan artist Gilena Schouten

Starting a mobile
spray tan business:
The Tan Studio’s

The rapidly rising popularity of spray tanning, especially in Europe, has encouraged many entrepreneurial minds to enter the realm of the beauty industry. In this interview, Gilena Schouten, owner of The Tan Studio in Antwerp, paints a vivid picture of her entrepreneurial journey from an amateur spray tan artist to a thriving businesswoman.

Starting a mobile spray tan business

Gilena's venture into the world of spray tanning was borne out of a desire to provide a safe tanning option for her daughter. She described her first experience with spray tanning as a turning point. After seeing the benefits of a spray tan, Gilena decided to buy her own machine, initially for personal use. “We ordered a machine and we tanned ourselves and later on my daughter’s friends. Then I started having requests from strangers.” said Gilena.

Starting the business was not as simple as just buying the spray tanning machine. With a laugh, Gilena mentioned, “I was an amateur, but now I'm an amateur with certificates.” She undertook courses in the Netherlands and Miami, with certified training from renowned artists, including the preferred artist of the Kardashians.

Today, she is the only spray tan artist in Belgium working with a solution used by celebrities. “Spray tan is getting more and more popular because people are more aware of what’s good for their skin,” she says.

Growing a successful business

“I have 12 to 14 bookings a day, and I need to hire people actually. I need to say no to people because I don't have time,” Gilena shared.

Four months ago, Gilena Schouten turned her passion into a lucrative business. Today, her venture, The Tan Studio, has an unexpected but welcome explosion. From just a hobby for her friends and family, her spray tan business has transformed into a sensation, and the digital space has played a significant role in this progression.

“I created an Instagram account and had my friend develop a website,” explains Gilena. After just three months online, her website began to bring in serious clients, more mature and committed than those from Instagram. Word-of-mouth referrals then added a snowball effect, and her client base rapidly expanded. She highlights that her business has grown organically, with no need for paid advertisements.

Despite the common notion that starting a new business requires a massive upfront investment, Gilena emphasizes that spray tanning is a low-cost yet highly profitable business.

I've been using Vev for a week now and I love it.

Managing a spray tan business with Vev

Just as any entrepreneurial journey, Gilena's ride was not all smooth. One of the significant challenges Gilena faced was bookings and inquiries coming through different channels, making management arduous especially when running a mobile business. She recalls, “I had people emailing me, texting me on WhatsApp, DMing me on Instagram, it was so overwhelming. I was looking for something like this.”

This “something” turned out to be Vev. Vev not only assists her in managing appointments and streamlining communications, but also calculates travel fees, a feature that she highly appreciates. In her words, “I've been using it now for not even a week and I love it. It’s really great that there is a platform that calculates travel fees for me.”

It's so nice that Vev calculates travel fees for me.

Overcoming Challenges and Learnings

One of the challenges Gilena encountered was finding the right approach to different skin types and choosing the appropriate solution to prevent clients from getting an orange tan. “You have to practice and don't think ‘this is easy, I'm just gonna start’ because you’re gonna make mistakes and lose clients. You have to put in the work,” she reflects.

While most people have misconceptions about spray tanning, thinking it makes one orange or is just for bodybuilders, Gilena sees her job as not just providing the service but also educating her clients. She believes in the importance of understanding skin type and undertone and using the right products to achieve the best results.

The biggest learning from her journey has been to avoid unnecessary expenses. Schouten admits she could have saved a lot if she had known not to buy everything that’s on the market. “If you're new in this world, you want to have it all but you really don't need to buy everything that's out there,” she says.

You have to practice, because you’re gonna make mistakes and lose clients. You really have to put in the work.

The Future of The Tan Studio

Looking towards the future, Gilena plans to leverage her experience to offer online courses about starting a spray tan business. “I want to share my knowledge with new people because it's a booming business, and there are going to be a lot more spray tan salons and people who are offering spray tan services,” she shares.

Despite the demand, spray tanning isn't a year-round service, with peak seasons being May to September and around Christmas and holidays. Launching an online course for aspiring spray tan artists would be a great way for Gilena to fill the offseason gaps in her business schedule while helping others step into the spray tan business.

Schouten has a vision for her business. “My goal is to be a celebrity spray tan artist. There are already a lot of them across the world, but not that many in Europe. So, hi, that's me in five years,” she beamed.

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"I want to share my knowledge with new people because it's a booming business."

5 learnings from The Tan Studio

  1. A rising business: Demand for spray tanning services is growing as people are becoming more aware of their skin health and are looking for alternatives to harmful sunbeds.
  2. Start with the basics. Spray tanning is a profitable beauty business, with low start-up costs and a potentially high return on investment. According to Schouten, it’s essential to avoid unnecessary expenses on fancy accessories and focus on the basics to get started.
  3. Invest in digital solutions: Platforms like Vev are instrumental in managing day-to-day business operations, such as client communication, appointments, and other logistical details, especially for mobile service providers.
  4. Hard work leads to success. Ambition and continued learning are key. As Gilena said, “You have to put in the work.” With hard work and the right mindset, even an amateur can become a certified professional.
  5. Diversify for steady growth. Strategic planning and diversifying business offerings can help navigate seasonal fluctuations and ensure steady growth for spray tan businesses.

Gilena's story is a testament to the power of following one's passion and the potential in every business idea. Through her growing spray tan business, she continues to promote a safer alternative to traditional tanning methods and inspire others to enter the industry.

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