Spray Tanning Business Plan: Start-Up Guide

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The Spray Tanning Industry continues to expand and sunless tanning options are becoming extremely popular. People are increasingly aware of the negative effects of traditional UV tanning and the healthy benefits of spray tanning are being increasingly embraced by make up artists, aestheticians, salons and customers alike. In recent years, spray tanning has become the fast, healthy alternative to UV tanning for those seeking that beautiful sun kissed look without the potential damage created by UV rays. The cost of professional spray tanning equipment continues to become more economical so the addition of spray tanning services in salons and the growth of independent spray tan mobile businesses continue to expand in order to meet the growing customer demand.

Customer demand is significant and growing but the success and growth of your spray tanning business will be based on your planning, discipline, passionate drive, proper marketing, and care for your customers. Being passionate about educating customers and communicating the benefits of spray tanning as an inexpensive, safe, quick, high quality, beautifully aesthetic alternative to UV tanning is key. Connecting with potential prospects and reinforcing the benefits with existing customers will help you grow and maintain your business. The business can be lucrative financially but helping each customer look and feel great is also a very gratifying benefit of operating a successful spray tanning business. 

Research the Business Opportunity

You are reading this guide so you are already doing this already but it’s important that you take sometime to understand the spray tanning business opportunity and the benefits of participating in the industry. The internet is a valuable tool at your fingertips so you should spend some time on Google researching the spray tanning business. Search for business plans, articles, blogs, photos, videos, and images that help you gain a better understanding and foundational confidence in understanding the business. You don’t need to become an expect but you should understand some of the general basics before jumping into a new business.

At the time of this writing (January 2019) the average mobile spray tan (if provided with quality equipment and solution) averages about $40 per session. At $40 per session the average gross receipts for a spray tanning business doing 3 tans per business day (5 assuming a 5 day business week) is approximately $2,400 per month or $33,600 annually. It’s probably unreasonable to assume you’ll never take a week off during an entire year so it probably more reasonable to assume annual receipts could be approximately $30,000 if you average 3 tans per business day. On the other hand, if you can average 6 sessions per day your monthly revenue would increase to about $4,800 and your annual revenue to about $60,000. The cost of high quality spray tan solution averages about $2-3 per spray tan so almost all your revenue will be gross profit.

Initially it may seem like quite a stretch to do 6 sessions a day but if you establish a regular clientele and are able to supplement your averages with spray tan parties, events, wedding parties etc. your averages can increase significantly over time as your business grows. Some technicians have been able to successfully grow their business to average double digit spray tan sessions per business day and in those cases revenue can be extensive. 

Consider your Personal Opportunity

If you’re going to offer spray tanning services you’ll need customers! It’s important to take sometime to consider you existing market, location and personal relationship opportunities. If you live in a large metro area there will probably always be some level of target market within fairly close proximity. You’ll face some current competition so be thoughtful of nearby salons offering spray tanging and other mobile services operating in your areas.

Also, take a look at Facebook and social media to see who has a presence in your area but don’t be scared off by competition. If you see people offering spray tanning services it means there’s established customer demand for the service in your area and your competitors have already validated that existing opportunity for you. Also, if you don’t find any competition if may just mean you’re one of the first and now have the opportunity to be the first person to validate the market. 

If you’re adding spray tanning to your existing salon you already have an existing client base to cross sell your new service. If you’re a aesthetician, beautician, barber, make up artist, tanning salon employee, gym owner, wedding planner, body builder etc. you probably have many associates you can think of who already use or need spray tanning services. If you’re involved in the Health and Beauty Industry already you have a great opportunity to leverage your existing relationships at work and on social media to identify and acquire new spray tanning customers. Do you have friends or family tat spray tan? Once you think about all the options you’ll probably discover large numbers of potential new customers for your new spray tanning business.

Purchasing Equipment 

Start with a good HVLP Spray System

The required equipment for any spray tanning professional will include a HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) Spray System and accompanied spray gun with hose. These HVLP systems start at approximately $250 for entry level systems and may cost as much as $900 for a premium professional system with all the bells and whistles. The basic entry level systems will normally be manufacturer with high impact plastic and can be used a few times before they will need to rest to avoid overheating and damage to the turbine. They will also normally be paired with a basic plastic spray gun that has a screw on hose. The more expensive HVLP professional systems can be used for large numbers of back to back spray tanning session (spray tan parties or back to back appointments etc.) and won’t overheat easily given their more durable professional grade turbines. The more expensive systems also normally come equipped with features such as quick release hoses and highly adjustable metal spray guns that are well balanced to allow for precision spray application that also reduce fatigue of the technician. Best of breed systems in order or customer popularity include Norvell, Fuji Spray Tan and MaxiMist. You can see the well known equipment manufacturers and top ranked HVLP systems here: https://suntanningstore.com/collections/hvlp-systems

Select a Tent & Extraction Fan

If you’re new to the business you might wonder why you need a tent and an extraction fan. When you spray a customer with a professional grade HVLP spray system you will apply most of the solution to your customer. However, some of the spray will invariably dissipate into the air surrounding your customer and it will eventually fall in the surrounding area or be carried aloft by the room’s airflow. These excess spray particles need to me managed and that’s what the spray tan tent and extraction fan allows you to do. The extraction fan will be positioned in the rear of the spray tanning tent and turned on to pull in air from inside the tent. Your customer will stand inside the tent while you apply the spray tan and those particles in the air will be pulled into the extraction fans filter. These spray tan tents range from between $40 for an entry level tent to $120 for a top quality quick fold tent. We currently recommend the Norvell Sunless spray tanning tent given it’s top quality constriction and quick fold up capability. Extraction fans can range from about $100 to $360 and Norvell currently offers the most economical high quality option designed to fit perfectly with their tent. Many of the HVLP system packages or Start-Up Kits come with a tent and fan so you may not need to make this purchase separately if one of the kits works for you https://suntanningstore.com/collections/mobile-start-up-kits

HVLP Spray Tanning Solutions

You’re going to need some solution for your new HVLP spray system! Many of the HVLP systems will come with a sampling of 2-3 solutions from a company such as Norvell Sunless. Many of these sample kits will also include a bottle of non DHA “Training Solution” that you should use to practice on with a few friends or relatives. This solution will not have any DHA so it will easily wash off. If you have never applied a spray tan before this training solution is critical to developing your skill and confidence before working with paying clients. Some of the most popular HVLP solutions currently include Norvell Venetian, Norvell Rapid ONE and Norvell Premium Dark. Many customers are also no seeking organic options so considering a solution like Norvell UVC Cosmo Organic in your service might also be a consideration. Once you become skilled and well practiced at applying spray tans effectively, you will normally use between 2.0 oz and 2.5 oz of solution for each customer so a 34 oz bottle should cover 12-17 spray tans. It’s also advised that after opening a bottle you use the solution within 6-12 months of it’s production date (printed on the bottle of quality solutions) so we recommend getting a few bottles of 34 oz solution to start off. If you need more you can always order additional bottles with fast and free same day shipping here https://suntanningstore.com/collections/quick-ship-products

Disposables & Supplies

Over time you’ll become more familiar with the additional supplies and disposables that make sense for your particular business but to start off it’s recommended you begin with a small supply of frequently used disposables. These items normally include disposable hair bonnets, neat feet, latex or non-latex technician gloves, nose filters, and face masks. You should also stock some DHA barrier cream that you’ll use to prevent discoloration of your customers cuticles and elbows. Also, pH balancing Spray, Moisturizing Spray, Color Extenders, Exfoliating Mitts, Talc Drying Powder and Shimmering Mists are optional items you might consider if you wish to offer a full service premium or more differentiated experience to customer

Miscellaneous Equipment

You will also want to have some type of professional bag to hold and professionally transport your equipment if you are conducting mobile sessions in customers homes or businesses. Norvell makes a great Pro Travel Bag will hold your supplies, along with small or medium sized HVLP Systems, but you can always use a good quality duffle bag or carry on type bag with roller wheels if that fits your budget. In addition to the bag, we suggest you also consider purchasing a back up spray gun (in case your gun malfunctions during a session, event or party) as well as a few towels to lay in the bottom of the spray tent and use for solution spill emergencies.

Retail Products (Resale to Customers)

You should make your custom spray tans the cornerstone of your business but your customers may also wish to work with you to keep supplied with their necessary retail products. If you buy in wholesale quantities you can supply your customer with special self tanners such as facial touch up sprays, bronzing aerosols and mousses. These self tanners are no replacement for your professional skilled spray tan but they may be sought after by your customers at times and you may wish to provide them while making a profit of 60 to 100%. In addition, you can also consider stocking a supply of pH equalizing snap packs, lip balm, exfoliating mitts, color extenders that you can purchase at wholesale to sell to your customers at retail in single use quantities. Stocking Retail products for retail isn’t something you need to do on day one so don’t make this a top priority immediately. Once you have a feel for your business and what customers might want you can start slowly with a small supply to offer the additional products when appropriate.

Overspray Reduction Booths

If you have an existing salon, or will be working out of another physical location, you may wish to offer a premium experience to your customers by using a high quality overspray reduction booth instead of a tent. The booths will provide a comfortable and more professional experience for your clients. Many overspray booths also include adjustable lighting to enhance technician performance, an easy to access control panel and 2 to 4 induction fans with paired filters to effectively remove and scrub excess overspray particles from the air. The quality spray tanning over spray booths also offer non-porous panel surfaces that will allow you to easily and efficiently clean.

Education & Training

There are a variety of training programs available for Spray Tanning Technicians. We recommend that you take some time to research the options on the web and select a program that fits your needs. A good spray tanning course will help you understand the foundations of your new profession. The curriculum should including a background in sunless science that will review areas such as pre spray skin preparation, pH balance, moisturizing, DHA and post spray maintenance. These courses will also review equipment and the proper spray technique.

Some of the HVLP Spray System Kits provide free online training and certification. Norvell Sunless is the largest producer of spray tanning solution in the world and they also manufacturer premium top of the line spray tanning equipment. The Norvell start up kits and their ala carte HVLP Spray Systems offer free access to their Norvell University at www.NorvellUniversity.com. If you can afford one of these premium kits you’ll have everything you need to start a new Mobile Spray Tanning Business including the educational support and recognized certification. Norvell is also a recognized name by many spray tanning clients and their solutions are considered top of the line. Utilizing Norvell equipment, solution and education can help a new tanning spray tanning professional build credibility and confidence with their prospective customers who know the name.

Target Market Competitive Pricing Analysis

Your competitive pricing research will give you good background and confidence in establishing your initial pricing structure for spray sessions and various add on services or products. In general, the current average price for a mobile spray tan (the technician goes to the customer with all necessary equipment) for custom spray tan application is $35 to $65 per session (January 2019). Prices can vary quite a bit depending on the location and costs associated with operating in a given area. The cost of a spray tan in downtown Manhattan will normally be much higher than the equivalent same spray tan in St. Louis Missouri. Do your research, determine a competitive pricing structure for your operating location and you’ll be one step closer to building a successful spray tanning business.

We suggest you to spend sometime reviewing your local competition to conduct an analysis of current pricing. This process doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time and be difficult but you should touch base with local salons and mobile spray tanning operators to check their pricing. Contact a good sampling of salons in your area and inquire on the cost of an in salon custom spray tan applied by a technician and also the cost of an automated machine applied tan if available. Inquire what solutions types and choices they provide along with any extra charges for skin preparation (pH balancing spray etc.), exfoliators, feet protectors, nose plugs, eye shields, hair bonnets etc. 

You should also call and ask for a price quote from a range of independent mobile tan providers and check their websites along with their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.) for pricing and special offers. You should also determine their mobile service radius and what additional charges might be appropriate for more distant locations such as a 10 mile radius of down town, suburbs, rural areas.

Marketing & Promotion Strategy

You are going to need to connect prospects and new customers with you service to make money! To be effective you’ll need to establish a presence online and do a little advertising to start. Before you begin actively advertising you’ll definitely want to establish a Facebook business page dedicated to your new business in addition to a Twitter, LinkedIn and possibly Instagram account. If you’re web or tech savvy we also suggest considering a web page and or a blog. That’s not something you have to do right away but it can offer you an advantage over a spray tan business that doesn’t have them.

Once you have yourself online you should consider your existing resources and amount of money you might dedicate to advertising. Consider your target customer base and think about who your potential customers are, where they live, where they shop, where they work out, what they read, where they obtain information, news and services etc. You’ll then want to advertise your new spray tanning business in any available directories, local community newspapers, or bulletin boards. Make sure all your friends, family and peers know about your new business and offer. You can also run some inexpensive Facebook target ads for people who are interested in spray tanning in your local area. You should also have a good supply of business cards printed that you will want to hand out to prospects or people that can you’re you business wherever you go!

Get out into the community and make sure people know you’re in business. Introduce yourself and leave your business cards with wedding and event planners, hotel concierges, gyms, photographers, bartenders, nightclubs, make up artists, adult cabarets, formal wear shops, and beauty salons that might not already offer spray tanning. When you’re at the nail salon leave a card or inquire if you can leave a small supply at the front desk. If you at a bar or at dinner and receive great service, leave a nice little note on the back of your business card with the tip. Try attending a chamber of commerce meeting and maybe see about setting up a booth to gain exposure and market your service at lively events like concerts or culinary festivals.

Once you gain confidence and a core group of customers you can consider working to coordinate “girls tanning nights” where you or one of the participants hosts a fun party and you offer a discounted group rate for onsite spray tans. You can also work with wedding and event planners to offer the same group spray tanning services. These events can be a great money makers and allow you meet many new prospects. However, if you do plan on conducting group events please make sure you have invested in a professional grade HVLP spray system and a spare gun that can handle larger numbers of back to back sessions. In general, the turbines in the plastic HVLP Systems in the $250-$500 range may overheat and you might permanently damage the internal turbine when using if non stop fro more than 1-2 hours. The higher priced professional grade models of $500 or more are generally designed with stronger more durable turbines that can handle the abuse of numerous back to back sessions.

Great bodies, fitness and tanning also seem to go together. A promotional idea used by many spray mobile operators is to connect with local gyms, fitness or yoga studios. Touch base with the owner or manager to see if you can partner with them to promote and then offer a fun spray tan party night. Many of the members may already use tanning services and it can be positioned as an added benefit of being a member of the gym or studio. You could provide an enticing discounted group rate and see about setting up your mobile pop up tent and fan in a locker room or office. After you’ve shown the owner and members what you can do you can always see if they might be open to partnering with you to offer members discounts with you on session or scheduling reoccurring spray tan night going forward.

These are a few ideas to get you started as the opportunities and ideas for promotion are really endless. As a spray tanning professional you offer an exciting service sought after by a good percent of the population. Just get out there and have some fun letting people know how you can help make their life healthier and better with spray tanning.

Business Set Up & Licensing

You should make sure to contact your local and state agencies to register your business and obtain a business license. Most technicians also register their business as either a sole proprietorship or LLC when starting out. If you form a Sole Proprietorship you can use your Social Security Number but if you form an LLC or Corporation you will need to acquire a Federal EIN that will be used when filing your taxes. You can easily set up your EIN with the IRS here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online

The Small Business Administration keeps an updated guide for registering your new business and you can find more details information here: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/launch-your-business/register-your-business

As of the time (January 2019) we are not aware of any state that requires spray tanning technicians to be officially licensed by the state’s Board of Cosmetology. However, state laws and requirements can always change so we advise that you reach out to your states board to verify if any regulations have changed. A good resource that list every state’s Board of Cosmetology’s contact information can be found here: https://nacams.org/cosmetology-states/

Business Bank Account

Many spray tanning business owners choose to open a business banking checking account in order to avoid commingling personal financial activity with their new business. A small business checking account will normally allow the owner to utilize checks or a debit card to make business payments for all their investments and expenses.

If you choose to open a business banking account your bank will normally require a copy of your business registration with the state. That document would normally be a certificate of organization for a new sole proprietorship, LLC or Corporation. In addition, most banks will also require the confirmation documented from the IRS documenting your new Federal EIN Number. Check with you bank on their specific requirements or make sure you have these documents in hand before you head down too the bank to open your account.

In addition, using a credit card that’s totally reserved for business purchases to avoid intermingling personal charges can be a valuable tool in keeping your records straight. If you do have a dedicated credit card you can use make sure it’s one where you earn loyalty or travel points on all your purchases! If you establish a checking account and credit card with the same bank you can normally view and reconcile all of your business deposits, expenses and credit card charges easily while easily moving funds between your accounts.

A few banks offer no or very low fee and low required balance Business Checking Accounts. Here are the Top Rated accounts for Starts Ups & Low Balances in 2019: 

  1. Chase Bank Total Business Checking Account https://www.chase.com/business 
  1. Wells Fargo Simple Business Checking Account https://www.wellsfargo.com/locator/
  1. Citizens Bank Clearly Better Business Checking Account https://locations.citizensbank.com/index.html 

Liability Insurance  

We also recommend you consider adding business liability insurance to protect you from any unknown risks and variables. “Commercial General Liability Insurance” is relatively inexpensive and it will give you and your customers confidence and peace of mind. Remember, you’ll be traveling and operating inside customer homes and there is always the risk of damaging carpet, upholstery or other items within the home. Accidentally hurting your customer is also a risk so the liability insurance will also cover bodily injury claims up to your policy coverage limits. Go to goggle and enter “Commercial General Liability Insurance” and ask a few providers such as Progressive, Nationwide, Geico, and the Hartford and for a quote.

Business Record Keeping

As a new business owned you’ll want to establish a program of maintaining good business records from the start. You won’t need anything complex but you are now officially operating a business and will need to think about records retention, legal compliance and taxes. 

As a first and fairly obvious step, you’ll need to keep all your receipts for expenses and start-up investments along with you business revenue. You will also want to maintain all your records of business formation, permits, licensing, leases, legal contracts etc.

You’ll also want to have an appropriate filing system to safely maintain your records Many options will work for a spray tanning business as long as the filing system is accurate, complete, and consistent. You can use just about anything to store your records and options can range from an old shoe box (not recommended but it can work!) to manila folders, or banker boxes. You can even go full virtual by scanning your documents and storing them on a computer and backup hard drive or CD media. 

A good record keeping process will also pay dividends at tax time when you need to accurately itemize all your revenue and expenses for each year. We also recommend you review the Small Business Administration’s Record Keeping for Small Business Guide here: 


Need Additional Help?

The professionals at the Sun Tanning Store are authorized national distributors of for the leading manufacturers of premium high quality spray tanning equipment and solutions. We have helped thousands of entrepreneurs start up, successfully operate and grow their spray tanning businesses.

Feel free to send us an email at info@suntanningstore.com or chat with one of our spray tanning consultants online at www.suntanningstore.com for additional assistance or support.

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