How to Start a Tanning Salon Business — With Nothing?

February 22, 2012 | By | Reply More

QUESTION ON Starting a Tanning Bed Business With Nothing

I would like to start a tanning bed business, but I’m clueless as to where to start. I don’t have the money or ANY means of borrowing it from friends or family, since our family friends live from paycheck to paycheck. I also don’t have any clue as to where to even begin to start researching.

– Anonymous


The tanning business is expensive to start. It is not suitable for a home business or for a part-time endeavor. A tanning business requires significant capital outlay –­ from the purchase of the tanning beds, space rental, overhead and operating costs, to staff compensation. Expenses for operating a tanning business can reach about $115,000 in a year, or even more.

The cost of tanning beds alone range from $750 to over $10,000, depending on specifications. You would want a good quality tanning bed to avoid any legal entanglements in the event that an unfortunate mishap occurs with one of your clients.

You can choose to purchase your beds, or to lease your tanning equipment. Whether you are leasing or buying your tanning beds, it is important to shop around and compare prices from various vendors. If leasing, read the fine print very carefully and check for hidden charges. Better yet, have an accountant or lawyer help you understand the agreement that you will be signing.

Be prepared for the rental fees or leasing cost of your tanning salon. You need adequate space for your tanning beds, plus ample parking space for your customers. More often than not, you will need to rent space from a strip mall or some other commercial area. For rental expenses alone, you can expect to shell out between $7,000 to $35,000 in a year, depending on your location.

Operating expenses of a tanning salon business is also fairly high, given the costs of electricity, light bulbs of your tanning beds, lotion costs and other peripheral expenses.

Location is critical to the success of your tanning salon business. Do market research to determine whether your proposed area had room to accommodate your business — considering the income demographics of the residents and the number of tanning salon businesses in the area. Look at your competition, from their pricing strategies to number of employees to their hours of operation. If the competitor closes at 5 p.m. on weekdays, consider extending your hours up to 9:00 p.m. to reach the office workers who want to visit a tanning salon after working.

Another big expense is your payroll. A tanning business cannot be operated by a one-person team. You need to at least have a receptionist/secretary, and a experienced tanning bed operator/s.

It is also important to research the rules and regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on tanning businesses and how these rules could affect your business. For one, FDA requires warning labels on tanning beds listing recommended exposure schedules. You will be required to get a license with your state’s health department. Check with your state’s health department for applicable rules to the tanning bed business. In Virginia, state rules mandates several operational requirements for a tanning salon business.

Thus, given your financial situation, it is best that you hold off starting your tanning business until you have saved enough money for your capital. Be prepared to invest time and capital in the business; you may find yourself reaching the break- even in one year or more. This means that you need to have enough capital to support the business for at least two years.

Take a part-time job, if you cannot transfer to a higher paying job. In addition, make sure that you keep your credit rating in good standing. A growing number of entrepreneurs are financing their businesses through credit cards. Be forewarned, though, that this is an expensive way to finance your business and thus carries with it greater risk.

I suggest you think through your plans of starting a tanning salon business well. Research and learn about the business, until you are financially ready to start the business. Then consider whether you want to start your tanning salon business from scratch, or buy an existing business.

Good Luck!

Nach M Maravilla

Recommended Resources on How To Start a Tanning Salon Business

Article originally published in March 2000. Updated February 16, 2012

Nach Maravilla is the President and CEO of LLC. He has over thirty years experience in sales and marketing of various products, which covered as he jokingly describes, “from toothpicks to airplanes” He also had extensive experience in International trading and he always excelled in special promotional ideas for retail outlets.

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Category: Finance a Business, Q & A

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