My Biz: Eastern Iowa airbrush tanning entrepreneur has skin in the game

Owner of Your Tanning Bar hopes to have three locations soon

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CORALVILLE — Leslie VanBogart always wanted to own her own tanning business.

But rising concerns about the industry and VanBogart’s own skin cancer scare led her to seek a healthy way to get glowing skin.

“I went to California to get certified to do airbrush tanning and realized I needed to bring this back to Iowa and give it a whirl,” she said.

In 2011, VanBogart began offering mobile airbrushing services in Iowa City while still in business school at the University of Iowa. She has been in her current Cedar Rapids location on Blairs Ferry Road for the past three years.

One of her biggest challenges, VanBogart said, is helping consumers understand how an airbrush tanning bar is different from other tanning options.

“We often get lumped in with spray booths, but we are nothing like that. We don’t have any beds or booths here,” she said. “We like to say this is how you get your tan on, the healthy way. This process is healthy, all-natural and organic.”

VanBogart does a little bit of everything. “I like to joke that I am the plumber and the A/C guy,” she says. “I am very hands-on with my business and am in one of the salons every day.”

VanBogart says a lot of her marketing and outreach is spreading awareness about the benefits of airbrush tanning, especially to teens.

“I love educating teens about how hazardous to your skin and health tanning beds are,” she said. “And I’d love to help get a law passed in Iowa that no one under the age of 18 can be in a tanning bed. I have a feeling that in something like 10 years all the tanning beds will be gone. Airbrushing is really the future.”

While appointments are encouraged, VanBogart said they always accept walk-in customers. Every Tuesday, for example, features a $20 airbrush tan special.

Your Tanning Bar is membership based, VanBogart said.

“And we have three solutions we can use,” she said. “Our new anti-aging tan has been a huge hit with our customers.”

VanBogart said they also offer an express solution, which develops quickly if a customer has an event they need to attend that evening.

Each airbrush tan lasts about seven to 10 days. The initial process, she said, takes about ten minutes.

“This is extremely quick,” VanBogart said. “The technology is really amazing. Each tan is customized to the client’s skin tone.”

VanBogart said Your Tanning Bar is currently the only exclusively airbrush tanning salon in the state of Iowa. While some aestheticians at various salons and spas around the state may offer airbrushing as a service, Your Tanning Bar is a stand-alone facility that only focuses on airbrush tanning.

VanBogart said she does have to coach clients on getting over the naked factor. “We are really only in the room for 60 seconds.”

VanBogart said that they serve wine and have a small fireplace in each treatment room to make clients feel more comfortable. Customers can go nude or wear a bra and underwear or their swimsuit during their treatment.

VanBogart works with a team of five part-time employees to now serve customers in two Corridor locations. She said her goal is to have three locations by the time she is 30 years old. With the opening of her Coralville location just two months ago, she is on track.

“I just turned 28 so I’d love to look at having a location in Des Moines,” she said. “Airbrushing is still new to the Midwest and I just feel like now is the time to expand.”

While students don’t make up a huge percentage of the clientele, VanBogart has come up with a student discount and hopes to grow that customer base. She said they have a lot of professional women and stay-at-home moms who are Your Tanning Bar’s bread and butter customers. Despite what many would assume, Your Tanning Bar’s busy season runs from the end of February to October. “Of course, we are always busy around the holidays.”

“Everyone that walks out of here is happy,” she says. “Sometimes you just need a little pick me up and there’s something about having a tan that makes women especially feel good. This job is very rewarding in that sense that we are making people happy.”

AT A GLANCE

  • Name: Leslie VanBogart
  • Title: Owner
  • Company: Your Tanning Bar
  • Address: 1719 Second St., Coralville and 600 Blairs Ferry Rd., Cedar Rapids
  • Phone: (319) 351-3171 or (319) 393-1882
  • Website:www.yourtanningbar.com

l Know a company in business for more than a year that would make an ideal My Biz? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com

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