May 4th, 2020
This week we speak to the inspirational Stacey Smith, who launched Laex Tan in 2016 with just £245 and now has over 200 franchises nationwide as well as shelf groaning under the weight of awards. We asked her about starting her own business, juggling her many commitments and accessing business help through The Prince’s Trust as well as her plans for the future.
What’s your background and what brought you into tanning?
I came from a corporate background working in banking and my last job before I set up my business was as a Credit Control Manager. I decided to change career as, essentially, I wanted more flexibility in a job. It was important to me that I could be at home with my children as well as working to provide for my family. However, it needed to be something with a simple, low cost set up. I came across a local spray tan course and I haven’t looked back
You started as a spray tanner before becoming an instructor – how did you make the leap? What was the impetus for the change?
I had lots of other technicians asking for my help and wanting to know what I was doing so differently to them as I was always busy.
I completed an intense teaching course and then found an insurer who would accredit my courses and insure me to offer them to students. It was a complicated process and time consuming but was very worthwhile.
What were the first steps to setting up your tanning product range and what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
The first step was to find a chemist or company whom I could work with and who understood exactly what I wanted from my own tanning product range. I needed to look at the longevity of the business relationship and other factors like:
- Could the factory cope with demand?
- Was the factory happy and open to try new things and help my business grow?
- What were their payment terms?
- What were their minimum order quantities?
My advice for other entrepreneurs is to map out all of your financials before jumping into anything. You need to ensure you forecast your figures correctly before embarking in the big wide world of cosmetics.
What did you want to achieve with your product line? How long did it take you to create and develop the concept from start to finish and bring it to market?
Originally, I just wanted to say that “I tried and I did it” and there was no real plan back then. I just went with my heart and it was the next natural step for me at that time.
The tanning company I was using originally for my wholesale orders wouldn’t give me any discounts on the solution, even though I was bulk buying and spending £400-£500 per week on solution for my customers. I guess that gave me the nudge to start my own line of products. The job from start to finish took me 23 intense weeks!
Your professional range was really successful – was it an obvious move to then create a retail line as well?
Absolutely! Again, the natural follow on was to create something that would be sold direct to the consumer. There’s a lot of women out there who don’t like having a spray tan, for various reasons including body insecurities, and I wanted to cater to them and make them feel amazing.
What’s your favourite of your own products? And is there a product you wish you had created?
My favourite product would have to be the clear spray tan solution and the reason revolves around my two children. I have spray tans every other week, but I don’t like my children knowing how often I tan. I want them to love themselves for who they are, especially my eldest daughter who will soon be entering her teenage years. I don’t want them to think that tanning every other week is something that they have to do to look a certain way. I do it as it makes me feel good. So, to try and cover my frequent tanning up, I use the clear solution as it doesn’t stain clothing or bedding. My white sheets stay white, my husband doesn’t complain, and my kids are none the wiser.
You’re a mum to two young children as well as a carer, how do you manage to juggle those commitments with running a business?
I’m no longer a carer as my dad sadly passed away in 2017 but when I did care for him full time, it was very hard!
Before I was in a fortunate position to hire staff, I would sometimes start packing customers’ orders at 4am so I could wake the kids up at 7am for school and nursery and then care my dad as soon as I’d dropped the kids to school.
It was a very crazy period in my life, but it has made me appreciate everything I have and the journey that my business has taken from the start. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve wanted to give up, but I’ve come way too far for that.
Last year you become a Youth Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust. How did the Trust help you and what does it mean to you now being an inspiration for other young people?
The Prince’s Trust are an amazing establishment to be involved with and they have helped me so much in many ways. Firstly, they give me the confidence to do anything. Absolutely anything is achievable at the Trust and they pretty much support any idea that I have.
The Trust helped me write out my ideas and make my ideas a reality. I work closely with my mentor on a monthly basis and he helps put my ideas to paper. Together, we make it work.
My role as a Youth Ambassador allows me to give back something to others that need it. If I can help one youth or inspire them in any way, that will make me happy.
It makes me happy that a young person with a dream will read my story and will be inspired by it. I’d like to know that if my children wanted some inspiration outside of their home and family life, they could turn to another successful entrepreneur for guidance.
Did you ever expect your career to be this varied? What is next on the horizon for you?
Absolutely not! I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I started if I’m honest. Although, I did say to my husband that I’d be happy to earn £300 a month doing a few spray tans.
We have exciting plans in place and new product launches in 2020 and 2021 which we’ve been working hard on. There is something amazing coming for Laex Tan in the next 12-16 weeks which will hopefully change many spray tanner’s lives. We can’t wait to reveal this soon!
We spoke to Stacey before lockdown took effect, but she has been swift at changing her business practices to fit the current situation. She is delivering training online and ensured her team have plenty of stock they can dispatch to clients to keep them tanning at home.