If there’s one thing that unites most Brits, it’s the love for a healthy tan come rain or shine. But with such few days of sunshine a year, options for the general public are usually between slathering on harsh chemical concoctions or braving potentially harmful sun beds. For South Yorkshire-based entrepreneur, Danielle Wilkinson, there’s a third option. She launched her own mobile tanning service, I love a Dan Tan, for those on the look out for an ethical and allergen-free tan.
What does your business do?
I Love a Dan Tan is a bespoke mobile tanning service which operates throughout South Yorkshire. It offers a range of tanning services and products for at-home tanning. The tanning solution I use is blended to my own specification and is eco-friendly, cruelty free, paraben free, gluten free and suitable for vegans.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I have worked in the tanning industry for over 13 years, both in salons and as a representative for other businesses, providing mobile tanning services. I was inspired to start my own company after a client suggested that I should provide my own home service. It planted the idea in my mind and after receiving help and support from a programme called Launchpad which supports new entrepreneurs in the Sheffield City Region, I decided to take the plunge.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Prior to launching I Love a Dan Tan I identified that it was not always practical for clients to take time out of their day to visit a tanning salon, particularly for single parents who faced the double whammy of paying for a treatment and paying for childcare.
The salon I worked at developed a mobile tanning service, and the feedback from clients proved to be extremely favourable. Some felt more at ease and it was easier to fit their appointments around busy schedules.
How did you raise funding, and why?
Like many entrepreneurs, raising funds to launch a new business wasn’t straightforward, but I believed in my business idea and explored just about every avenue available to me. I was fortunate to be able to raise some funds from my family and used my personal card, but I recognised that the business required a significant investment at an early stage to purchase the equipment needed.
I was able to use student finance to start my company. I decided to undertake a degree in biomedical science but shortly into the course I realised it wasn’t for me
Fortunately I was able to transfer to an Executive Masters degree in Business and decided to apply what I was learning to my new business, although I wouldn’t advocate this approach to others!
Describe your business model in brief
I love a Dan Tan delivers bespoke, mobile tanning services which are affordable and accessible to all. My business model is based around supplying demand, creating franchise opportunities and selling my products to the wholesale market.
Your lowest point was…
When I was developing my business model and plan and I received my fair share of negative feedback from family and friends which deflated me and even made me question whether I was doing the right thing. Working with Launchpad gave me confidence in my business ideas and the support I received from them was instrumental to transforming my business concept into a commercial reality.
Your highest point was…
Hearing my radio advert being broadcast for the time left me feeling immensely proud. Suddenly the ideas I’d been working on for quite a long time felt incredibly real!
The support I’ve received from Launchpad has helped to my business to grow beyond even my wildest imagination, but it’s the sense of being able to help others which is a real high point. At the end of 2016 I was preparing to launch my company and today, I have secured eleven self-employed representatives, all of whom are single mothers in South Yorkshire – it’s given me a great sense of achievement knowing that my business is helping others.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Simply, just go for it! Don’t stop until you’ve got to where you want to be. Remain positive. Focus. You will receive setbacks but it’s important to learn from your mistakes and take something positive from the situation. Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy path to take but if you believe in yourself and your business, you will succeed.
In many parts of the country there is a lot of free help and support available to new business owners, similar to the Launchpad scheme in the Sheffield City Region. I would recommend doing some research and finding out what support is available in your area.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
My plans are to explore opportunities within the national and international markets, whilst staying true the values upon which I founded the business: helping to create opportunities for individuals who require flexibility in their working days to build successful careers. I would also like to use my experiences to support other would-be entrepreneurs
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…
Probably a science teacher. I studied Biomedical Science at university for a while before deciding to take the leap into entrepreneurship. Becoming self-employed was the best decision I ever made and I now can’t imagine doing anything other than being my own boss!
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
I can honestly say I wouldn’t do anything in my life differently. Like everyone, I’ve had a few regrets over the years, but I feel it’s really important to take the positives from those experiences and learn from them.
What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?
Be brave and be daring. Push boundaries and open doors. Make mistakes and instead of dwelling on them, be grateful of the life lessons they have taught you.