How do you go about building an award-winning beauty brand from scratch? This month, we caught up with the fabulous founder of Tanya Whitebits, Shoned Owen, to find out just that!
The Tanya Whitebits brand has made a name for itself as one of Britains best home-grown self tanning brands. Starting out with a mobile spray tan service, Shoned has built up a unique range of products that boast high-quality formulas – no orange streaks or unwanted odours here!
Here, we chat to her about how she built up her business and made herself stand out from the rest of the market…
Where did the idea for Tanya Whitebits come from? How did it start?
So back in 2012 my full-time Sports Development work contract was funded, and we were suddenly informed that our work agreement was changing to an annual contract. I decided to pursue other options in case the funding stopped and since health, fitness and beauty come hand in hand, I naturally had an interest in the beauty Industry. I saw a gap in the market locally, as nobody offered mobile spray tanning, so I attended an accredited Spray Tanning Course in order to set myself up as a mobile tanning technician and it fitted in perfectly around my full-time work and family. The service was called Tanya Whitebits Mobile Tanning, as I wanted a fun catchy name and it was a personal catchphrase which I would refer to when tanning myself in the past. The business started as a service and side hustle. The name later became a registered trademark when the brand was born.
So the name origin is another story, in a world where the high street is on the wane, it takes some real marketing nous to keep bringing in the customers. For Britain’s small business owners, there’s long been a tradition in the UK of attracting shoppers with nothing but an ironic name and I am proud to be part of this tradition.
My pre-tan catchphrase used to be that I was going to ‘tan ya white bits’ and so the brand name reflects my personality by bringing a little fun into a fairly serious industry! I love the play on words element of the brand and the fact that it is personal to me. In fact, many people suggest that I actually change my name to Tanya by deed poll!
Although the brand ethos originated from a personal perspective from me as the Founder, the products are for everyone. They are gender neutral and contain a light Aloe Vera fragrance that isn’t considered feminine or masculine. We have different shades to suit every skin tone and our customers are varied.
What did you want to achieve with the Tanya Whitebits brand? How did you make sure it stands out from competitors?
I tried various products available on the market at that time. I found some to be orange in appearance or sticky after application and so I decided to look into developing my own signature tan. I began to explore the formulation of sunless-tan and my focus came to reality in the creation of Tanya Whitebits Professional Spray Tan Solution. I wanted the products to be vegan-friendly, plus cruelty, paraben and alcohol-free. We also developed odour neutralising ingredients to mask the fake tanning associated odour.
Related: See Our Vegan Salon Map of the UK!
What has been your standout career highlight so far?
I was very proud to be shortlisted as a finalist at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards alongside Spectrum Collections.
And what has been your biggest career challenge?
In reality, more doors closed than opened in the beginning. There can be an element of snobbery within the beauty industry. Launching an unknown brand with a name compared to ‘marmite’, with some people either loving or hating it, was never going to be easy.
In fact, early on it would have been easy to throw the towel in, but I knew I was on to something good with a winning formula – I simply needed people to try it to see for themselves.
It’s been hard, relentless, difficult and there were sacrifices and struggles along the way, but it’s worth it and I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved.
With perseverance, great testimonials, a faithful tribe and great social media engagement, I have grown through the help of my designated stockists, my fabulous customers and an online shop. I’ve learnt a lot along the way and even had investment interest from a couple of ex-global brand managers who gave me more confidence.
My highlight is getting this off the ground in the first place – I’m still pinching myself! I was never top of the class at school. I was very much middle of the road and I left school feeling a bit of a failure. I have since won Network She’s New Business of the Year Award, been a finalist at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards twice and I was also a finalist with the Chamber of Commerce Awards.
Can you tell us more about how you went about starting your own business?
I had always been interested in the Beauty industry, particularly tanning since my teens. I used sun beds throughout my twenties until the dangers of skin cancer and premature skin ageing converted me to self tanning products.
In 2012 I attended an accredited Spray Tanning Course. I did this in order to boost my income and set myself up as a mobile tanning technician, a Mumpreneur so to speak. It fitted in perfectly around my work and children. I enjoyed having control over when I was working and how much I was earning! I became an expert in spray tanning, also qualifying in 3D contour tanning.
I began to explore the formulation of self tan in 2013. Determined to remove all the barriers that were normally associated with fake tanning, my focus came to reality in the creation of Tanya Whitebits; a fast drying quality, non sticky and odour free formula.
What is your best advice for those who are thinking of starting up their own beauty business?
Choose something you love and are passionate about. Persevere, persevere, persevere and don’t give up. Get as much advice and support as you can and run with it.
Do you think attitudes towards tanning as a beauty treatment have changed over recent years? If so, how?
Definitely with tanning as the dangers of skin cancer and premature ageing skin are more prevalent than ever. Buyers are also more conscious of vegan and cruelty free products and I welcome the movement to stop animal testing on beauty products in china so things are still changing for the better.
What are your thoughts on how social media has impacted the beauty industry?
Social media has transformed the industry and given brands an unbelievable visual platform. The influencer community has boomed and there’s more to come. It’s very exciting but also paramount for any brand to be out there amongst the wonderful world of social media.
What is next for your career through 2019 and beyond?
We look forward to expanding our product range and expanding our stockist list and brand awareness via our trade partners Salons direct.
Shop our range of professional spray tan products online today!
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