Leslie Epstein is the owner of Your Tanning Bar, the first exclusive airbrush tanning salon in Iowa. (It is even featured in the 2020 Iowa Holiday Gift Guide, seen here.) Your Tanning Bar currently has locations in Cedar Rapids and Coralville. Learn about Leslie Epstein…
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
First job: Receptionist at a local tanning salon.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in IA: Kayaking, hiking, playing tennis, shopping our local boutiques and enjoying our local bars and restaurants with family and friends.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: This is a hard one! I have so many aspirations to accomplish still. Being only nine years in business, I have a lot of dreams to still come to fruition. I would say getting through this year alone, going through a complete shut down, navigating survival when your operation is completely shut down. Still standing proud, knowing we will get through this, is one of my greatest accomplishments. You can shut me down, but I will get back up!
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Easily 2020 as a year, hands down. I will never forget the feeling of turning off my open sign on March 18. Being told to shut down for the greater good, I was shutting my dream off, my livelihood down, knowing shutting off that sign meant so much more and the fear of what was to come. It was a feeling I will never forget, and a feeling that keeps me going to this day. Being completely shut down spring break week, the time of year when we thrive and make up for slow season, realizing you are about to have zero revenue and high overheads. Bills, rent, salaries, employees’ livelihoods and a five-figure overhead were waving at me daily. We are still to this day, like many small businesses in our community, only at 50 percent capacity even six months after reopening, but I am proud to say we are open. It’s an obstacle every day and each week is so different. I never wanted to call myself an entrepreneur, it’s a title that to me exceeds my doings. After this year, I may just give myself that title.
Someone who inspires you and why: Alli Webb, founder of DryBar. We have similar concepts, only her’s is the hair industry. We started our ventures at nearly the same time. She has grown her empire in a decade’s time, expanded nationally and developed a brand that is true to her. Her growth has inspired me so much to grow myself.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Hire your weakness. Never think you can do it all because even if you can, someone out there can do it better. You will thrive by hiring experts where you lack in. Realizing your own weaknesses is what makes you grow.
Favorite quote: It’s cliché but this Steve Jobs quote, hands down. “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I started this business after college, 21 years old, working as a server trying to figure out life. I was also “working” for a pharmaceutical company as a commission-based-only sales rep, which meant no sales, no income—in my case, no income! I was selling something I didn’t believe in or have a passion for. I would bring my portable spray tan machine and spray tent with me in my car to my meetings and hand out business cards. I started getting calls back, not for the medical software I should’ve been selling, but for spray tans. I would tell my boss at the time I had meetings at certain doctor’s offices, which I did, little did she know I was spray tanning them instead of selling the medical software she thought I was. I started this business out of the backseat of my car.
What makes someone fabulous: Confidence not cockiness. Humble but very driven, a go-getter. Knowing and living your true self.