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High-Roof Cargo Van Turned Mobile Spray Tan Studio Fuels Entrepreneurial Dreams

With its blush pink exterior, the Blush Spray Tan Studio casts a signature silhouette as it travels across West Virginia, providing more than just spray tan services to customers.

The repurposed high-roof cargo van, purchased from Penske Used Trucks in 2021, fulfilled the entrepreneurial dreams of Amber Steele, the van’s new owner, who was motivated in part by the pandemic.

“COVID happened, and the world turned upside down, so you start thinking about how life is short and what you want to do with it,” said Steele, who operated a tanning salon business with her mother.

“My mom and I were discussing the future of the salon, and what would the business look like if she retired, and I haphazardly blurted out that I wanted to spray tan in a van,” Steele said.

Steele’s mother began an online search and found the Penske Used Trucks website. She searched the inventory and found the perfect vehicle for the studio: a high-roof cargo van.

It was spacious enough to accommodate the spray tan business but small enough to maneuver across West Virginia’s mountainous regions.

“My mom is the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to make any dream of mine come true, and she decided in that moment that she was going to make it happen,” Steele said. “Without her, none of this would have come to fruition; I am sure of that.”

After interior renovations and a custom exterior wrap, the Blush Spray Tan Studio was born. The high-roof cargo van has traveled more than 17,000 miles in the two years since it began its new life as a modern mobile spray tan studio.

Bolstered by the success of the mobile studio, Steele recently celebrated the grand opening launch of a brick-and-mortar location, which will give the van a well-deserved winter rest.

Steele developed a love for the art of spray tans and the transformative impact experienced by her clients.

“It gives clients instant confidence. They feel better about themselves and watching that happen in real time is my favorite part,” said Steele, who became a master-certified artist in 2011. “There’s nothing that I don’t love about it, and I knew early on that pursuing spray tanning as a full-time career was the ultimate goal.”

Having a mobile spray tan studio allows Steele to reach more people, but just like anything new and innovative, her new business model faced some initial challenges.

“It was rough in the beginning, building up the business and getting my name out there,” Steele said. “Helping people to understand the concept took a little more effort than I had imagined.”

“It made so much sense to me, but obviously it’s such a new concept to people who are unfamiliar with the spray tan world, but things started to pick up,” she said.

Now, Steele’s mobile studio clients include bridal parties, friends’ gatherings, cheerleading squads and high school prom attendees.

During the spring and summer – peak spray tan season, Steele’s days are spent “traveling to people’s homes,” Steele said. “I park in their driveway or workplace and make the process as convenient and easy as possible for them.”

Photo Credit: Marcellaneous Photography

Sadly, the season for her mobile spray tan studio is short due in part to the sometimes challenging West Virginia winters. When the opportunity to lease studio space just south of Morgantown and about 40 minutes from the Pennsylvania border presented itself, Steele jumped at the chance.

“I wanted to have a second option to give people a little bit more freedom to choose, and I also wanted to make sure I wasn't wearing the van down too quickly because I was definitely a road warrior this year,” Steele said.” I recognized pretty quickly that if I keep up that pace, I will not have the longevity that I’m hoping for, so I started looking for a space.”

At 200 square feet, the location is larger than the van but cozy and manageable. It has a lobby for customers, space for retail, a station to custom blend spray tan solution and a spray room.

“We're obviously in a mountainous area, so traveling to people's homes and some pretty peculiar spots, while trying to keep clients warm, would be no easy task in the winter,” Steele said. “This gives me an option to have year-round availability.”

Steele is still amazed that so many things came together to make her mobile spray tan salon dream come true. With the addition of the studio, the future is looking bright.

“My goal is to continue to grow my client base and become the go-to name for spray tans in the area,” Steele said.

Are you looking to begin your business or grow your fleet? Penske Used Trucks has a selection of light-and-medium duty trucks, heavy duty tractors, semi-trailers and specialized vehicles to choose from. Visit the Penske Used Trucks website for more information.

By Bernie Mixon