A spray tanner to the stars is pinching herself after a "better than expected" 2020, and is planning to open another salon later in the year.
Jessica Binnendyk, founder and director of Auckland spray tanning salons Tan in the City, who started the business with $400, buying her first spray tan kit and later adding another $50,000, is reaping the gains of her investment.
Binnendyk, 39, started Tan in the City when she was pregnant with her daughter in 2012, operating from the garage of her home in Remuera.
Over the past eight years the business has grown from a small home-based studio to two retail salon locations in Remuera and Ponsonby.
It is gearing up to open its third location in Takapuna in August.
Binnendyk has invested over $90,000 in the firm to date and this year revenue tripled that figure despite the salons being closed for nine weeks through the Covid-19 lockdowns.
"It's been a crazy ride but a pretty exciting one," Binnendyk told the Herald.
"I knew I was taking a little bit of a risk with the second salon in August, but ever since we went into level 1 it has been full tilt, guns blazing."
Tan in the City holds a contract with Dancing With the Stars and has a string of high-profile clients such as Real Housewives of Auckland stars Gilda Kirkpatrick and "champagne lady" Anne Batley Burton. Toy tycoon Anna Mowbray is also a regular client, along with a string of Kiwi influencers and socialites, including Anna Reeve.
It is also the official tanner of bodybuilding competition NABA and is contracted by Women's Weekly for its magazine photoshoots.
Tan in the City sold 6800 spray tans in 2020 and this year is forecast to reach 10,000.
In December alone, the business did 2000 spray tans and its numbers doubled those recorded in the same month a year earlier.
Like most small business owners, Binnendyk was scared for the future of the business when Covid first hit and the country was placed into lockdown last year. She said she had not expected her business to have bounced back as strongly as it had since then.
She estimates she works 60 to 70 hours each week on the business.
"I didn't think I would grow out of the back-side of this year. All I wanted to do was tread water as I knew if I didn't sink I would make it, but I've done better than just tread water and we've grown," she said.
During the first lockdown the business cut costs and reduced to just one part-time staff member, down from three.
Today it employs six staff and Binnendyk runs the business on her own while balancing life as a single mother. She ran the business on her own for five years before employing her first staff member in 2017. The team will grow to 10 people in August once the third salon opens.
Before setting up the business, Binnendyk worked in corporate sales.
The day Auckland moved back down into alert level 1 in September after the lockdown, the business experienced an increase in demand.
"Where I put myself and forecasted, we're triple on what I thought we would do."
She puts the success of her business in recent months down to advice she had received from her mentor through the Regional Business Partner Network programme, funded by the government as part of its Covid-19 response plan.
Through the lockdowns she continued to spend money on advertising and it was now paying off, she said. "That advice I got from my mentor was so valuable.
"Being a single business owner, working in and on the business, I'm not held accountable to anyone so it is really nice to get that advice and sound it off other professionals."
Binnendyk is hopeful to maintain recent growth through 2021 and the winter season.