A few nerves have been rattled with news of the Northland’s community COVID-19 case and speculation on what this will mean for Alert Levels in New Zealand. While we are being told not to panic, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for the worst while we hope for the best, by which I mean make sure your business is ready for anything. As we learnt in 2020, it was the businesses most able and willing to flex that came out on top.

I also encourage everyone to think about how they can help to minimise risks of complacency in our communities when it comes to COVID-19. We all know the impacts of an outbreak are significant and that collective efforts to minimise risks have significant payoffs –  we experienced the benefits first hand over the Christmas period, enjoying the freedom to go about our everyday lives while our friends, colleagues and family overseas lived with significant restrictions. At Grow NZ, we encourage everyone we interact with to use the NZ COVID tracer app, practice social distancing and ensure our employees stay home if they are not 100% well. 

It’s therefore timely that this week we share an inspiring success story from one of our members, Jess Binnendyk.  We referenced Jess’ success last week and promised you more insight into her business growth story, so here it is. While her business, Tan in the City, was well established before March 2020, she was presented with a definite fork in the road when lockdown hit – shut up shop, or grow bigger. She chose the latter and, with some help from Grow NZ, is shining brighter than ever. 

Meet Jess Binnendyk, Founder and Owner of Tan in the City

It all starts with hustle

Tan in the City first started in 2012 when, pregnant with her daughter, Jess decided to quit her sales rep job and so she could earn an income whilst at home with her soon-to-be born baby.

Already passionate about tanning, Jess approached a tanning brand to work with and train under. Like most small businesses, she started small – and from her home. Her first big break came the day she offered a tanning deal via Grab One – the offer attracted some dancers and led to a tanning contract with a professional dance school that has since spanned eight years and counting.

Diversifying income streams

After becoming more established and building up a healthy clientele, Jess identified an opportunity to diversify her income stream. She approached a new tanning brand, Black Magic Tan, which, at the time, was not being managed by a NZ distributor. She asked for sole NZ distribution rights and, after getting the go ahead, opened up an additional revenue stream. She currently supplies 180 stockists across the country.

Making opportunities

In 2016, Jess replied to a call for tanners to apply for work on the Real Housewives of Auckland reality TV show. She got the role and made various guest appearances on screen. After acquiring a taste for tanning the stars, she approached the crew running Dancing With The Stars to vie for the contract – she got it and is now the official DWTS tanner.

Meanwhile, as her business continued to grow, Jess outgrew her at-home operation and moved into her first salon in Remuera in 2017.

Jess jokes “I can’t believe how passionate I am about spray tans.” 

Taking opportunities

Jess’s long-term plan has always been to have a salon in three ‘dream’ locations. First on her list was Remuera, where she opened her first salon, and second was Ponsonby, which had always had a well-established tanning salon presence. However, just before the 2020 nationwide lockdown, the two stalwart salons in Ponsonby closed and, despite the terrible timing, Jess knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. One of the closing salons had been a Black Magic Tan stockist, so Jess negotiated a deal with the departing business owner to purchase her customer database. The rest, as they say, is history.

With well-established salons now in Remuera and Ponsonby, she’s eyeing up her third location – but being a good businesswoman, she won’t tell you where until she’s got it!

Partnering with Grow NZ

When lockdown hit last March, Jess, like many others, was forced to completely shut down her business. She took the opportunity to join Grow NZ’s Zoom calls to hear Jamie’s advice on surviving and thriving in the pandemic. She liked what she heard and decided to access government-funded marketing strategy support through Grow NZ.

“The information Jamie managed to dig up about my business and industry online was insane and his understanding and expertise was impressive. I quickly realised I was in the hands of experts and was all ears” says Jess.

After polishing the SEO for the Tan in the City website and creating a targeted ad campaign to successfully boost the salon’s Google rankings, Grow talked to Jess about what the next string to her bow could be. 

“I knew the business I had just purchased in Ponsonby had room for an additional service, but  wasn’t sure what that should be. After talking with Jamie, who led a consumer-listening exercise to understand what services my target customers were searching for online, we agreed light therapy would be a great fit, so I invested in a phototherapy machine.”

As part of Grow’s investigations, the team identified that light therapy for psoriasis sufferers was an untapped need. Using this as the hook for her virtual advertising campaign, Jess managed to attract healthy new custom for her phototherapy machine, which she also uses for more cosmetic concerns, including fine lines and wrinkles. 

Data-led success

Jess says her website traffic has doubled since Grow NZ came on board to support her digital marketing and says most of her new customers are now finding her through Google.

“I credit Grow with a lot of the new business I have attracted since lockdown.  Anything Grow wants to help me with now, I’ll listen. They know what they are doing!”