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I'll Follow the Sun

Who would have thought of the Great White North as a tanning hot spot?

Elaina Wonnell believes in the benefits of tanning, both for stress relief and to give the skin that nice bronze tone, and she had a feeling her Fabutan franchise would be a hit in her warm but beachless community of Cambridge, Ontario. "It was an opportunity of a lifetime," says Wonnell, 45. "I knew this was a gold mine."

It seems Wonnell's hunch has paid off. The Cambridge salon operates six tanning beds for 15 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet demand. "I could put in a seventh [bed] and [still] be booked solid from 8 in the morning until 10 at night," she says.

With a growing client base of about 4,000, Wonnell is hard at work creating a tanning mini-empire. She hopes to open two new Fabutan salons this fall and intends to own several more.

Operating a string of franchises will be a change of pace for the hands-on Wonnell, but a strong staff and Wonnell's constant availability should make the transition smooth. "I can run my salon over the phone and via fax. I don't even need to be here. My staff is as capable as I am," she says. "They're so well-trained, they can run this with no problem at all."

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This article was originally published in the August 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: I'll Follow the Sun.

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