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Looking Like a Million Bucks

Jeff Bozz and Devin Haman, the founders of Sunset Tan, get real about their business.

This story appears in the August 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

OMG, remember when the Ollies totally trashed Jeff's house and Erin found out her boyfriend was, like, engaged?! If you understood any part of that last sentence, chances are you're one of the 41 million viewers who has pushed the E! network's reality show, Sunset Tan--which follows a group of drama-addicted employees at the eponymous spray-tan mecca--to the top of the cable charts. The show's stars, Sunset Tan founders Devin Haman and Jeff Bozz, are counting on the chain's pop-culture cred to put them on top of the business world as well. So far, they've franchised six Sunset Tans and plan to bring that bronze glow to 500 more locations across the U.S. over the next five years.

Can working at a tanning salon really be as dramatic as it seems?
Bozz: It's all real things happening on the show, but Devin and I are executive producers. We have a lot more control than it appears. We want to stretch the a bit and make fun of it. At the end of the day, this is our business, and people have to realize there's a serious company behind it.

Haman: We set things up to happen and see how the employees react. Any time the cameras are around, the highs get higher and the lows get lower. But sometimes the drama really becomes real.
Bozz: Most of it is alcohol-induced.

Your first deals are in unsexy places like Oklahoma, Kansas and ; does the Sunset Tan mind-set translate there?
Bozz: Everyone looks better and feels better with a tan, you know? People love the lifestyle--the Los Angeles party scene they see on the show. They want to emulate that celebrity lifestyle. They see us having a great business and having fun with it, and they want the same thing. They want to bring a little piece of Hollywood to Michigan or Kansas or their city.

Haman: What Sunset Tan is really about is VIP service for everyone. We want all our clients to feel like celebrities.

Are you afraid the infighting and dim employees on the show will frighten investors away from your franchises?
People think we're working with drama 24/7 but, obviously, if we were like that all the time, we'd get nothing done.

Haman: With any business, you're going to have problems with employees and stuff like that. Fortunately for us, the drama on the show doesn't leak into the corporate side or the of our salons. Instead, people looking for franchises say, "These guys are marketing geniuses for having a show named after their business."

You have a TV show, franchises and a swimwear line. What's next, Molly and Holly dolls?
Haman: In 2010, we plan to start franchising internationally. We've started an division, and we've talked with the producers of Baywatch. We just finished the screenplay for a $10 million to $20 million movie, a scripted comedy called Sunset Tan: The Movie that will probably start filming at the end of the summer.

Bozz: If someone would've told us that tanning would lead to TV and movies six years ago, I would've said no way. But the window of opportunity is now, and as long as we can sleep a few hours a night, let's go full force.

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