Mollie Michura on Staying Positive, Working Hard, and Making It Happen
Meet Mollie Michura! She’s the hardworking woman behind the scenes of The Glow Lounge, a luxury airbrush tanning boutique that makes getting perfectly sun-kissed skin a safe and enjoyable process. After working as a freelance sign language interpreter, Mollie made the leap into owning her own business when she was in her mid 20s. Though her path has had more curves than she initially expected, she says the satisfaction of doing her own thing has been worth it. Read more to learn how Mollie stays on top of it all and handles life’s curveballs with openness and grace.
Tell us about The Glow Lounge.
We offer customized, heated airbrush tanning services at our three metro locations. We took the basic spray tan and elevated it to a luxurious experience using an organic sugar beet-based solution and our heated airbrush system. It lets us deliver a flawless natural glow without the typical goosebumps—every time!
We serve anyone looking to have glowing skin without damaging it. Our clients are anywhere from 10 to 85 years old, and they’re very health conscious. They come to see us for all sorts of things: before important events like weddings, class reunions, baby showers or graduations; before everyday things like business trips, date nights or weekends at the cabin; or even just a little pick-me-up.
What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it?
I started off babysitting for my family doctor, but the job eventually transformed into being the family’s assistant. I took care of the couple’s two baby boys, did the grocery shopping, cleaned the house, did the laundry, and worked in the garden—a little bit of everything!
I worked for the family for four years while I was in school, and at the time, I didn’t realize how much I was learning from them. My doctor has been a huge role model to me. She is so kind and genuine, so smart and driven, yet humble and family-orientated. She’s the type of woman who feels comfortable in her own skin, which made a huge impression on me at the young age of 17. Many times we would sit and talk, and though I didn’t know it at the time, she was mentoring me—not in how to be a multi-tasking machine but how to be a strong and kind person.
Tell us about your career path before starting your own company.
I went to school to be a sign language interpreter. I was drawn to the field because I have a few deaf relatives and spent a lot of time with them growing up. I liked that the field offered the opportunity to work just for myself as a freelance interpreter. Since I was young, I’ve craved having control of my schedule. In eighth grade, I convinced my parents to let me be home-schooled, even before home-schooling was online or considered cool!
After graduating from interpreter training, I mainly worked in the education arena. The option to be a freelance interpreter appealed to me, and after three years of working at the U of M, I went full-time freelance.
I initially thought this would be career forever. I really loved the job and the fascinating situations I got to be in because of it. But eventually, I started to burn out, because it’s so physically and mentally demanding. I started dreaming about running my own business and tapping into my creative side. I went to massage school part-time, thinking that would help me break into the beauty and salon environment.
After massage school, my husband suggested buying an already-established business that I could incorporate massage into, so that I could build my own clientele. We found a tanning salon that was in need of some renovating, but it had space for a large treatment room, so we bought it!
I was 26 and had never owned a business or managed employees before. I was so nervous! Little did I know just how much time goes into all the behind-the-scenes work of a business. I had no time to take on massage clients, so I hired massage therapists as subcontractors and focused on growing the entire business—not just the massage aspect.
I knew NOTHING about the UV tanning world—nothing! So, I went to trade shows and read everything I could find online. Tanning was a popular thing to do back then, but since I’m a redhead that burns and doesn’t tan, I didn’t really use the beds. I knew we needed to find an option for people like me.
Enter spray tans! I found a spray tan machine, sprayed my husband about one hundred times until I felt like I knew what I was doing, and started taking on clients. Giving spray tans quickly became my favorite part of the business.
My road to starting the Glow Lounge was curvy and full of surprises, but I am so grateful for that journey. I had the chance to learn what owning a business is like, both the good and the bad. It prepared me to launch my dream business, and without that experience, I don’t think I would have been as successful.
Tell us the story of why and how you started your business.
There were things about the spray tan service that I wished we could do better. For instance, how freezing cold it would be for the client—definitely not a comfortable or enjoyable process. Plus, at the time, the only place you could get a custom tan was a UV tanning salon or a few hair salons. Spray tans seemed like an afterthought—just another service on the menu. I wanted to change that.
I felt that a custom airbrush tanning boutique could stand on its own. It’s a desirable service, and who wouldn’t want to tan at a place where the technician is highly trained and specializes in providing both a flawless tan and a wonderful experience?
That’s where the concept for The Glow Lounge came in. It started taking shape in 2009, and in 2010, a lot of research came out about the dangers of tanning. That changed things for me. I knew that I had to make this happen, and I needed to cut my ties with the UV tanning world—I didn’t want to have a business that didn’t promote a healthy lifestyle.
At the time, I found the spray tan machine of my dreams. It’s heat-infused, which lets me apply a spray tan without freezing my customers to death. Using the technique that I’ve developed over the years, my team and I can provide our clients with the perfect color for their skin. In 2011, I found my space in Edina and set up shop. I sold the other salon and hit the ground running at The Glow Lounge.
What is a typical day like for you?
Like all small business owners, my routines change depending on the day and the time of year. Up until last year, I was taking clients five days a week, and I would personally have about one hundred clients a week. But my goal is to keep growing the business, so I needed to step back and just work on that.
I’m in the salon two days a week now, and the rest of my days consist of meetings and taking care of operational tasks at our three locations. I have an amazing support system built into one superwoman: Krin, my manager. Because of her support, I can focus on the big picture goals.
Tell us about a hard time in your life, career or personal.
The timing of this question is interesting, because I’d have to say that I’m actually in that hard time right now. Last December, my husband and I had to say goodbye to our amazing dog, Tilly, because she had cancer. She was 200 lbs. of pure love!
About two months later, on January 30, 2017, my dad passed away. He lived in Florida, and when he got sick, I was in Hawaii. I made it to Florida and spent the last three days of his life with him. Watching him go and feeling his loss has knocked me down. I haven’t recovered yet. We had such a special connection, and I miss him more than I can explain. The experience isn’t something I talk about often; in fact, I think I’m still living in denial.
The first anniversary of his death came, and then the next day, January 31, 2018, my brother died from cancer. His battle had been long and tortuous. Watching people you love deteriorate and suffer is utterly heartbreaking, because there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
The last year has been the hardest of my whole life. I know that everyone deals with grief in their own way, but I haven’t quite figured out my way yet. Immediately after losing my dad, I lost any drive I had to work. I took some time off, and I leaned on my amazing team to keep the salons running. I swung between wanting to walk away from it all to a “push through and plug away” mindset. There’s still a nagging guilt that I am “failing” my business by taking time for myself. Honestly, the way the pendulum swings depends on the day.
But in all of this, I can say that I’ve been reminded of what’s really important. There’s a quote I saw years ago that resonated with me: “work hard and be nice.” I preach it to my team about how to act at work, but it applies to life, too. Through all of this, I’ve learned to work hard at everything: loving your people and your pets, taking care of your health, playing, resting, and being a good person. Things change. The people you love won’t always be there, and you won’t regret working hard to carve out time with them or doing nice things for them. But you may regret caring too much about non-essential things, like how your Instagram grid looks.
Oh, and always be nice. You won’t regret that either.
What advice or tips would you give to a new business owner?
A business owner needs three people supporting them. The first is a business coach. Finding and hiring a business coach was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. Plus, since my coach is also my CPA, he advises me on all things numbers and taxes.
Two, a great attorney (or two). I work with a firm that specializes in small businesses. They’re amazing! Any time I need employee contracts drafted, a lease reviewed, or legal counsel, I turn to them. I also have a trademark attorney who has protected my business’s name and products. Both types of attorneys are so important to have.
Third, you need insurance. You cannot be over-insured! Make sure that you’re getting enough coverage for your business, but you also need to cover things like liability, advertising injury, theft, and fire. I can honestly say that having all of these bases covered has saved my business more than once.
What’s next for your business?
Our overarching goal remains the same, no matter how much we grow or how many people we serve. We want to give our clients a gorgeous glow and a wonderful experience. Our short-term goals will be to develop a more active blog and stay connected to our community through partnerships and sponsoring events. In the long-term, we may see more Glow Lounge locations popping up throughout the Twin Cities. We shall see!
What do you believe is your single strongest skill that’s helped you succeed?
My determination and DIY nature. The desire to make my own path and be in charge of my schedule has been a driving personality trait since I was young. It shaped my career path and eventually led to starting my own business. When I open a new location, my husband and I do nearly all the construction and design work ourselves. I like being involved in the process of building my dreams and seeing my ideas come to fruition through hard work.
But this doesn’t mean that I’m fiercely independent or inflexible—I definitely need help! As much as I wanted to chase my goals according to my own vision, I lean heavily on a few very important people. I strive to be a leader who is also a team player.
Tell us about your life outside of your business.
It sounds cliché, but I enjoy entertaining and being with friends and family. I’m quite a homebody and love to spend time at home with my husband and our puppy, Pickle. I also love to travel. Three years ago, we purchased land on the Big Island of Hawaii, and we’ve been working on building a little home there. For now, we spend time in the winter out there and hope to move there someday.
Quick Fun Facts
What’s your favorite charity?
Melanoma Research Foundation
What age do you want to retire at?
I don’t know about fully retire—I think I’ll always have my hands in some kind of endeavor. But I’d like to slow work down around age 45.
One travel location on your bucket list?
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Definitely an introvert.
What is your favorite blog, podcast, or book?
My favorite podcast is “How I Built This.” My favorite audiobook is The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. It was life-changing, and I listen to it a couple times a year.
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