Backstory: Raleigh woman turns garage hobby into shimmering new business

jmgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Tara Crncic, co-owner of Shimmer Airbrush Tans in Raleigh, cleans the hands of client Kate Rafferty after she was given a spray tanned on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.


  • Advice from Tara Crncic

    • Definitely do research before starting.

    • Make sure your finances are straight before doing anything, including construction or remodeling.

— One picture was all it took.

After seeing an image of the damage done to her skin by tanning beds, Tara Crncic gave up the ultraviolet rays and stumbled into her own business: Shimmer Airbrush Tans, a North Raleigh organic spray tan studio.

Crncic didn’t plan on starting the company. Her husband Michael came up with the idea for the business in 2012 after a constant stream of “friends of friends” came to Crncic’s garage for a little spray-on color.

“It grew from there,” said Crncic, 24. “(Michael) kind of encouraged me to get this space and start out because I had random people coming to my garage to get spray tanned. He (said), ‘This needs to grow a little and be a little more professional.’ 

In 2009, a trip to the skin care clinic where her mother work changed Crncic’s mind about tanning. She had used tanning beds so often that she was ridiculed for it, she said. So she had her photo taken with a reveal camera, which shows hidden damage caused by the sun and tanning beds.

The former daycare worker was “disgusted” by the results, she said, and started seeking out new ways to keep her color while saving her skin. She ended up with a spray tan start-up kit and a new career. She started spraying herself and experimenting with different colors and products. She eventually settled on an organic Sjolie solution that doesn’t have an odor, is sugar-based and made with walnut and aloe leaf extract, she said.

During each tanning session, Crncic has clients wear hair nets and lip balm and gives them the option of wearing nose clips. The process of spraying someone’s face, she said, takes about five seconds, and she has customers hold their breath during that time. She said the room’s fan system sucks away the excess spray. She doesn’t spray pregnant women until they’re in their third trimester and have a note from a doctor.

In 2011, she began testing her talents on her family and friends. Those people told other people. And pretty soon, she was setting up shop in her garage, she said.

“I had a passion for spray tanning,” she said.

In April 2012, Michael Crncic sold his truck and approached her with a plan for opening a space. And in May, they opened Shimmer Airbrush Tans.

“He randomly said, ‘Let’s drive around and look at places for your spray tanning (business),’ ” Crncic said. “We found the space a couple of days after that or that weekend, and maybe two weeks later, we were tearing wallpaper off and putting walls up.”

Michael Crncic, who works in construction, helped her upfit the roughly 500-square-foot place on Fairbanks Drive with new walls, new paint, a fan system and a colorful chalkboard where customers have added messages such as “I am glowing” to describe their experience.

Crncic quit her daycare job in June 2012 and now works at the studio about 15 to 25 hours a week.

She uses social media but says word-of-mouth marketing is still her best form of advertisement. Her busiest times are spring and summer when people want some shimmer for weddings, spring break, prom or graduation.

Most of her clients are women. And the best part of her job is making them feel good.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding job because I not only get the opportunity to help people feel better about themselves, but I’m also helping them protect their skin.”

Giglio: 919-829-4649

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