"My decisions didn’t come from business textbooks, they fully came from my gut. The feeling was freeing, I just knew when things felt right."
This coming from the woman who has found herself CEO of an incredibly successful spray tanning business making everyday women and men feel like their most confidant selves, as well as A-list celebrities like Courtney Cox, Kristen Bell or best friend and Agents of Shield star Elizabeth Henstridge, get red carpet ready.
I met with Valerie Mya over lunch on a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles, where it seemed the flowers and breeze knew we were getting to know each other for the first time. The patio was filled with a beautiful energy that most certainly reflected the light inside both of us that couldn't be more excited to share our histories. At the time, Valerie and I had met in a class and she had casually mentioned what she did for work. Little did I know till we had our lunch that this pixie-sized beauty was a badass boss. When she went on to share with me more about how she got to where she did, without any hesitation my wisdom jumped out of me and asked for this interview because she is an inspiration through and through. If you have ever had ANY hesitation to take the leap into a career, whether starting your own business or shifting gears into a new industry or company, and the only thing that holds you back is the idea that you don't have all your ducks in a row or know-how, read on for proof that passion, purpose and gut instinct is all you need.
Jessie: Did you know while you were growing up that you wanted to run your own business one day? If not, what did you have dreams of doing?
Valerie: As a kid/young adult I was never great at school. I had more of the creative brain - I was into dancing and acting. But the way schooling was set up didn’t really fit me, I almost failed high school. So no, I didn’t think owning my own business was a possibility. That was until I realized I was smart, I just had another way of learning (LOVE that!) Having this business has definitely helped me see myself in another light, and made me realize there are all different kinds of “smart.”
J: What was the moment that it hit you to start this business? What was the first insight and where were you?
V: As I mentioned earlier, I was into the performing arts, so when I moved from New York City to LA I needed a part time job in between the acting struggles. I worked at a few tanning salons as the main spray tan technician. I realized people requested me all the time; I didn’t really know then, but I believe I had a “thing” for making people feel comfortable - I loved making people feel good about themselves. Being a very independent type of person (I moved to NYC at age 14 on my own), I knew working for myself would be ideal. The idea of bringing this service to people just came to me (<--- WISDOM!), and I knew LA people love convenience, so I started it casually on the side not knowing if it was going to take off.
J: What did it FEEL like when you had that first gut pull?
V: People always say it’s so impressive to start a company but in a way, it always felt easy. I didn’t over think things and I just went with my gut with every decision I made. Listening to my gut made it feel as easy as brushing your teeth. Don’t get me wrong, the manual labor was hard and I had a lot of very long days/nights but when it came to making decisions, at the beginning and through out, it always felt easy.
Side note! Because Valerie didn't have pressure-filled thinking around needing to make this venture successful, she stayed out of her own way and was much more peaceful in allowing the steps to unfold in front of her and tap into her wisdom. This is absolutely possible for YOU, it just takes the simple understanding that your thoughts are the only thing getting in your way and making you believe you can't be successful. Carry on...
J: What were the first steps you took?
V: Because I started this business as kind of a side hobby at first, I started very basic. I got equipment, an email account and started spreading the word through word of mouth. After getting some routine clients under my belt I signed up for Yelp, and because I was the only company open 24/7, we were the only spray tan company to come up during late night searches. Yes, we really are open 24/7, you can get a spray tan at 2 in the morning (and yes, it happens). That really is what helped make On The Go Glow different than others and get the name out.
V (cont'd): I put in the blood sweat and tears at the beginning. From designing the website, to managing the phone calls, to spraying etc, I did it all. Being open 24/7 there was no “we are closed,” so whenever a spray came in, I stopped what I was doing and I showed up - I did that for about 3-4 years. I remember spraying from 8am to 9pm, sitting down to eat dinner and the phone ringing for another spray at 10pm. By that point I knew I needed to start hiring. (9 employees later, I think that was good idea!)
J: Did you ever have doubts at the beginning and do you ever have doubts or fears now? What makes you peaceful in those moments?
V: Honestly, at the beginning I didn’t have doubts, because it felt kind of like a small hobby. Don’t get me wrong though, once it took off and I realized “Wow, okay, this is a full blown business,” I had a moment of “Can I do this?” Like I mentioned before, school wasn’t my thing and I didn’t go to business school. But when the doubts hit me, I realized I was already doing it, I already owned a business, I just had to keep trusting myself and not over think anything. As for now? Sure! Doubts and fears always creep in. As the business grows, so many things have to change within the business, and the thought can creep up “Do I know what I am doing?” When I do have doubts and fears I always remember all the clients that keep coming back, all my employees that feel like family and who express loving working for OTGG. Everyone involved calms me and the proof of succeeding is all around me, within them and in what I have built. As scary as it can be, it’s also very exciting to see OTGG grow.
J: What do you feel your company does for people and what do you offer?
V: Whenever I hire someone I say the most important thing I care about (besides epic spray tans) is that the client feels 100% comfortable. I believe OTGG gives people a safe place to “bare it all” and look and feel amazing after. We see all walks of life and I really think we make sure everyone feels comfortable in their own skin. It's a boost of confidence that we spray - we love spreading self-love. We offer long lasting incredible spray tans that don't smell, we believe in using only healthy products on your body, so we have our own organic solution - and all in the comfort of someone’s home or hotel room (or anywhere really) 24/7.
J: Have any crazy stories to share?
V: We have a lot of crazy stories! From those very late 2am calls, to getting so close with clients that we go through marriages, divorces, and deaths with them; Spray tanning someone with cancer and having her cry after because she said she hadn’t felt so good in a long time. I have a huge list of stories, that honestly has changed my life. I am currently writing a book that will have a bunch of funny and heart touching stories and explaining the amazing connection strangers can have while "baring it all."
What is becoming a theme of my interviews with these superstar Taking The Leap entrepreneurs, is that they didn't allow any momentary doubtful or fearful thinking get in the way of them and their unfolding reality. That's it. So if you're sensing a flicker of curiosity within you to explore something new whether in work, career or relationships, I encourage you to follow it, because your thoughts (and your feelings coming from those thoughts) are the only thing getting in your way.
To close, I'll leave you with two pieces of solid advice from Valerie...
I have noticed, this year, once I took the fear of “not having money" or “will the appointments keep getting booked” away, the company really took off again. Taking away the fear (Ahem... not believing those thoughts!) has allowed the business to really flourish. Just like at the beginning when I wasn’t over thinking it.
As for taking the leap?
Do it, take the leap. Know that it may be hard work and very scary at first, but it will be well worth it. Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, don’t do it (even if the business textbooks say to). I really didn’t follow any business plan I just went with what felt right. I had a lot of people telling me “you should do this - you should do that,” but most of the time I didn’t listen. Tune into yourself, listen and trust.
TUNE INTO YOURSELF, LISTEN AND TRUST. Amen, sister.
All my love, see you next week~
An On The Go Glow technician can be booked in the Los Angeles or Las Vegas areas via their website at www.onthegoglowmobile.com