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San Clemente Journal

Second Chance at the Road Not Taken

May 05, 2005 02:29PM ● By Don Kindred
By Don Kindred

I’ve always believed there were only two kinds of people in the business world. Those who were born to work in the corporate environment, and well, those who weren’t. One group represented the hired hands of business, to whom the structure and goals of the company provided a safe and concrete path to success. And the others were entrepreneurs; the few, the proud, the admittedly off-center who not only preferred to struggle for their own goals and work in a structure of their own design, but were bold enough to personally accept the consequences of their own decisions.
This is the story of two San Clementeans who have found success on both paths. One left a 20-year career in the medical industry to retire, now he’s opened four upscale tanning salons in 10 months. The other helped build the largest Property Management business in the state, retired, and has now opened her second boutique on Avenida Del Mar. Each left behind long, productive careers with all the comforts of corporate America, using their experience to create new, unrelated businesses and joining the ranks of the self-employed.

Irradiation Expert Opens Fourth Tanning Salon

    Don Segal is an Erie Pennsylvania native who graduated from Clarion University in 1981 with degrees in Marketing and Accounting. He began his career in the Medical Industry with AMSCO, a leader in medical sterilization and who was later acquired by Steris Corporation. During his 17 years with Amsco/Steris, he and his family were transferred around the country as he quickly rose through the management ranks. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a new Division the company was starting on the West Coast which brought the Segal’s to San Clemente in 1991. Since his territory was the entire country, he had a wide area from which to choose a home but after visiting some old friends in San Clemente, he new this was the place to be. After a lengthy career at Steris, he was recruited to a small company that had an innovative sterilization technology using pulsed light where he helped commercialize their technology. 
    But Don Segal’s big opportunity came at the end of 1999, when his experience in the sterilization field led him to take a chance as an Officer for a start-up company called SureBeam. They had an irradiation technology that was used on medical devices but Don was hired to create a market for the technology in the food industry. Unlike other irradiation methods, SureBeam’s unique process used ordinary electricity to kill bacteria in meats and other foods in less than a second. “In the United States alone, over 100 people die every week from foodborne illness and SureBeam had a great technology that could prevent that”, Don explained, people die from just eating a hamburger that wasn’t cooked right”.
    After successfully launching the technology in the U.S., Segal soon became a recognized worldwide speaker on food irradiation. His mission was to educate the governments and people in other countries where the problem was far greater. Now with the entire earth as his market, travel became a way of life.
    “I was spending 90% of my time traveling around the world and it became exhausting,” he commented.
The hard work and time away from home paid off. The process proved so successful that the company launched an IPO and went public in 2002. Segal decided that he was tired of traveling and that it was time to cash out and begin to relax. The theory was good, but at 42 years old, Segal new that he wasn’t quite ready to sit completely idle either. 
    “That’s just not me”, he says, “I started looking for something to do, hoping to find a small local business that I could run with my family as the kids were in high school.”
    The family looked at many different existing and new businesses including a Honey-Baked ham franchise. We were looking for “just something small where the kids could earn some money instead of us just giving it to them”.
    He stumbled across tanning and recognized that there was a market for an upscale tanning boutique which offered the highest and safest tanning equipment available. He designed and opened Unique Tan in February of 2003 in Plaza Pacifica, between Lowes and Wal Mart. 
    “Everyone feels better when they have a tan – it’s a feel good business”, Segal remarked. Shortly after they opened there first boutique, Segal aggressively expanded and had four locations within 10 months – San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo. A key strategy with the expansion was to create a chain where members could use any location. Our customers like to tan at one location next to their work on their lunch break but don’t want to drive on the weekends. Multiple locations provides a convenience for my customers”, Segal commented.
    The fourth and largest Unique Tan boutique opened in February 2004 in Mission Viejo and is the largest tanning boutique in Southern California with over 3500 sq. ft. The Mission Viejo facility has 6 levels of beds including the Nations first tanning bed that exercises you while you tan. But Unique Tan is best known for there own 100 % UV free spray tanning solution which Segal created called Unique Excellence. This proprietary solution contains products that provide a more natural looking tan along with the first ever tanning solution with collagen which not only firms your skin but hydrates it to make the tan last longer.b

Profile: Don Segal
Business: Unique Tan , Tanning Salons (4 Locations)
Previous Field: Medical Sterilization
Wife: Lori
Children: Lindsay 19, Mitch 18
What do like the best about the change? 
“I used to travel the world and be gone for weeks at a time while educating everyone on safer foods. It became extremely hectic. Now, I travel no more than 20 miles to my furthest location. Opening Unique Tan also provided a place of employment for my children and a few of their friends.”

What do you like the least? 
“We’ve grown quickly and now have 23 employees which creates a few training and scheduling difficulties for our managers.”

Biggest Surprises? 
“How we were able to gain considerable awareness for Unique Tan in such a short period of time. We are now considered the fastest growing tanning company in Southern California. I am also surprised at how many people love to tan!”

Biggest Challenges? 
“Working with different city requirements in building our facilities. Additionally, trying to figure out the seasonality of the business.

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