Whitney Kelly: SMU alum keeping Dallas tan

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Lean and mean behind a spray tan machine, Whitney Kelly is a self-starting entrepreneur. Ask any SMU sorority girl on campus with a glowing tan, chances are they’ll know her name. After five years of perfecting her technique and growing her own business, Gloww Tan, Kelly has developed a loyal clientele and distinguished reputation in the Dallas area.

Gloww Tan is located in a room specially designed, built, and added on to the first floor of Kelly’s modern townhome in Dallas’ Knox-Henderson neighborhood. Walk in the door to Gloww Tan and you’ll be warmly greeted by an enthusiastic, four-legged receptionist, who takes a quick sniff before cuddling against them for an obligatory pat. This is Dylan, Kelly’s German Shorthaired Pointer.

An Illinois native, Kelly enjoys living and working in Dallas because of the connections and networking.

“Everybody knows everybody here – so if you’re starting your own business, the word of mouth benefits are great,” Kelly said.

After graduating from SMU’s Cox School of Business in 2006, Kelly dove into the professional world. But her aptitude for business didn’t just begin once she received her diploma.

“I was always entrepreneurial as I was growing up,” Kelly said. For as long as she can remember, she liked to help out around her uncle and grandfather’s Oldsmobile car dealership.

“My uncle always had this joke that if he were to pass along the dealership to anyone in the family, it would be me – even at eight years old,” Kelly said.

Her warm smile and comfortable, conversational disposition make it easy to get to know Kelly.

As she spoke about her impressive past as a business-oriented youngster who evolved into the diligent business-owning young woman she is today, she also shared how her mother, Charmayne Kelly, a successful Radiation Oncologist, passed away from a brain tumor during Kelly’s junior year of college at SMU.

Kelly said she inherited her ambition and drive from her mother. It manifests in her entrepreneurial independence. “I used to tell my friends that I’d have my name on a building one day,” Kelly said, “I think I was kind of made to work for myself.”

I asked Kelly how exactly she found herself in the spray tan business and she flashed a smile.

“Well, it started when I got a spray tan and hadn’t had one in forever,” she said. For a long time, spray tans were stigmatized as having an unpleasant odor and looking too orange to be natural, but over the years the formulas have improved – even offering organic options.

“I was like, this is actually amazing! I’m tan, I look good, and it doesn’t smell,” Kelly said. “I thought, wow, this could be a good business idea. I just kind of taught myself with a few training sessions and watching videos.”

In the days leading up to Greek formals and Boulevards, Kelly has SMU girls lined up for every 15-minute time slot she has to offer in a working day.

“I wouldn’t trust a tan from anyone else,” Allaire Kruse, an SMU junior and loyal customer of Gloww Tan said. It isn’t unusual to overhear students compliment how tan another looks, to which the response is usually, “Oh, I went to Whitney!”

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