OATS SLO is an organic airbrush and tanning salon based in California’s beautiful central coast. Since opening their first location in San Luis Obispo in 2015, they’ve opened a second location nearby and hope to further expand with a third. OATS offers clients airbrush tanning, as well as other beauty services such as lash lifts & tints, cryotherapy. They also produce their own at-home tanning product line for customers. 

On a recent visit, we sat down for a chat with OATS owner, Haley Murphy. Haley’s business sense, work ethic and self-belief made it possible for her to turn a mobile tanning side hustle into a full-time business that she has expanded beyond what she thought possible.

Photos by @Oats_Slo
Photos by @Oats_Slo

V: What inspired you to start your business? 

H: I started out by spray tanning on the side for extra cash while working for my dad as a dental assistant. I quickly realized that I could make more money by turning my spray tanning side gig into a business. Bottom line, I want to make people feel beautiful. I love making people feel pretty with the use of natural beauty products. 


V: What does OATS stand for?

H: Organic Airbrush and Tanning Salon. I used this name because the tanning solution I use is DHA-based. It’s derived from sugar beets, which react with our natural amino acids to oxidize and stain the skin. I don’t add any preservatives, parabens or fragrance. I go through the solution so quickly that there’s no need for additives.

It’s worth it for me to spend more money to provide my clients with a higher end & better quality product. 

Wall of tanning mousse at OATS SLO tanning & airbrush salon
Photo by @Oats_Slo

V: Starting your own small business can come with many challenges. Did you ever consider quitting or stopping? 

H: Absolutely not. You have to want it and you have to know it’s not just going to happen overnight. I was willing to give it my all. Nothing was going to stop me until I reached my goals with this business. People called me crazy for opening a tanning salon but I just knew in my heart that there was a market for it and that I was going to make it work. 


V: What are the hardest parts about owning and operating your own small business?

H: Not having luxuries like paid time off, sick pay, maternity leave and promised benefits. 

I rarely have time for anything other than my business. I am always fully booked and put a lot of time and heart into OATS. But there are also a lot of benefits to that! 


V: What are the best parts about running a small business?

H: I have the freedom to make my own schedule, work when I want to, and I get to be creative. 

As a business owner, I also have more flexibility and opportunity to grow, as opposed to working for someone else and waiting for a raise from a company. The sky is the limit when you have the flexibility to expand your business as much as you desire. 

V: What is your favorite service that you offer? 

H: Definitely tanning because that’s how it all started for me. I love it because it’s instant gratification; I can fit in four clients in an hour and can immediately see them looking more confident. I feel good knowing that what I do is much safer than going out in the sun and risking sun damage. It doesn’t put your health at risk. 

Woman being spray tanned at OATS SLO tanning & airbrush Salon

V: What do you spend time doing when you’re not busy working?

H: I love to spend time with my husband, my three dogs and ride horses!  


V: Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners?

H: If you’re good at what you do, love it and believe in it, it’s going to work. Aside from that, my advice is to have a mentor you can go to with questions and for support. Have people you can lean on, and don’t give up even if it’s slow at first. Your mind is a powerful thing and if you doubt yourself, you’ll take the easy way out. Sticking with it until you see success is so worth it.  

Photos by @Oats_Slo
Photos by @Oats_Slo
Photo by @Oats_Slo
Photo by @Oats_Slo