A one-of-a-kind mobile beauty salon will be hitting the streets of Ypsilanti and surrounding areas later this year.
The project kicked off May 23 when Ypsilanti resident Alana Connolly, 34, and her friend Shelly Gordanier, 32, of West Bloomfield decided to purchase an old school bus with the goal of transforming it into a mobile beauty salon.
The Beauty Bus, as it’s being called for now, is the work of two single moms who want to prove anyone is capable of achieving his or her dreams.
“This is a women’s empowerment thing,” Connolly said in an interview with the Echo. “We’re two women who raise our children completely on our own without involvement from the fathers. We want to show other women that they can do this.
“We scraped together everything we had for that bus … We want to use it to empower women to let them know that no matter how down you are, you can always live your dreams. Anything is possible.”
When the ladies bought the bus for $2,200, a good amount of work had been put into it. The previous owner intended to convert it into a mini-home and had already installed insulated flooring, a brand new max fan and solar panels.
However, when he had to move out of state and put the bus up for sale, his loss quickly became Connolly’s and Gordanier’s gain.
“We had to get it,” Connolly said. “Right now Shelly is a dog groomer, and I do spray tanning (through my business Ann Arbor Sunless Tanning) and we were talking about going into a partnership and starting a stationary location out on her side of town. But then I was like, ‘Why don’t we get a bus instead of paying rent and then we can go to the money (the customers).’ It markets itself.”
Once on the road, the Beauty Bus will be hard to miss. The plan is to have it painted bright pink to fit the desired theme of glitz and glam.
“We want it over the top and really luxurious,” Gordanier said. “I think being over the top and gaudy is really good for catching people’s eyes. It’s not just going to be a pink bus, it’s probably going to be glittery pink, just to be a little extra loud.”
As for the inside of the bus, Connolly said she would like it to be painted a deep purple color with a gold accent. She also envisions a gold glitter ceiling and dark wood flooring. The ultimate goal is to have the bus be luxurious, yet comfortable.
“You won’t even know it’s a bus once you’re inside,” she said.
The bus will also come equipped with a mini bar and a small kitchenette where guests can grab a cup of coffee.
“We’d like to serve coffee and all those little comfort items you get when you go in a salon,” Gordanier said.
A variety of beauty services will be offered through the bus, including spray tans, makeup application and facials with the ladies’ own skincare line made with natural ingredients.
“Obviously funding is an issue because we’re two single mothers, so we broke it into phases,” Connolly said. “Phase one will be makeup, skincare and tanning. For phase two we would like to do nail and hair services and maybe some skincare services like waxing.”
Spray tans are Connolly’s forte. Since opening her business Ann Arbor Sunless Tanning in 2014, Connolly has grown her clientele all over the state. Now people drive from as far as Flint and Lansing to get a spray tan from her.
Connolly, who spray tanned Marysville native Heather Kendrick before she won Miss Michigan in 2017, said her clients are excited about the launch of the Beauty Bus.
“They’re all super excited,” Connolly said. “They’re all like, ‘We can’t wait! We want to book a party,’”
Andrea N, a client of Connolly’s for the past two years, said she looks forward to seeing the end result.
“I have been spray tanned by Alana many times and each time she has been amazing,“ she said. “When she told me about her newest business adventure I was so excited. I can’t wait to see it all come together and be one of her first customers on the beauty bus! I’m so excited and happy for her.”
The Beauty Bus will be available for booking at events such as birthday, bridal and prom parties. While details are still being negotiated, the bus will likely drive anywhere within a 30-mile radius from Ypsilanti, with an extra charge for anything farther.
Connolly and Gordanier would also like to park the bus in different locations as a way to draw people.
“We can take it to gym parking lots or in parking lots in downtown Ann Arbor,” Gordanier said. “I think gym parking lots are going to take off a lot. We’ll be parked outside, almost like a mini-festival, and we’ll set up a grill and have some music on.
“People coming out of the gym obviously care a lot about their appearance … we’ll blow out $20 spray tans that day just to get people interested in it.”
Making people feel beautiful in their own skin is something Connolly and Gordanier hold to a high regard. The beauty bus is another avenue that will allow them fulfill that passion.
“I like making people pretty and making women feel good,” Gordanier said. “There’s really nothing better than that … I love everything about lifting women up and making them feel pretty is just one of those things.”
Added Connolly: “It feels good to make people feel good. They come out smiling and feeling like a new woman, and that’s a good feeling to give people.”
The next step in the renovation process for the Beauty Bus is framing the inside followed by electrical work and insulation.
Although funds continue to be an obstacle, the hope is to have the bus on the road by September.
“We’d like to get it done as soon as possible and as economically as possible,” Gordanier said. “It honestly depends on funds—that’s it. We’ve got the motivation to get it on the road right now.”
Connolly estimates the cost of renovations, including professional labor and materials, to be around $5,000. The ladies have started a GoFundMe to help offset some of the costs. Donations of any kind are also welcomed.
While Connolly understands the concept of the Beauty Bus is different from that of a typical business, she is excited to share this project with the Ypsi community.
“It’s definitely unique and different,” Connolly said. “Of course when you start any new business you get some backlash . . . but we stand firmly behind our idea. We want our customers to be comfortable and we want to offer flexibility, be consistent and offer good quality services and a fun experience.”