PARAMUS, N.J.– Tracy Gough of Paramus was juggling three jobs and studying at Bergen Community College when she decided to make the decision that would ultimately change the entire course of her life.
At 21 years old, Gough dropped out of school and opened a mobile, organic airbrush-tanning business — After Dark — instead.
The inspiration for After Dark came during a camping trip with friends.
"'Why can’t a tan be luxurious again, affordable, but also look good?'," she wondered. "I wanted to build a brand that stood for being healthy and looking your best."
At the time, MTV's "Jersey Shore" was a big hit and Gough was admittedly repulsed by the "orange" Garden State tan stereotype.
She rattled off some ideas and, about a week later, Gough approached her father with a binder containing her business plan.
He gave Gough $1,000 to kickstart After Dark, which became an LLC shortly after.
"I travel to people's homes with a kit and pop up tent," said Gough, 25. "I travel all through New Jersey and all of New York."
She makes the solution herself: a mix of water, wheat and soy extracts and sugar cane.
What makes it organic is the lack of paraben — a chemical used in cosmetics, shampoos, moisturizers, and other products, Gough said.
"I never studied business," said Gough, who recently moved to West Nyack, N.Y.
"I never even had thought in my mind that I would go into business. But here I was registering an account with my local bank and spending hours in front of the computer creating spread sheets," she said.
Despite that, Gough, 25, felt like she was "completely in over my head."
She kept a full-time job at a hospital, which she worked during the day, and built her tanning business at night.
"I’ll never have a normal schedule," Gough said. "I work around the clock."
But her clients keep her going.
"They were my most honest form of feedback," she said. "And most clients have stuck by me since the day I opened."
The next step is opening a storefront within the next two years and have a full-line of men's and women's products for 2018.
Gough doesn't plan on stopping there.
"By 2023, my goal is to have a ‘do-it-yourself’ line tanning kits for households," she said.