Tony Hartl, Former Founder and CEO of Planet Tan and CEO of PAH Capital
Tony Hartl graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1991. Beginning in 1988 through 1994 he focused his business career goals in the fitness industry. Growing quickly, he attained the position of Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for a Health Club Chain with multi-unit responsibilities in three states managing 350 employees.
In 1995 he founded Planet Tan in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with three locations and a vision “to provide an affordable luxury where everybody can feel better about themselves”. The company grew into one of the most recognizable brands in the area and represented the premier collection of indoor mega-salons in the country.
By 2008, Planet Tan boasted 17 locations and 160 employees, and generated average per unit sales of $1 million, the highest in the country. That November, Mr. Hartl sold the company and soon made plans to travel the world.
Ariell Buckingham, NFTE Alumnus
As the oldest of five children, Ariell spent a lot of time helping to care for her siblings, and planning their birthday parties. “I got so tired of going to Chuck E. Cheese,” Ariell remembers.
So when Ariell’s high school NFTE teacher Scott Steward got her thinking about a business of her own, Ariell built a plan and launched Smile Entertainment providing safe, friendly, intimate, personalized children’s birthday parties and helping busy moms, just like her own.
Ariell’s first customer was one of her teachers. The teenager recorded the event and took photos. “It was difficult for a 16-year-old to ask people to pay me to do birthday parties in their homes,” she says. “On the first couple of parties, I lost a lot of money because I spent too much.”
But Ariell persevered and with good word of mouth her business took off and in just a couple of years Smile Entertainment has produced over 50 parties. Now a full-time college sophomore studying business, she has hired several “Smile Certified” employees who work with her to provide her full service – “from set-up to clean-up” – parties.