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Business model: Open a tattoo studio

Open a tattoo studio and participate in a creative industry led by Mexico in Latin America. According to Ibis World data, the country is ahead of Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Peru in terms of turnover.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. This article was updated on May 17, 2021

Emanuel Amador had been in his own Design office for more than 10 years. He was working on the image for some of the most important brands in Mexico, when he decided to change his direction to open a tattoo studio . He was not a tattoo artist and he did not know how the business worked, but he had a mix of creativity, passion and experience with previous endeavors.

Isaac Alcalá Nácar / Entrepreneur en Español

His main battle was with himself: every day he questioned the legitimacy of leaving the security of a company to undertake something he did not know. However, it was launched with everything and for everything.

The first step was learning about the business. He took advantage of his love of tattooing to learn from the strokes, processes and technique that other artists made on his skin. He began practicing on pig's feet and later, under the stage name Mawe , worked for three years in tattoo studios.

In 2018, already with a defined style, business knowledge, contacts and experience, he opened Alma Negra Tattoo Suite in partnership with his colleagues and friends Rovoe and Flash 90 .

His studio is one of the most reputed in Toluca, state of Mexico, not only because of the talent he has on the staff, but also because of the tattoo artists of international stature who come to work by appointment in what he calls his 'guest spot '.

“Every month we bring one or two artists who work by schedule. They are tattoo artists of international stature or great national trajectory who see in Alma Negra a place to capture their art. Some of those who have marched with us are Viridiana Aranda, Arturo 'The killer', Brenda Mena, Mario Villanueva, Silvana and Kelly Rico , to name a few ”, says Mawe.

And it is that if something characterizes the new studios, it is their openness to international talent that, added to the new management models and the conceptualization of spaces that make tattooing a true experience in which there are artists of all backgrounds: from designers, lawyers and engineers, even dentists, painters and plastic artists, of course.

“It is an inclusive and growing artistic movement that has great exponents throughout the world and Mexico is no exception. We are part of a global trend, ”says Mawe.

This movement represents a business opportunity around the world, where Mexico is the second largest market in America with 450 million dollars a year, only after the United States, which accumulates 1,600 million, according to the market analysis firm Ibis World .

Customer segment

The tattoo is an expression that in recent years has been resignified in front of different audiences as a means to express ideas, feelings, experiences, ideologies or desires, to name a few aspects.

It is an authentic social and aesthetic phenomenon among men and women of practically all socioeconomic strata, with the group between 20 and 45 years old being the main followers, with a peak between 25 and 35.

According to the National Council for the National Council to Prevent Discrimination, Conapred , in Mexico one in 10 people has at least one tattoo . It is estimated that 12 million Mexicans could have one of these designs on their skin.

How many tattoo artists are there? It is not known exactly, but according to some organizations of this artistic expression there could be about 6,000, which provide service in three basic channels: formal establishments open to the public, private studios or home appointments.

It is a growing market that in Mexico reaches $ 450 million dollars annually, only behind the United States, but ahead of Brazil (420 million), Colombia (190 million), Chile (150 million), Argentina (135 million) and Peru (110 million), according to Ibis World.

The market research firm predicts that this creative industry will continue to grow at an average annual rate of 7.7% per year, driven mainly by millennials (25.7% of the population in Mexico), who in a proportion of one to two choose to become a tattoo.

Value proposal

The value proposition in a tattoo studio focuses on what you promise to deliver to the consumer such as creativity, technique, asepsis, supplies, talent or facilities, among others. Whether you opt for the tattoo alone or add piercing and dilator service, it is recommended to look for a differentiator; that is, something that makes you unique and desirable in the eyes of the consumer.

Dagga Tattoo Studio understood it perfectly, so from the beginning it was conceptualized as a tattoo studio where Mexican and foreign artists converge, but also as a vinyl store and a concept store that sells musical instruments, custom hats and designer clothes. alternative whose illustrations are original by its artists.

Its creators are Marco Moreno , music producer for artists such as Natalia Lafourcade, Maldita Vecindad and Alejandro Fernández ; stylist María Hoyos and Carlos Fernández , a former EMI Argentina executive, who just over a year ago combined their love for music and their passion for tattoos with this space located in the heart of Colonia Roma, in Mexico City .

“In the studio we have delimited places for each thing. On the one hand there are the tattoo artists and on the other the vinyl collection and the concept store. Everything is designed so that the client lives a comprehensive multisensory experience in which they can even decide what music to listen to while getting tattooed with the best artists and the highest standards of asepsis and quality ”, explains Carlos.

This 'recipe' has been a success and a fundamental part of an equation in which nine out of 10 customers who take a service, come back for more.

“We started a year ago, but before we did some tests in the recording studio that we have. There, some tattoo friends were doing their art while we were working on the music. People liked the music-tattoos combo and that's how the concept arose ”, says Marco.

Like this study, make your value proposition a banner in front of your customers. For example, you can specialize in a tattoo technique (while still offering the vast range that exists), create experiences or offer an online quote and reservation system (just like Dagga does). It all adds up!

Distribution channels

The service is delivered mainly on-site , in places specially designed for the comfort of the client and the asepsis of the process. However, some take it home, which limits the guarantee of asepsis.

The service is distributed naturally in digital or online media, where social networks act as natural allies to a) win a showcase, b) quote jobs and c) manage appointments. Web pages, chats, and the phone are also helpful.

Alma Negra is considered a private studio because it is not open to the public; however, if someone stops by and an artist is available, you can get the service. Something similar happens with Dagga, which operates under online reservation and prior deposit of 500 pesos to guarantee space with the artist.

Additionally, other distribution channels are emerging, such as apps that act as digital centers where the consumer can access a bureau of artists according to their geographical location and preferences.

An example is TatuArte.Ink , an app that unites talent with consumers, who can choose the studio of their choice, view the profile of the artists, take a virtual tour of the studio and choose between various techniques. Payments are made via PayPal or by credit card for up to 12 months without interest.

The App details that the service reaches tattoo artists from 19 countries and that depending on the artist's category, it is possible to access medical insurance for up to $ 700 that protects the client against any eventuality associated with the procedure.

As you can see, technology caught up with the twist. Find a way to get on this train of the immediate and digital, without forgetting that there is a segment of clients that is still looking for studies that they can enter without an appointment.

Relationship with clients

A tattoo studio generally has three types of clients: those looking for custom or signature designs executed by a particular artist; those who carry an idea inspired by something already existing and those who want some correction / restoration.

Regardless of the type of consumer, be impeccable from the first contact: answer calls, answer messages and follow up after sales through the same channel through which it came: social networks, email, WhatsApp or telephone.

At the same time, have a code of ethics or conduct that governs the supplier / client relationship and shows professionalism and good practices in the study. The guidelines in this document must permeate all levels of the business.

A quality service is the basis of a successful consumer experience, so no effort should be spared so that the customer leaves with a smile for what was done on their skin, says Pablo Díaz, founder of Soy Feliz Estudio .

“I have been tattooing for nine years. The last few I have worked five days a week doing two to four tattoos a day, so I estimate that I have done more than 5,000 tattoos since I started. In all this time we have made an effort not only to comply with the hygiene and aseptic standards set by Cofepris, but also to work with the best materials, such as organic products that are friendlier to the skin ”, says Pablo, better known as Soy Happy.

Sources of income

Income from a tattoo studio is tied to existing business units, sales cycle, and target audience.

Estudio 184, in addition to tattooing, offers the service of piercing and selling jewelry. It also functions as a cultural space where painters, sculptors, photographers and musicians exhibit their work in exchange for a fee; as well as an alternative fashion outlet where designers leave their garments on consignment in exchange for a percentage of the sale (between 25 and 30%).

Although these services provide a differentiator for Estudio 184, its founder, Héctor Sánchez, assures that tattoos are the heart of the business and the main reason why clients come.

“The price varies according to the time required, the size, the complexity and the artist who performs it. For example, a simple two-ink design can cost 1,200 pesos, while a session of up to four hours can cost around 3,600 ”, explains Héctor, whose brand has two branches in Mexico City and one in Puebla.

TALENT . Remember to take care of your artists because they are part of the reputation of your brand / Image: Isaac Alcalá Nácar

Most studios work with a pool of creatives who tattoo by schedule. Typically, each artist does two tattoos per call and leaves the studio a commission of 30-50% of their total income. In this scheme the study provides disposables, sterile fields, facilities, inks and homoclave; while the artist puts the creativity and the rotary machine (some carry their inks).

As you can see, there are several alternatives. Analyze your opportunities and do a market study. Your finances will appreciate it.

Key resources

To open a tattoo studio you will need a space of 80 to 120 square meters in a commercial area that guarantees good vehicular and pedestrian flow and that has easy access by public transport. Ideally, it should offer internal visibility and be anchored to other related businesses such as design boutiques, barber shops, aesthetics, breweries, record stores, art galleries and restaurants.

The space must have its own identity that invites you to pass by and that in every detail reveals that it is a sanctuary to creativity. Divide it into reception, work area, sterilization area, toilets and warehouse / office equipped with quality furniture.

“At Alma Negra we are four grassroots artists and six tattoo artists in training. Add to this one or two special guests a month. The grassroots tattooists each do 30 to 60 tattoos a month, while the practitioners do two a week, approximately, ”Mawe says.

Generally, each tattoo artist charges his art according to his own criteria and those of the host studio, which usually keeps a percentage of between 30 and 50% of the billing. There are also those who offer a minimum wage to home artists and add a commission.

The idea is that each artist develops a portfolio of clients and, based on that, generates more income for himself and for the tattoo studio.

To this base of human capital, add a cleaning person and an accountant in an outsourcing scheme.

Key activities

In the daily operation , asepsis is one of the most important processes to prevent the client from contracting an infection and the tattoo artist from being exposed to contagion, explains Héctor, from Estudio 184.

Since 2004, the General Health Law has integrated a chapter with the guidelines that establishments dedicated to this activity must observe, as well as the corresponding sanctions.

Tattoo artists and piercers must comply with the Cofepris and obtain the card (valid for two years) that guarantees them to carry out these practices. You have to pay fees and fill out forms; include a curriculum vitae that specifies work experience, documents that prove knowledge of first aid, hygiene and asepsis; and present proof of Tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccination, adds Soy Feliz.

Apart from these actions, aspects such as having a procedure for handling biological waste (there are specialized companies), an internal crisis care program with a focus on first aid, and a code of ethics must be taken care of.

It is recommended to keep up-to-date in terms of techniques and supplies (expos and fairs are an alternative), be organized in terms of managing appointments and managing guests and taking extreme care of your external communication on social networks and your own site.

Key alliances

Boost the results of your study with alliances that give you visibility, reputation and customers (and of course more sales). For example, you can partner with artists to capitalize on their creations in the form of animated objects.

The idea is that those illustrations or drawings that do not reflect on a person's skin can be engraved on clothing, caps, mugs, posters, among others. The 'merchandising' maquila can run on your own, but the art is left to the tattoo artist and the profits are divided.

So does Dagga, who uses the art / drawings / illustrations of tattoo artists to print garments that are sold in the concept store. Marco, its founder, says that with this action the artists obtain greater visibility and the opportunities and profits are expanded for all.

Another option is to seek the talent to participate in the branding of a special edition of a product (for example, sports shoes, drinks, textiles, backpacks) or to create posters for a music, film or arts festival.

Dagga, for example, seeks to enter music festivals to share the brand's 'experience' with attendees, and is closing brand activations and permanently seeks collaborations with other artists. It all adds up!

Entrepreneurs in the sector advise being alert to market signals to identify possible alliances that may even occur with other studies.

“My music friends visit the studio a lot: Roco from Maldita Vecindad goes; Natalia Lafourcade and Silverio; They help me a lot with the promo. We are also going to festivals to do 'the Dagga experience', and we are very close to starting brand activations with (rum) Kraken ”, says Marco, from Dagga.

Remember to make contracts or agreements in writing, with health and compensation clauses.

Cost structure

To open a tattoo studio with capacity for six tattoo artists, a base investment of 400,000 to 700,000 pesos is required, which will be used for the rental, adaptation and decoration of an 80 square meter premises, equipment and purchase of supplies, trademark registration, permissions, website and guideline of a first digital marketing campaign.

Of these items, one of the most expensive is the one related to the premises, since the saturation of the commercial areas makes the rental price more expensive. For example, the rent per square meter in Colonia Roma, in Mexico City, ranges between 300 and 400 pesos; in the Countess, between 500 and 800; in Narvarte, between 400 and 500; and in Del Valle, between 450 and 650, according to the offer of the Propiedades.com site.

What about the adequacy of the premises? It can involve an investment of between 40,000 and 60,000 depending on whether or not you have plumbing installations (you need them to sanitize the material), the electrical installation conditions (remember that you require a lighting system) and whether or not you need to recondition the space. .

A QUALITY SERVICE is the basis of a successful consumer experience, so no effort should be spared so that the customer leaves with a smile / Image: Isaac Alcalá Nácar.

The equipment includes six reclining chairs or tables for tattooing with adjustable positions (10,000 pesos each), six tattoo benches (800 each), 1 autoclave (5,000 each), six workstations (3,000 each). ), three drawers / desks with bench (4,000 each), printer (2,700 each), a computer with design programs (21,000 each) and shelves to store supplies (3,000). Add an audio system (6,000), a closed circuit television (7,000) and a liability insurance (9,000).

To this must be added the investment in inks for home tattooists (each one can cost between 200 and 700, depending on its origin and quality), as well as hygiene, cleaning and skin care material, which is generally provided by the studio. . As for the equipment of each tattoo artist, remember that each one wears their own.

Finally, focus on installing mirrors and directed lighting in each work area (the investment can range from 20,000 to 30,000), as well as the decoration and equipment of the other areas (25,000). The reception, for example, equip it with a special piece of furniture (7,000), a high bench (700), computer (9,000), telephone line and Internet.

We recommend you take maximum care of the administration and the processes. The idea is to get a profit margin of between 35% and 40% after expenses.

If you are interested in entering the business, make a smart investment: train yourself, prepare a business plan, analyze your market and propose a value proposition. The tattoo industry awaits you!