Soul Canvas Ink was founded in 2009 by Kin Liu, a talented tattoo artist and beard enthusiast. His creativity coupled with his business flair lead him to open a tattoo studio in the heart of Denver.
When Kin founded Soul Canvas Ink more than 13 years ago, he was already a well known artist in his area. That’s why not even a week after the opening of the studio, Kin’s first apprentices Evelyn and Alex, knocked on his door asking him to take them under his wing.
To this day the trio thrives together unleashing their creativity on body canvases as well as online – in Soul Canvas Ink’s blog.
Challenges in the tattoo industry
Ever since Kin attended his first tattoo fest in his teenage years with his dad, he knew that one day he would become a tattoo artist. Therefore opening a tattoo studio came only natural to him. He has been improving on his techniques for years while he was an apprentice in a studio downtown. So talent wasn’t something he lacked.
But having your own business comes with its pros and cons. Being a talented artist isn’t enough to prepare you for the challenges of managing a tattoo business. And Kin was quick to realize that he has to adapt. Here are some of the challenges that his business experienced since its opening.
One of the first obstacles that Kin faced in the beginning of his business journey was the competition. There are many tattoo studios out there and in order to attract clients, he had to do better work than most. But Kin also realized the benefit of having your own unique style. So he didn’t focus on attracting just any clients – only the right ones.
He did that by developing his blog along with Evelyn and Alex. By sharing their knowledge with the world online they were able to reach the right target audience. Along with creating beautiful art they managed to cultivate an online community.
Was there competition along the way? Yes. But did they manage to make a name out of Soul Canvas Ink’s brand while disregarding the competition? Also yes.
One of the core tenets of intellectual property law is that it allows artists to protect and preserve their commercial assets. With that in mind, is a tattoo a personal asset? The answer is yes. Copyright is all about preserving the interests of the owner, giving them the exclusive right to copy, reproduce, adapt, and publish the work.
So when a person comes to the studio asking for an exact copy of a design, it’s not only unethical to reproduce it on their skin but it’s also illegal. Any artist who copies the tattoo design of another artist is infringing the copyright in the artwork.
This is one of the main challenges that Soul Canvas Ink faced, especially in the beginning. When a client requests a replica of a tattoo that another artist developed you have two choices – accept and ignore the copyright infringement laws or refuse and lose a client.
Being a tattoo shop owner is not an easy job. You need to be a creative soul with a unique style that knows how to capture the client’s vision. But you also need to know a lot about the business side of things. Having an affinity to finance and being a creative mind usually don’t go hand in hand. Which creates a lot of challenges for tattoo shop owners.
Studios can’t be run on hopes and prayers. Overhead costs, such as tattoo equipment, rent, utilities, and everyday necessities influence the tattoo price. Many shop owners think that by lowering their prices they will attract more clients. But they should think in the long run. Not being able to cover costs might result in closing down the tattoo studio.
Opportunities the business faced
The tattoo industry is a fast paced environment that comes with a lot of challenges. However, as more and more people start getting tattooed and the taboo behind this particular type of art lifts, countless opportunities also appear.
Growing an online presence
When the pandemic hit Kin was forced to temporarily close down the studio. But being the optimist he is, he took it as an opportunity to grow his online presence. The blog he started years ago had opened doors for him to share his unique perspective on the tattoo industry. Meanwhile he also started writing about his other passion – man’s aesthetics and more specifically how to maintain a beard.
Growing an online presence helped him to maintain a community of loyal followers around the world. People from different countries started requesting tattoo designs which allowed him to continue running his business even when the shop itself was closed.
Creating a brand
Just like in any business venture, if you want to be recognized you need to create a brand. As Jeff Bazos says “Your brand is how people perceive you wherever they interact with your business—both the impressions you can control and the ones you can’t.”. Creating a brand can be incredibly fun and challenging at the same time. Soul Canvas Ink is a brand that has been recognized internationally thanks to Kin’s ability to send his message to the world.
Advice to other business owners
Here’s what other business owners should have in mind when starting their own business.
- Learn from your customers. – As you grow your business, listening to feedback from your customer base is crucial.
- Find a balance. – Owning and running a small business takes hard work. That’s why finding a balance within your day-to-day work is essential.
- Take an organized approach. – Keeping every part of your business organized will keep functions running smoothly.