IRON & INK TATTOO STUDIOS Explains How To Transition a Successful European Brand To The U.S.
One of the hardest things to do is scale a business. It’s even harder to expand to a different country. Iron & Ink, a successful Tattoo shop in Denmark, just recently opened a new shop in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue. Anchored by a rising tattoo product line called “Sorry Mom“, This brands’ expansion is an example of scaling a business to monitor moving forward.
I was able to get a hold of one of the Founders, Rasmus Hansen, for an exclusive interview about his journey. He who explains how they run their marketing, the process it took to transition to the U.S., secrets of the Sorry Mom brand and more.
I am actually not tattooing nor is my business partner Hawaro. We joined the tattoo scene because we were both very passionate about this special art form and the whole tattoo scene just seemed very appealing, and a market where we believed we could make a significant impact
“SORRY MOM” what this a cliché phrase or did you really have to apologize to your mom? Does the anchor have anything to do with it?
I actually had to cancel my first tattoo appointment to give my mom a very big SORRY MOM after my first tattoo. My mom was very much against me getting tattooed. Now she’s just like everyone else. She has 10+ tattoos and is always looking to get more done. She also shares the love for the creative tattoo space.
The anchor does not actually have anything to do with the cliché phrase. The anchor is a traditional symbol with strong roots. An anchor makes a ship/boat STAY. We develop products in Sorry Mom to make the tattoos STAY as sharp and as long as possible.
What kind of programs do you run with your ambassadors?
In this space, a lot of brands work with ”sponsorships” etc., but we wanted to get away from that.
For us, an ambassador is more trustworthy and it indicates what we do with our ambassadors. It’s a give and take thing.
We expect our ambassadors to use and endorse our Sorry Mom products, but also that they give us 100% honest feedback if something can be improved, or any new trends are rising in the tattoo space. These selected Sorry Mom ambassadors are getting special pricing on their purchases while we help promote each other on various social media outlets.
How do you go about opening locations in multiple countries? What should we expect for the LA Store? How did that come to fruition?
Hawaro and I are business partners in everything we do, and we are like brothers in everything in life. We care a lot for each other and our families, and we trust each other blindly.
This is one of the main reasons for us to be able to do what we do at this very moment. I am currently in our Denmark office while Hawaro is in LA. We have had partners involved in other projects, but we decided we want to do things alone.
This fact was the reason for our first US trip 4 years ago. We went to a tattoo convention in Long Beach, California to represent Sorry Mom (where at this time we just bought out our business partner) and we fell completely in love with the city of LA. We were actually talking to some friends in the tattoo space at that time about partnering with them in their new tattoo shop on Melrose Avenue. This fell through but we both agreed that this is where we should open our first IRON & INK shop in the United States.
Since then it’s been a dream and ambition, and last year we took the initial steps and started founding our American corporation with our team of legal advisors.
We were looking at opening a shop in 2020, but during the incorporation process, we got an opportunity we could not resist. The friends of ours wanted to leave the shop we visited 4 years ago, and we came to terms with taking over their spot. It’s been months now where we have been renovating and changing the store completely!
The store, IRON & INK, LOS ANGELES, is now a reality and had its opening on October 18th. The store is state of the art, minimalistic and Nordic designed, and run by a team that lives the values we do here in Denmark. We want our clients to have a unique experience on top of a unique tattoo.
How did you go about picking your team and partners?
Hawaro is my only partner. It’s been easy. We have been on the same journey with ups and downs for almost 7 years now.
When picking team-members I always look for the right personal values, ambition and the willingness to learn and give more and take less.
I believe that skills can be learned by almost everyone. That’s however not the fact for personal values and being nice. You can’t learn to be a good person.
We have a team of good people that cares about the people they are surrounded with and their clients, and that’s key. We of course also care about hard work and dedication, but people are more likely to work hard if they enjoy it because they work with good people.
What would you say sets yourself apart from your competitors?
The fact that Hawaro and I don’t tattoo is one of the main reasons we are running the business like a business, and we are never putting any ego on top of things. We focus on what we are best at, and we let our employees focus on what they are best at.
We don’t interfere with tattoo techniques etc., but we give our view on what we see and the tattoo artists respect that. Ultimately, we work on our standards and we always want to see our clients leave with a happy face. A tattoo is not a 4-6 hour thing.
It’s a permanent decision and mark that our clients will wear for the rest of their days. We want our clients to leave the shop telling their friends more than “look at my cool tattoo”. We want them to be like “Look at my cool tattoo. I got it at this amazing space called Iron & Ink / Sorry Mom etc..” This is how we turn customers into ambassadors and lifetime customers.
How did you go about getting your materials and ingredients? And what made you highlight that no animals were tested?
We teamed up with a lab in Europe and told them our requirements and values. From there they came up with ideas and formulations that fulfilled our needs.
In a big world where it’s a lot about consumption and less about caring we want to highlight that we DO care. Why would we test our products on animals? We do tattoo products for human beings. Not animals. Animals are our friends but they don’t get tattooed.
We are currently working on new products that are also all-natural and environmentally friendly. More info comes on this…
What is next for Iron & Ink?
For now, the focus is on improving the business and set up here in Denmark where we have 3 locations. The LA location needs to get off to a good start and establish itself as the go-to-spot in Los Angeles, and that is going to take a lot of hard work. We are flying the LA team to Denmark at the beginning of December for our annual Christmas dinner. It’s going to be amazing partying and learning together. All 60 people work under our brands across Denmark and LA.
Hopefully, the Americans will see Iron & Ink in one or two new cities during the year 2020.
What is next for Sorry Mom?
Sorry Mom is looking to team up with 100 new resellers next year while also launching 4 new products. All related to the tattoo space, and to help clients take better care of their tattoos for better and faster healing.
Sorry Mom is also looking to optimize on its re-seller program so we can help our resellers easier and quicker via our wholesale store online.