Creative entrepreneur Erica Lynn launched her own company Seven Ravens Tattoo in July 2018. Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price touched base with Erica to find out what it was like to start working for herself and why it’s sometimes beneficial to be a solopreneur. (Hint: It’s an energy thing.)
NAN PRICE: Have you always wanted to own your own business?
ERICA LYNN: It was something I’d thought about. Early in my tattooing career, I had the opportunity to join with someone who asked me to open a shop, but I really didn’t want to at the time. I wanted to focus on the actual craft and get technically sound before I did that.
I was thinking it would be a few more years before I opened my own shop, but it all kind of unfolded. When my fiancé found the property here in Glastonbury, I thought: I’ll just go down this path and see what happens. If it’s meant to be, it will work out. If it’s not, then whatever. And it all just worked out.
NAN: How did you get started? What was that process like for you?
ERICA: I have a degree in business management. I think that helped me understand how to present myself professionally and figure out the paperwork for the business end of things.
Working at other tattoo studios, I had some insight as to how the zoning requirements worked. Every town is different. Tattoo shops are regulated differently on a town-by-town basis.
I went to the town of Glastonbury to get approval to be here. I visited the town’s planning and zoning and asked what to do. They didn’t really know what to do with me because they didn’t have any tattoo shops on record.
I had to get all this paperwork together including information about floor plans. Every time I would have made a phone call, I just showed up to the town hall and made sure they saw my face and knew I was serious about my business.
NAN: How long was that process?
ERICA: It went pretty fast. I started in April and I got the approval in June. I was supposed to go in front of the board on June 13 to get the permission granted. I received a call on June 6 telling me I’d done everything the town asked me to do. The town had reviewed and approved it. They told me: You’re all set, go forth and tattoo.
NAN: Was that the most challenging part of being a startup?
ERICA: I think it was the most stressful part. Because I was trying to get all the pieces together on a tight deadline.
NAN: What would you say has been the most challenging?
ERICA: My own time management. In my head, I always think I can get a million things done in a day!
NAN: How did you transition from a business management degree into tattooing?
ERICA: I always had an artistic side. I’ve tried every medium—I’ve worked with wood, painting, crafting and music was huge for me for a long time. But the way I grew up, we didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t think being an artist was a wise financial decision.
I also went to college at night and, at that time, the only thing that offered with business management. It wasn’t really intentional. I was good at it and I made good money, but I didn’t feel authentic.
I was working for a financial publications company in Bloomfield in 2008 when the stock market crashed. The business owner was trying to figure out how to cut costs. I remember basically asking him to lay me off. I knew I wanted to do something else. So he did and I went back to school for art therapy. I was there for a few semesters when I realized what I really wanted to do was tattoo.
NAN: Had you always had that interest?
ERICA: I got my first tattoo when I was 16. So, it wasn’t a new interest. I just never thought I could do it. But I thought: Okay, if the “safe” thing I tried to do going into business isn’t safe because the economy is crashing, why don’t I just do something I enjoy?
Art therapy was a little too intense for me, the professional work is mostly in hospitals or clinics. And I like fine arts! Besides, I was still trying to do the same thing, finding a “safe” profession.
And then, about seven years ago I started my tattoo apprenticeship and I thought there’s no way I can do both. I had to choose. I knew the first time I used a tattoo machine, out of all the mediums I’d used, I wanted more. I didn’t finish the art therapy degree. I just went for it with tattooing. And here we are.
NAN: You obviously had clients before you went out on your own. How have you been marketing and getting your name out?
ERICA: I’ve been very lucky. Tattooing itself is a unique thing. If you see a tattoo you like on someone else, you can ask who did it. So, I’m basically marketing any time I do a visible tattoo on someone. I get so much business from word-of-mouth.
And, because I was already involved in the arts community around here, even when I started my apprenticeship, I couldn’t believe how many people were willing two let me tattoo to them when I was brand new. I really haven’t struggled in that avenue.
I’ve also been using social media to spread the word about my new business.
NAN: Let’s talk future plans. Would you eventually like to have an assistant? Would you bring in a second tattoo artist?
ERICA: It’s just me. There’s one room. And that was intentional. I work well alone. I really like when I’m working with a client and it’s just our energy.
Financially, I know I could make a lot more money if I opened a shop with more artists, but that’s not something I want to do right now.
NAN: How did you end up in Glastonbury?
ERICA: Glastonbury is the area where my fiancé and I want to settle down. And I want to be accessible to everyone, so Glastonbury is perfect. I had worked in Berlin, Hartford, and Manchester. You accumulate clients after time, and they can still reach me here.
NAN: What have you learned most about going into business for yourself?
ERICA: Well, I was already in business for myself. Tattooing is similar to hairdressing and massage therapies in that you’re usually renting space or paying a percentage of what you earn to a company. The only difference is now I have my own location. I’ve always handled all my clients and did my bookings, etc. so it didn’t seem like this major shift. But I love it. I think more than anything I did it to just have a space where it’s about the energy of just my clients and myself.