How To Build a Tattoo Legacy
True Blue Professional Tattoo Studio Celebrates 10 Years
When True Blue Tattoo Studio opened its doors in 2013, the world was a different place. It was a time before COVID, when load shedding meant the day off, and dating actually required in-person attendance. In 2023, True Blue celebrates a decade of determination through ten years of true grit, commitment and, sometimes, good old-fashioned luck.
From a humble tattoo shop - a dream, really – to the vibrant tattoo studio boasting iconic art and unmatched professionals, True Blue has navigated much. But nothing compares to the people who have made it all possible. The people holding the needle and those in the chair. The behind-the-scenes believers and once-off walk-ins. The founders to the greenest apprentice. Everyone we have encountered has, in one way or another, left a mark on what we’ve grown to become.
In the 10 years since we opened our doors, much has changed, and with it, the face, the place and the pace of True Blue. However, one thing has remained, unmoved and steadfast. Something we, as a business, a community, and a place to just be, well, you, has and continues to define our art and our legacy:
But there is more to consistency than doing the same thing, day in and day out. More to simply keeping people happy and delivering what they paid for. In 10 successful years, we’ve learned that consistency is a frame of mind, a principle, and a vision. And we want to share with you what that means to us - and everyone (past and present) who has come to see what this Pretoria tattoo shop really stands for.
Because it’s been 10 years, and we’re pretty damn proud of that.
The Secret To Building a Tattoo Shop Legacy
While True Blue is hardly the first tattoo studio in Pretoria to make it, we are proud of what we’ve achieved over the years and how good we’ve got at keeping it that way. From staying up late, physically laying the floors of our first studio and getting married three days before opening, to winning tattoo conventions and taking our art to Lithuania, Germany and beyond, True Blue Tattoo Studio has come a long way - as a brand and as a community.
We’ve moved our tattoo shop three times, hosted wedding receptions, watched our families grow, fought with each other, cried together, celebrated the wins, mourned the losses, overcome a pandemic, figured out how to work in the dark, and even survived a fire. All this, and we’ve never, not once, abandoned who we are and what we do: Help people express themselves through consistently high-quality body art informed by our passive guidance.
But that’s what we do. What is it that’s kept us going all this time? How have we managed to overcome the trials, tribulations and challenges that have felled so many other small businesses trying to make it? Here are some of our most cherished takeaways, gleaned from a decade of watching, learning and growing.
Like Tattoos, Good Things Last Forever
It took 4 days to tattoo our first customer; 9 months before the first of our tattoo artists signed on; and we had to wait 8 years before finding the right partner for our business. We moved to a new location after only two years, to another one, 3 years after that and into our current Hazelwood spot in 2021.
We’ve curated an in-studio reading collection and wall art display aligned with the personal tastes of our clientele, grown a coffee brand and merchandised. We’ve thought about bringing in lasers, adding beds, taking them away – even updating the view.
All this took time. 10 years of it.
Although so much has changed and shifted over this period, we’re still light years away from the original vision we had for our brand. In fact, it’s likely we’ll never come close to what that once was. And that’s Okay.
True Blue Tattoo Studio is what it is because we’ve patiently allowed it to grow naturally and in line, not just with that original high-level vision but with input from our staff, our customers and even our kids. Good things take a while and can also hurt your bottom line initially.
But they’ll last you a lifetime.
Collaborate With The Right People -
They're The Essence Of Your Success
Like almost all tattoo studios, the people who work with them will come and go. Artists are restless by nature, often likely to veer into new adventures without much notice. That’s what makes this game so vibrant and eclectic.
But when you eventually do find the people you can count on, you hold onto them and don’t let them go – at least until you have to. At True Blue, we’re blessed to have found that in partnerships and management collaborations with some of the most dedicated, talented and consummate professionals out there. The spirit of True Blue bears testament to everyone we’ve had the privilege of sharing our floor with.
And while so many businesses are quick to snuff out any trace of their former employees’ exitance, we embrace their contributions, and you can see their lasting touches everywhere.
From the music in the morning to when the lights go out, each and every one of the tattoo artists, apprentices, admin staff and managers we’ve had on our books have left a piece of them behind. We’ve seen love blossom, been to many weddings and watched as tiny new feet pitter-patter across the floor.
Because there’s a little True Blue in everyone – including our kids.
Find Your Market And Invite Them In -
Because They're People Too
Tattooing was, once upon a time, an incredibly narrow niche market, reserved only for those badass enough to get inked or for rebellious teens looking to irk their parents. Recently tattoo art has grown, massively, with everyone - from Baby Boomers enjoying their sunset rides to those self-same teens now looking for a more bespoke creative outlet - joining the legions of die-hard tattoo zealots who are already a vibrant Pretoria tattoo community.
Well over 6,000 clients and countless people have walked through our doors since 2016 alone, and the numbers continue to grow. Not once in our history (bar the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic ) have we ever noticed a marked decline in patronage or any significant threats to our existence. How? We can’t really say because we don’t fully understand it.
But we can say that we’re damn consistent. Consistent in what we do, how we engage and how we value our work. Our people live by a simple mantra: Don’t ever produce work you don’t value yourself.
In other words, if the art you create isn’t good enough to go on your own body, it isn’t good enough at True Blue.
Build A Product That Is Part Of Who You Are -
Just Not With Parts Of You In It
We sell art. But this art can’t be mass-produced, packaged and shipped off to Makro. No, the value of what we make and give to the world lies in each piece of our tattoo art being of the highest quality, completely one-of-a-kind, and original in every way. And we strive to reflect that in our product.
Everybody knows a good product sells itself – especially in the tattoo universe. But our products can’t be returned, swapped out or re-sold. Our product is for keeps, and there’s more to it than the ink, piercing, or tattoo design you’ll cherish forever. The experience forms a part of it too.
Plus, we’re not some big box brand that measures customer satisfaction per-1,000 reviews. Every single piece of customer feedback matters to us. Those opinions inform and guide our processes and help define the way we see and deliver the best product around.
This means that everything associated with our product must follow deep consultation, be custom packaged and delivered with the utmost care, carefully tailored to each individual client and reflective of who we are. Never have we wavered in our commitment to good service. We deliver as-is, with no gimmicks, no specials, or discounts.
Just honest, dependable and - you guessed it - consistent.
Design A Future and Live It
There have been many times over the course of our journey when, along with many other tattoo shops in Pretoria and beyond, the future of True Blue looked decidedly murky. Yet, for whatever reason, like most mid-level Hollywood movies, things somehow managed to figure themselves out. Armed with this certainty, we look to the future of our studio with enthusiasm and hope.
Yes, we started as a somewhat cramped 2-bed tattoo shop off Atterbury Road. But we have since evolved into a bustling centre of art, oozing creativity and showcasing a diverse arsenal of talent and excellence that keeps our patrons coming back.
We’re innovating to transform our presence into more than a body art and piercing enterprise. Think a space that trades in art – both in print and tattoo – where people deal directly with the tattoo artist. Imagine a transformative experience where you can come to discover the pieces that will become a part of you before even knowing what it is you’re looking for.
We’re always innovating, listening and engaging with people. We share ideas, offer expert advice and, more importantly, inspire. This is why we’re so passionate about the potential that True Blue holds, not just for the people who work here but for everyone who crosses that threshold.
Because at True Blue, we’re living a dream made possible by the people who believe in it.
Writing Our Own Tattoo Legacy
At True Blue, we’ve learned to appreciate every day, taking the good with the bad, the new with the old and smiling – smiling a lot. Why? Because we love what we do. Come see for yourself. Witness consistency in action as we master our craft in our little corner of Pretoria. We’re not perfect, but our tattoos are, and you can bet on them getting even better.
So, here’s to another 10 years for True Blue Tattoo Studio. Because we believe in bringing creativity to life; etching enduring creations; delivering what we believe in; guided by our unshakable faith in what we do – consistently.