Never underestimate the power of compassion. And what one person can do to improve the lives of those facing challenges. Take aesthetician Natasha Baldivia for example.
Baldivia owns and operates OTM Skin Tattoo Removal & Skin Care in Thornton, Colo., a suburb of Denver. Her mission is to promote positive social change in a safe, professional, judgment-free facility.
She’s been employed in skin care facilities for 16 years but was inspired to do more. “I worked in a lot of different medspas and with dermatologists. I always wanted to start my own business and use my skills in a way to help the community,” she says. “I’m open to the public, but I focus a lot of my efforts on helping people with tattoo removal who are on parole, and in reentry and rehab programs. And I also do a lot of work with survivors of human trafficking.”
Used Jails to Jobs’ book in creating her business
She finally got a chance to create her own business, which opened in August 2019. In putting it together she used our book Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Tattoo Removal Program, a How-to Guide
“It really helped me with planning, because I’d never been a business owner. I have a lot of ideas but didn’t know how to put them together. I liked that it gave me a step-by-step how to,” Baldivia says. “The book offers forms in the back, which is nice. It also provides a list of other providers for networking, and I contacted one of them for some help with my business plan.”
OTM has been in business now for nearly a year and a half. Baldivia bought a Focus NaturaLase QS Laser when she launched her shop in a medical center. She specializes in anti-aging and skin care, along with tattoo removal. Most of her private clients come for chemical peels and laser treatment for acne, as well as permanent makeup removal. The rest of her time is spent on tattoo removal.
Tattoo removal for those in reentry and victims of human trafficking
Most of the tattoo removal procedures are part of Baldivia’s community program. Because of her volunteer work and interests, she decided to work with those in reentry and victims of human trafficking. To begin with, she contacted the reentry specialist at her local Colorado Adult Parole agency.
The process was pretty easy, Baldivia says. She sent the reentry specialist a copy of her Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agency cosmetology/esthestician license; proof of insurance; the certificate to operate a laser from the College of International Esthetics; and the contract with her medical director, Dr. Lisa Amerine, who is a naturopathic doctor. It only took about a week to process everything, and within a week after that OTM was put on the referral list. About a month later she started receiving referrals.
When parole refers a potential client, they send her an email with that person’s name and contact info. Baldivia sets up a consultation and the first treatment. Adult parole pays for that first treatment and every alternate one after that at the full rate. The client pays for the other visits at half price, determined by the size of the tattoo.
Baldivia has no idea how parole chooses the clients they send her, but she says most of them have visible tattoos.
Her arrangement with the Denver-headquartered Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking works in a similar way, but the organization pays for all treatments at half her normal rate.
Baldivia began to work with the parole agency and trafficking nonprofit in September and now counts four to six clients per month from each organization.
Baldivia creates her own program
In addition to those clients, there are people who come directly to her that are in reentry, have been trafficked or have gang tattoos from gangs they are no longer affiliated with. To serve them, Baldivia has created her own program known as the Community Tattoo Removal Program. It covers those people not referred by one of the two organizations she works with and removes even non-visible tattoos that are gang-related or offensive that people want taken off.
After they fill out a questionnaire, Baldivia tries to get a referral for them, but if that’s not possible, she only charges $25 per session.
Why does she do this?
“I love skin care. I love tattoo removal, but I also love my community,” she says. They’re my passions. I do a lot of volunteer work and thought it was a great way to combine my two loves of skin care and community work. Sometimes working in med spas and with doctors can get a little superficial. And sometimes I would lose the passion.”
“Working with different human trafficking organizations I was able to really help these people. Sometimes it’s really sad, but it makes me hopeful to see how resourceful humans are. I had a friend who was involved in human trafficking and went along with her to a meeting. I thought human trafficking was just in developing countries, but it’s right here. It’s really a problem everywhere. As a result of what I learned, I really enjoy helping the community be aware, helping the survivors, and combining it into my business.”
What it means for her business
Although Baldivia helps parolees and trafficked women for altruistic reasons, she also says her efforts benefit OTM Skin.
“It brings awareness to my business and the problem,” she says. “Setting up these referral programs was time consuming. I had to go to a lot of different people. But sending their clients to me was an easy way to build my business during the pandemic.
“I can put a flier up in the reentry specialist’s office, and that brings attention to OTM Skin. For Human Trafficking, I’m involved in virtual meetings once a month with people from all over the country. Talking about OTM Skin in those meetings allows it to be known to human trafficking organizations nationwide.”
Baldivia looks to the future
With her business established, Baldivia plans to keep expanding OTM Skin. And her dream is to create a mobile unit that will reach more people who may not be able to leave the facility they’re in. She says that it will help her reach more youth under age 18 and is hoping to establish a nonprofit to be able to, among other things, apply for grants and funding to create her mobile unit. In the meantime, Baldivia has been in contact with Jesus Bujanda of TattooEmergency911 and would like him to be her mentor as she works toward procuring a mobile unit and using it to expand her low-cost tattoo removal work.
This is the first of what we hope will be a series of articles about free or low-cost tattoo removal programs. If you know of any programs you think we should feature, please contact us.