A part of our series on businesses that do free and low-cost tattoo removals, we’d like to introduce Wes Henderson, co-founder of TakeTatt and ReversaTatt, two companies that operate tattoo removal in a very unique, flexible and expandable way.
It was serendipity of sorts that brought Wes Henderson into the tattoo removal business. Early in his career, he worked in digital marketing and web development.
“I had a client who did tattoo removal and enjoyed the marketing aspect of the business,” he says. “I had a wellness clinic in Florida, but we were looking to do other things. I asked the client about the business and he said it was great. When we started in Tampa it took off quickly, and we rapidly expanded throughout Florida.”
That business was Tatt-Away Laser Tattoo Removal, the forerunner of RevesaTatt, the company he operates in Florida today.
Dave Cope, a physician assistant and Henderson’s business partner in Florida, does all of the removals by traveling between eight Florida locations – Jacksonville, Port St. Lucie, Jupiter, Boca Raton, Naples, Ft. Meyers, Sarasota and Tampa. ReversaTatt rents office space in places like med spas and chiropractor’s offices for one, two or three days per month, depending on the demand. And he uses the Lumenis PiQo4 laser device, which is transported around Florida in a van.
“The business is built on the premise of trying to make tattoo removal more affordable,” says Henderson. “Our strength is that, because of the way we operate, we can bring this service to a small or mid-sized town like Pt. St. Lucie or Jupiter, where the market doesn’t support the use of a laser. There may not be tattoo removal there. Our sweet spot is the massive town, but Naples, St. Lucie – those locations are growing.”
As part of ReversaTatt’s business model, it does tattoo removals for free or at a 50% discount.
To be considered, someone just has to submit a photo of their tattoo. “David Cope makes the decision about whether it should be free or given a 50% discount. If it’s on the hand or face and hateful it will be free,” Henderson says. “It’s basically a judgement call. When it’s really a hindrance to employment we’ll do them for free.”
Last year Cope did a total of just over 11,000 tattoo removal sessions.
TakeTatt mobile tattoo removal operation
After operating ReversaTatt for several years in Florida, Henderson launched TakeTatt in Ohio. Using a similar business model of visiting a variety of locations, Henderson created this one to use a mobile unit.
“The design process was a complicated and long journey,” Henderson says. “We were trying to figure out a mobile delivery vehicle and landed on BizBox, which is changing the industry of transient business. They’re kind of a food truck builder. They made a customized trailer into a clinic outfitted for complete energy independence.”
And the result: the TakeTatt Hut, a trailer that cost $200,000, including the buildout. It travels around Ohio, branching out from the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio’s capital and fastest growing city,
“We made a hub and spoke operation with all the places we go within two hours from there,” he adds. It now travels around Ohio, setting up shop by renting space in shopping center parking lots in a variety of locations: Strongsville, Mentor, Upper Arlington, Grove City, Canton, Heath, Youngstown, Kenwood, Dayton, Findlay, Toledo and Cincinnati. The TakeTatt Hutt travels on a four-week cycle to those locations, with some getting visits in-between.
The reason for the mobility? “We were trying to solve the issue of how to make tattoos more affordable and accessible. The biggest expense is the cost of the laser – over $200,000. If we can use that one laser as much as possible, we can reduce the cost and pass that savings along to the client,” Henderson says. Like in Florida they use the Lumenis PiQo4 laser device, but in Ohio it’s operated by nurse practitioners.
To help those who cannot afford tattoo removal, TakeTatt donates a free session for every 10 paid sessions completed by their paying clients. With about 500 paying clients per month, that could average as many as 50 free sessions, but now they’re only doing 10 to 20 clients per month since the company is still new, according to Henderson. Priority is given to face, neck and hand tattoos and removing tattoos that are considered polarizing, discriminatory or hateful. Those in Ohio who are interested are invited to fill out an application.
Henderson also works with the state of Ohio office of re-entry program, the Hamilton County Office of Reentry and other county reentry systems to spread the word about the free removals.
The rationale behind free tattoo removals
Like many in the business, Henderson says the reason his company does tattoo removals is all about giving back.
“It feels like the right thing to do,” he says. “A lot of it is having an empathetic understanding that people make mistakes sometimes, often very early in life. It’s hard for someone to get a meaningful job with a tattoo on their hands or face. And it will ultimately lead to them getting incarcerated again. If you give someone an opportunity, if you give them support they have a better opportunity to contribute to society.
Realizing that TakeTatt is highly replicable, Henderson plans to steadily expand his mobile tattoo business.
“We’re looking to expand to several more states this year. Each state will have its own mobile unit. We’ll try to find a central large city with enough supporting cities around it, A hub and spoke setup like Ohio,” he says.
“Our goal is within the next 10 years is to have 10 hubs in 10 states. Some hubs might serve more than one state like North and South Carolina. We hope to service 10 to 15 locations per hub.”
And 10% of the business will continue to be the outreach program. In addition to formerly incarcerated individuals and former gang members, they do victims of human trafficking and remove radiation dots from cancer survivors and track marks from former heroin users.
Henderson’s good work of providing free and low-cost tattoo removals will grow along with the expansion of his business.