The Feast sat down with Tina Roth Eisenberg, the founder of Tattly, the design-centric temporary tattoo store to learn more about what it took to get it started, and what she’s learned along the way.
The Feast: How’d Tattly get started?
Tina: Tattly came out of a personal rule that I have that if I keep repeatedly complaining about something, I have two options: I can either do something about it or let it go. It’s also based on my all-time favorite quote by the gentleman from LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy. He said “The best way to complain is to make things.”
I was at home and my daughter came home from a birthday party. She was six, and you know birthday parties at that age, you get goody bags. There were these really hideous, horribly designed temporary tattoos in them, and she asked me if I could apply them. I was sitting there, and I internally had fume coming out of my ears because I thought “Damn, why can’t this be better?” You know at the end of the day, it ends up on your kid’s skin and they walk around with it. I’m a big believer that whatever you surround yourself with shapes your aesthetic. So I was sitting there, and I was like “Ok Tina, you either need to stop complaining about this and let it go, or you need to do something about it.”
I’m a web and graphic designer by trade. So I sat there and it was like this epiphany—I can make a website. I have a lot of illustrator friends who can make really cool designs. I have a blog, swissmiss, that I can sort of market it. I thought I’d be an idiot not to do this, just for fun.
So I looked up what it takes to produce temporary tattoos. It really was not that hard. I emailed my friends and said what would you say if I made a temporary tattoo shop? Would you want to make some designs? It could be for kids. It could be for adults.
What I didn’t realize is that for my friends, who are illustrators and designers, the thought of having human skin be a canvas is a super exciting idea because it’s not usually a canvas you have unless you’re a tattoo designer. So literally the next day I started having designs in my inbox.
We launched two months after the idea. Tattly.com launched with 16 designs. It was so cute!
The Feast: What’s your biggest mistake or learning moment so far?
Tina: The one thing I personally struggle with is the copycats. Someone actually told me the other day, “Tina, you’ve created a whole new industry.” I think that really has happened. Designing temporary tattoos didn’t exist before. We have some really blatant copycats where people think it’s us, and they were even our wholesalers and ripped us off. At the end of the day it’s a flattering compliment, but sometimes it hurts a little bit…
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who’ve gone through the same thing. Unless someone really steals our design, I’m just like whatever. I could sue people, but unless it’s really an absolutely blatant copy of what I do, I just tell myself the negativity and energy that I would have to direct towards doing that is going to take my away from growing Tattly and making it just way better. Everyone tells me that after a while you get used to it—being copied—and you grow a thicker skin, but I’m working on that.
The Feast: What’s your biggest success so far?
Tina: Success is relative. You know what success is to you. What is success to me? Just in a personal rhelm, [it was] when the MOMA store bought Tattly. When I went to the MOMA store and I stood there—and you know the MOMA, when they have a product there’s always a little sign that explains a little bit about the product—and it had my name on it. I’m a graphic designer, I never set out to be a product designer. The fact that I was able to create a product that the MOMA wants to sell. To me, the MOMA is the holy grail. I literally stood there in the MOMA store for a half an hour in front of the product, and I had such happiness going through me. This is amazing. I never would have thought in a million years I would have created a product that ends up in the MOMA store.
The Feast: What are three pieces of advice you’d give to entrepreneurs working to get something off of the ground?
- Ask for advice, but be confident in your own instincts. It’s OK to ask other people for advice, but at the end of the day you need to absolutely trust your own instinct and your own gut because at the end of the day you know your idea best or what makes that product different.
- Be kind. Be kind and humble in your interactions with people that help you or that you’ve built a business with or [who are] partners. I feel like kindness is lacking a bit and humility in the business world. Be generous with your time and attention because it always helps you in the end.
- Everyone needs a confetti drawer. It’s my favorite thing at Tattly. We have a drawer, and it’s entirely filled with confetti. To me it’s a representation that you always have to have fun. No matter how stressful it gets, just make sure you sprinkle your day at work with fun because the best ideas always come when you have fun. Sometimes I feel like startup people get really, really stressed out. They sink their teeth into what they’re doing so much that they lose that flow of happiness… I love the fact that if you want to goof off a bit and just be silly there’s the confetti drawer. If someone places a really big order or we think this person needs confetti, there’s confetti there. It’s the little things. It’s the love—the labor of love really pays off.
Photo courtesy of Tattly.