Justin Abrams: Wes, I want to start with you. You know, as usual, you'll do a better job of introducing yourself and where you come from and what makes you uniquely human. And I'm interested in both your personal and your professional background and your hobbies and your general human experience and how you got here today.
Wes Henderson: Yeah, Justin, I'm very driven to solve problems, I think. I started entrepreneurship when I was 18, 19 years old. The last check that I got from a company was before I was 20 years old. So somehow I've managed from that point forward to scrap enough ideas together to become an entrepreneur. It started off with freelancing at first through college, I did websites for people. I did digital marketing for people. Eventually that segued into like a deeper desire to like, do more entrepreneurship, actually like create something kind of from the ground up when you're a freelancer, I think like a lot of it kind of feels like there's a pressure. Like you don't have, you're not creating a lot. It's this one person that is just kind of fulfilling the needs of people. So I had a deep desire to kind of like create a larger, bigger brand and product. And one thing sort of led to another. Out of freelancing, I basically became an entrepreneur starting off with like franchise-based business. because the learning curve obviously for entrepreneurship is a little bit steep. I felt like a franchise where you're kind of buying into a product that's been proven already, uh, is a good kind of first step into like the bigger, uh, more risk, uh, based business. And, um after starting that franchise, what I kind of learned was that. there were a lot of those things that I would prefer to have in my wheelhouse. You know, the problem with a franchise based business is that you're kind of stuck to the criteria that the franchise like sets upon you. So quickly from there, I realized like, I would like to have control of X, Y, and Z. And that's where I kind of realized that I started pivoting out into like a bigger business and that really The first thing out of that franchise that I started doing was a tattoo removal business. I had originally done digital marketing for a tattoo removal business. And what I really, really enjoyed the component of marketing for this. So basically like it was we'd have anti-Valentine's day specials. It was like against the grain, a tongue in cheek type of advertising. It was really enjoyable. So, um, that franchise that I had, we had medical based staff on board already. So the transition and the task removal was actually somewhat seamless. And, um we started off small we rented a device. We got people in, we did the marketing, the marketing was effective. And we just kind of grew quickly from there.
Justin Abrams: You know, I actually had no idea that you had originally bought into a franchise. I know you're from the industry and it makes a lot of sense. Like as you try to figure out the branding and market positioning and your value proposition, it makes sense. I've watched your brain go through this for quite some time right now. And it's interesting that you started with such rigidity. Like the franchise is like, keep it on the rails. You have very limited flexibility. If you follow this system, it's proven to work. And it's so funny that you just went in a totally different direction. I'm curious. You're also quite a savvy technologist. You you've proven that I've watched you riff quite, quite often with Mike specifically, where, where did that interest come into play? Uh, it sounds like you were kind of heavy in the marketing side, but. No, it also sounds like you're, you're a tinkerer and enthusiast and, and want to solve problems for yourself. So where did like the, the deep technologist in you come, come about.
Wes Henderson: So I'll tell a funny story with that is I I went to a, a small private school growing up and basically they gave these awards every year. And I thought at the time, because I think through grade like two to grade, I think six, it was, I won the computer award every single year. And I thought that was basically like a consolation prize from the school, like, yeah, you're not a mathlete. You're not you're not big into, grammar and spelling is a little questionable at times.
I got this computer award from the very beginning. I have to like, honestly give a lot of credit to my father who always had a good computer and internet connection in the house. And then generally it's like just this overall curiosity to learn. You know, like I always found computers fascinating. I I, I do remember that elementary school teacher, uh, that definitely was encouraging, like while all the other kids were kind of playing video games on the computers, like me and maybe one or two other kids were writing like screensaver code so it was it's been a, like an interesting journey from that perspective. So.
Justin Abrams: That's really cool, man. I like the origin. I'm going to ping on something and we'll get back to it a little bit later. But also know you have a family and I want to talk a little bit later. We'll save it for a little bit further on about balance. And I have a family and Mike has a family and James has a family and everybody is kind of pursuing the balance. So keep that in mind. But James, I want to transition over to you, man, because I think you have a little bit of a different path. I think you have a different skill set. And I'd love to know what makes you uniquely you. And also tell me a little bit about your background, both personal and professional and your hobbies and interests and what makes your unique human experience.
James: Absolutely. And to be fair, I don't have a family yet. I mean, I have my dog and I love my girlfriend. I'm sure after five years, like we're starting to go that way, but I don't have any kids.
My background I grew up in this like little small town and the middle of nowhere in New Jersey like super small, like kind of like, very like from like that Friday night light show, like that was pretty much like where I grew up. So I couldn't wait to get out of there. And I ended up going to college at FSU coming from that like type of little country town grown up watching like FSU games on TV and seeing these like absolute smoke shows like in the stands. I was like, I want to go to there. So that's, that's where I went. And that's actually how Wes and I met. Like Wes was buddies with one of my fraternity brothers and he came and he stayed at our house for a couple days. And I'll never forget this because it was like one of the most embarrassing losses in FSU history. We got shut out at home against Wake Forest. It was raining. Like the only person that like sat through the entire game with me was Wes. And I was like, oh, like this guy must be as diehard of an FSU fan as I am what she is. So that's how we met. And then after graduating, I ended up going into recruiting. I didn't really like have any clue what I wanted to do. I was a political science major. I was... going to be like a lawyer, but I was like, I realized I don't want to be a lawyer. So I put my resume up on Monster and all these recruiting companies started reaching out to me. Like in college, I'd never even heard about like recruiting as a profession. So I kind of just like fell into it and I had excellent training at this company tech systems, um, as far as, um really getting a pretty comfortable feeling when I'm speaking to engineers and whatnot. And I continued on that path. I worked for some bigger companies like Google and Samsung, and then I kind of wanted to give startups a try just because I like the idea of truly building something from a people perspective, having a big impact on influence and culture and stuff like that. It's different in bigger companies because all that stuff's already established. know how the engine runs very efficiently and you're kind of just like a cog in the machine. So you can do your job really well, but they don't want to move you to something else because once they have you doing it at a high level, it's like we just want to keep this person. So the growth just doesn't feel the same as I had friends that were working at startups and I kind of would talk to them about all the things that they had on their plate. I was kind of envious of it. So I jumped into the startup world. And Wes and I, we were roommates for seven years in New York City. So I saw Wes's success and what he did with his company, Reverse It Hat in Florida. And when he approached me with this idea, I was like, let's do it.
I enjoy the different challenges and you're constantly like getting shoved out of your comfort zone. And, uh I just really, really liked that element of it.
Justin Abrams: It probably makes for a really great balance between the two of you kind of yin and yang. It's really a balance that Mike and I strike too. And neither of us are the complete package, but together we get pretty close. And I've always felt that between the two of you complement each other in an incredible way. You know, I want to hear a little bit more about TakeTatt. And Wes, I'm going to give you the question. because I think it was like your original brainchild. And I think what happened, if I'm wrong, is maybe you found a little bit of a gap in the industry historically, and Tagtat is unique in the market from the research I've done and from what we've talked about. And I'd love to hear a little bit how Tagtat is really a solution to an industry problem and how it serves your community and marketplace.
Wes Henderson: Yeah, I think that, you with any of this, it's, it's an evolution of ideas. You know, like James said 10 years ago, we started reverse attack. It started very small and kind of grew somewhat rapidly, but over like eight years, you sort of like learning, you hear the feedback from your clients a lot, which is I don't want to go to like this fancy place, I don't want to go, I don't want to be upsold on anything else. The, I think reality is as it relates to tattoo removal at least is that there, what it's like very easy. You have a tattoo, you want to remove it. You want to get in and out. You want it to be efficient and you want to see the results and like track your progress. So, um take tattoo is really just an evolution of ideas and learning from the reverse attack model, which was efficient in its own right. But there was also like. efficiencies that we saw that could be gained from it as well.
Justin Abrams: Yeah, that's so interesting. I mean, it, I've been to, I've been to the hut. Tell me, tell me a little bit about the experience because I think the classic tattoo removal experience, like either puts me in a med spa or maybe even a dermatology office, or maybe it's a retail on main street or whatever it is. And like, to me, I was always most blown away by how your business and where your business is able to operate, which to me was like a unique differentiator in comparison to what else I've seen in the market. So tell me a little bit about the hut, quote unquote.
Wes Henderson: Yeah, I mean, listen, the hut is, is a trailer that we're pulling behind a truck, but it's very nice. You know, like I, it's the experience, like when you, one of our nurse practitioners who I, who I adore, she saw our ad on indeed and to be part of our team, she's like her coworker said Are you pulling this thing behind? Like, what's the deal? So you're going to be like a truck driver slash nurse practitioner.
The reality is, is like the hut is the means to, to create a more efficient service we, this isn't something we created out of thin air either like medical services have been provided in a mobile capacity for. sometime now there's mobile mammogram units. We all know the mobile blood donation buses. I would like to think that our hut is so much cooler than those things. It's a very different experience when you walk in. There's a lot of tech right from the very beginning in terms of how we communicate to the clients with the way that they check in once they arrive, once they come in, we try to... recreate a very personal experience, like in an efficient manner. So they walk into a screen with James's face on it. They see pricing or they see our reviews, or if they're a current client of ours, they see like we have calls of the action, like leave us a review or refer a friend, scan this QR code to do something, right? And then they walk into the treatment room. And what's very unique about us is, Our main goal is we're trying to create an affordable product, but we also think we enhance the product substantially because they get to track the progress. Like every time a client comes in, they take a photo of their tattoo. The very first photo and the most current photo shows up on a screen. So them and the nurse practitioner can discuss their, their progress, um, that it's going either really well, or it's going average, or maybe slower than average. And you can talk about the reasons why. those those cases might be. And, um that's at the end of the day, I think what takes that's trying to accomplish is like the make the tattoo, there's a lot of tattoos that need to be removed. So we just want to create that process efficiently, affordably, safely. Um, and we just want to make it kind of like a cool experience and interesting experience too.
Justin Abrams: Yeah, you guys definitely have adopted technology in an extreme way. And we're gonna talk a little bit more about some of that technology, but it all has a little bit of an origin. And speaking of origin, I think Mike and James, you guys have a really, really unique way of starting off together. And you guys knew each other from a former life and couldn't be further away from what we're all doing right now, but it all kind of has led to that. So Mike, I'd like to give it over to you because I think best coming from you is, is how you and James met and kind of kicked off
Mike: Yeah, yeah, we started at a startup on the Lower East Side years ago at this point. You know, it's been quite a while now, but I remember it.
Its been about 8 years ago. I believe they're at the unicorn status at this point. They've done very well. I remember being in those early days. I always wonder how working for them effected your experience with entrepreneurship?
James: I really just enjoyed that, being able to have the freedom to craft something and hone it just the way that I wanted to. I mean, Mike can attest to this. I'm very transparent. I don't like to sugarcoat anything. I just say it how it is. I felt like working at a startup as unique as Bluecore, that really resonated well with a lot of candidates that I was recruiting and looking to hire. obviously getting a taste of working at a smaller company as well, where you really got kind of become this family. Like, I mean, it probably helped that our office was in the Lower East Side. And it was like a former speakeasy, like loft that they converted into an office. I mean, I remember when I went in for my first interview, like I, La Cuerverna was right next door. And I just looked at it and was like, am I in the right place? Like, I remember a lot of nights I was in that basement at La Cuerverna, but I was like, I guess this is the place. And I went in and like, I just got this like kind of. tingly feeling like when I saw like kind of how the space was set up and everybody I met was was great. And when you have like a really talented team, it's kind of like being being an athlete, like in playing a sport, like you want to surround yourself with like other talented people because you want to win. And I feel like Blue Corps before I got there, especially did a really good job of that. So it was easy for me to. kind of build on top of that because you have to have that like existing base already because talented people want to work with talented people. So it definitely at that point, I wasn't I'm going to start my own company someday, but it definitely like led me further down that path.
Mike: So much of that original team went on to start businesses after that, like from that early team. I feel like, I mean, I'm in touch with tons of the people from there and my jobs before that, but like at that something about startups in early stage, it feels like there's almost something in the water. Like everybody starts starting their own business like from that point. And I wonder how it is now, because they're much bigger now, like are the engineers they hire now and the talent they hire now, are they as entrepreneurial? Do you find that when you were at Samsung, for instance, did multiple people go off to found their own companies or it's not the same at all?
James: No, definitely not.
I was going to say like, you don't see that. Like when You know, you're, you are an employee, um, even at like a small startup I'm so much more like sympathetic now to like the founders of Bluecore that I'm like kind of like more in their shoes, like I understand being on the other side of the fence now. I'm like, Oh, okay. Like that's why they were doing things like the way that they were doing it. And whatnot. So it gives you definitely like appreciation for that. Uh, and the thing like Wes was alluding to, like the clients, like they don't always see what's going on kind of behind the scenes. Like. You know, when we're out there in Ohio it's every day in a row for, for two weeks, uh, and between seeing clients for eight hours in a day. And then sometimes driving two plus hours to like the next location at night. I mean it's 10 plus hour days and, uh it's a grime. Like I literally get home from like a trip and, um, I just like sit in my room, like in the dark watching Netflix for a couple of days because like, I'm so like burnt out on like again, I don't have kids, so I, that's why I can do that.
Justin Abrams: Oh, man. Yeah. Right on. Well, speaking of customers and speaking of the customers, really, who we are accountable to as entrepreneurs. mission is also really important and like being authentic and you guys have a really unique perspective on a mission-driven business and a cause-backed organization and you know I know a little bit about what your endeavors are but I think it probably is best coming from you Wes but I'd love to know a little bit about how Taktat services the greater community you've had a very focus very much a focus on on affordability and a high quality experience, but there's also a real component to your organization, which is extreme pay it forward and a community service component. And mission driven is an individual's ethos. And I'm really interested in the way of life and the interactions and how this impacted you as an individual to make this a part of the organization because it's certainly unique in its mission and focus.
Wes Henderson: Yeah TakeTatt from the business perspective is trying to create affordability and in really the way that you create affordability because the equipment's so expensive to operate, it's expensive to get the word out, it's expensive. You have to create a lot of efficiency. And that's where we that's why we became this mobile business. Um, What efficiency means is really to boil it down. It's like you use the thing that is the most expensive thing, uh, as much as possible. So our laser is very expensive. Um, we need it to be reliable. Uh, it's manufactured by a company called focus medical. Um, and they've been a tremendous partner to us, uh, primarily to support us when things go wrong. Um, Lasers, I tell people, lasers are like lamps. It's like you just, you turn it on one day and it blows. There's no indication that it's gonna go out that day, but it does and these things happen. And Focus has been a tremendous partnership to us to help us remain efficient and reliable to our clients. To your point though, it goes far beyond the clients. What is really important to all of us that take that is paying it forward. And going back to just the efficiency of the laser and just using it as much as possible, we know that like our schedule is not 100% utilized. There's gaps so we want to fill those gaps with helping people that otherwise that need the help that need the assistance. And, um, we have a couple outreach programs. The two primary ones is, um, one for, uh, people that were incarcerated and they have. offensive tattoos on their invisible areas, on their face or hands, or, um, and then even in non-visible areas also. Um, and the point of that is I think, I mean, we hear it time and time again, it's basically goes like I was 16, 17, 18, and I did X, Y, Z. And I think if we put our shoes in our 16, 17 and 18 year old selves, you can realize how easy it is to kind of like end up on the wrong side of things. So I'm very conscious of that. You know, I have family members that have suffered with addiction. Addiction is a big proponent to people that have been incarcerated a lot of the time. I think we can all understand that we believe in redemption. And I don't think that anybody that made a mistake at a young age should have to like suffer the consequence of that. Unfortunately, tattoos are permanent otherwise. So I think that's where we can serve that population, that community very well. And it we see it all the time. These people that come in and their tattoos are getting close to being gone very offensive things written on people's faces, like just bad mistakes that people made. Right. And they're removing these things and they will definitely get a better job. You know, it's a lot easier to get a job. no matter where you're working these days with a defensive tattoo, especially a racist tattoo or a gang related tattoo that's on your face or in a visible area. Um, the other program that our outreach program is for human trafficking, victims of human trafficking. It's a really bad problem. I think anybody that flies right now, here's the announcements that coming over the over the loudspeakers in the airport. So like, um this is a really traumatic experience and what I've learned, and we we've had discussions with people, the FBI in human trafficking. Um, and human trafficking is a lot different than like, I think I realized it to be initially. So, um, it's a slippery slope and again, addiction is a big component of it. You know, it may start off with somebody that's addicted to something that They have to work for to fulfill this their addiction basically. So, um, again, it goes back to like, we have the means and the resources to help the people, um, and I think it's definitely the right thing to do and to pay it forward. Uh, and it, it really does mean a lot to, to all of us that take that.
James: Yeah, and it's the nicest thing, like these individuals that are a part of our outreach program, by far the most polite, considerate clients. So appreciative, like, and it really means a lot when you see. You know, kind of, I mean, we've had people like tear up and start crying. Like it really, it makes you feel good. Like that you're doing something that is going to help this person hopefully be able to put something behind them or achieve a better quality of life.
Justin Abrams: And I'm sure that I'm sure they're not shy about how it impacts them. And I'm sure that you have a locker of stories and Most are probably in the order of success for those individuals. Like it truly leads them to better enablement. Even if they're going through maybe a legal battle, it helps them to be taken more seriously. It helps them to not relive their past. It truly helps them to get back to a neutral place to have a really unique, fresh start. And I'm sure that some of the stories that you have are like truly triggering and like truly emotional and like... It's amazing to see, and I'm sure you see it firsthand regularly, like the impact of what entrepreneurship can do, the impact of starting a business and running free, maybe from a franchise or maybe from venture back startup, like you are limited in your ability to drive impact when it's not 100% your own. And I love that you've put mission first. I mean where we stand on that whole topic, but I'm sure you have all sorts of stories. It's wild. You know, I want to position a little bit back into kind of the origin of our partnership, which is really in the theme that we've been talking about, which is to create the most efficient, the most technology forward company that we can to provide the best experience possible to our customers. Create customers for life, folks that will refer you, folks that regardless of where you're located are willing to involve themselves in your service and your business. And some time ago, I think. It clicked in James head to maybe reach out to Mike and start thinking about some, some solutions to some problems that were going on in the business. So Mike, I turn it over to you. And I think from the angle that I'd really like to explore with you and James is there was a big gap. There was a big gap in take tat as far as it's software and the ability to provide a critical point of value to customers. And I just would love to hear you to kind of riff. on this moment of creating a proprietary solution custom for the take-tart ecosystem.
James: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I reached out to Mike they basically something wasn't working out and all the other components were ready to go. But it was kind of even going back further than that, like with COVID and everything. I literally like resigned from my job where I was running like a recruiting team at another pre-unicorn IPO transfix.
And I quit my job to start TakeTatt and then like three weeks later, COVID happened and I was like, oh crap, like I have like no health benefits now. I was like paying for like Cobra.
James: So there was definitely like a sense of urgency, like for And there's nothing we could do. I mean, like the hut, like this company Bizbox that like builds these uh, these kinds of trailers, um they were shut down like from manufacturing and there was just really nothing we could do. Um, so once we got to the point where we had everything else in place, I mean, we had like all of our, uh nurse practitioners or tattoo removal technicians, as we refer to them. You know, they're all like trained. You know, we've got the marketing down pat because Wes, with his background prior to Blue, or prior to TakeTatt having like that web design background and like having like that SEO and like marketing background. So we had clients ready to go. We had a schedule and the only thing we didn't have was like the software that we thought that we would have for the start. So like Wes and I kind of just had one of those moments where we're like. F it, like let's just launch we'll have to do all these processes manually and that's going to be a pain in the ass, but we got to get going. So we did and it's funny because the longer you do something like manually that is supposed to be automated the more you get accustomed to it, the quicker you get to doing it. And then it's kind of just comes like a part of the routine. But with how quickly we were scaling and the amount of clients that we were picking up at a relatively rapid pace, everything else just became a lot and we needed to have that software. So having worked with Mike, knowing what he can do and knowing that he had recently started your guys' company. I guess you guys had that for a while. It was kind of like my first time like hearing about it. So I reached out to him and the rest is history. I mean, I remember the first time I used the software, like after literally like a year of like doing all these things manually, like I literally called Mike like driving down like I 75 towards Cincinnati and I'm like, Mike, this software is amazing. Like I'm so happy right now. And it was just pure joy. Um, so yeah, and that's kind of, uh how that all came about.
Mike: Yeah, I think what's cool about your story too is like we work with a lot of startups that are trying to build like, I want to say like SaaS model type things. And they have this different trajectory with software where they're continuously investing in it and iterating over it and constantly improving features, learning new things from their market. And you guys are there too, but you guys had already done a ton of work upfront to understanding exactly what you needed the software to do. And we come across businesses now. that sort of approach this decision I talk about like the build versus buy type of thing. And what I think we're seeing is more and more people end up in this situation where they're like, well, I was all set to buy an off the shelf solution, except it's crazy expensive and like it's going to cost me this much per month or it has a bunch of features, which justifies the cost for some subset, but none of those features are things I'm going to use and things like that. So we come across this and I guess the historical thought was always you have you should buy versus build at all costs. But now I say with the amount of services and the way that we built your software is it runs off of serverless pretty much everything. We have a serverless database. We have serverless hosting. It scales automatically. It can if you guys saw like crazy spikes, it would scale to millions of users. We know this already. Um, but with these tools, with the modern frameworks, You can really build something and in reality with very minimal maintenance, it stays up and running really nicely. You don't have on-prem servers. You're not backing up your databases every night. You're not worried about all sorts of... There's outages maybe like if AWS goes down, but then everybody's down. It's totally understood. That's the downside of the monolithic internet. AWS or Cloudflare goes down, everyone goes, well, all the websites are down, so it's fine. I know the internet is down. But I think you guys are a good story of like for some businesses who have a really good grasp on their domain, you can build custom software that's exactly the user experience you want, that matches your business, and the maintenance is not out of control. You don't need to hire a developer on staff. Like you just need to handle, pay for some hosting. We do some error monitoring for you guys, and we make sure that everything is up and running at all times. And that's really all you need. So I think that there's a little bit of a paradigm shift now where people are gonna see like, oh, I could actually have a pretty custom piece of software and leverage these serverless tools to not have all that maintenance overhead that I once would have had.
James: And I think one of the big things with that too, like us both our companies being bootstrapped and not having like going that like VC route and like kind of giving up equity for that outside funding. is essentially it has to make you scrappier, right? So when, for example, like when you guys were like building all this software, it's like we, that was like an extra expense for us that we didn't previously anticipate. So I'm literally like working consulting jobs recruiting for like startups for like $20 or, no, I'm sorry, 20 hours a week. And then... Um basically that money that I was making doing that was what was like funneling into and like fueling take time, like all the things that we were like building. Um, and I just feel like it's such a different experience than those companies that do go outside and get that VC funding because they don't care as much, I don't think about like the cost of like doing things maybe, um, archaically, um, because it's like. They've got a ton of money, but when you're bootstrapping and you're working another job just to pay for the privilege of being an entrepreneur and working yourself into the ground, that definitely is a big consideration.
Wes Henderson: I'll take a step back to from like something that you like, all the things that you said are exactly the reasons that we use you guys, but I want to just say something about like, when I spoke to you guys initially, it felt like, like we didn't dive into technicals, we kind of gave you the problem. And you guys offered some like really good practical solutions. And even as a tech savvy person that understands like some servers and some programming languages and everything, unless you're following, like unless you're in that industry, if you're an engineer day in and day out, the technology is shifting just so quickly right now and that technology, those, that underlying technology can give you a strategic advantage in business. You know, whether it's like you use a certain type of image hosting software that segues over into like machine learning, image recognition type of stuff, which is like the direction, like we want to move eventually. So like when we had those conversations with you guys, you very well. Like said, okay, look, these types of this stack of technology, I think is going to be good for you now, but it's forward looking, or we can invest a little more in this. And, or if you spend a little less here and we'll make it up down the road here, because that's an easy shift. I think for any entrepreneur, even the most tech savvy ones, what you really want is like, you want to tell somebody your problem and they spit out the solution, um, which is sort of like where we are with AI and stuff that. So like that that's kind of the thing is like AI is definitely not there. Um. in terms of like, there's a lot of minutiae and like detail, fine detail that you have to read in between the lines. And unless you can spell that out and you can prompt something it's a 10th degree, you're not going to get it. What you really need to do is talk to somebody that understands, that knows the entire landscape. Um, and then ultimately rely on their solution and And that solution sometimes I think is a miss and hit for some companies, but, um, I would say honestly, that's your guys is strong suit. And I mean, we really appreciated it, uh, like right from the get go.
Justin Abrams: I want to stay down this pathway of how business is innovating. And I'm mostly really interested. You guys are balancing a lot of different initiatives, lots of different buckets to keep full at all times. The operation is one side. You're in the internet of things market substantially. You now have a piece of software that you could potentially innovate in. You have a community that you're focused on increasing and improving. I want to hear a little bit about like, what are the goals? Like what's the short-term plan about how innovation is going to lift Taketatt to its next milestone.
James: A lot of what we learned from Ohio, that first market, for example, we're pivoting now to a hub and spoke model where we'll have a store front location in Columbus, which is our best market, our city in Ohio that we perform the best in. Um, essentially at scale, like we'll operate out of the store front location, like six days a week. And it also gives us a place where during the winter, when we need to like store the laser inside, because when it's like freezing outside, like that's how you can like damage things, uh, having like actual physical mailing address. I mean, Wes and I used to call like this Hampton Inn in Toledo, like HQ2. Cause like, we just like spent so much time there, but like having an actual physical like address place we could like ship things to. and still being able to then use the hut, because we're only still gonna have that one laser to still go to all those other locations, kind of just spiderweb across the state. And that's the biggest thing right now, is making sure that we're able to get that up and running smoothly, because that's also the point where Wes and I, what we've always wanted, I mean, from the get-go, it's been nearly two years. I mean, we officially launched in August of 2021, so. For almost two years now, we've literally spent two weeks of every month of our lives on the road in Ohio. And that was kind of never the long-term goal, obviously. We wanna be able to manage this remotely. So finally, being on the verge of being able to do that now where we just hired a head of transit and we traded and trained him, and he's gonna be the one that physically moves the hut around the states. Wes and I aren't gonna be truck drivers anymore. But again, you got to do what you got to do to get to this point where you can afford to like hire like that head of transit when you do kind of go the bootstrap route. And it's just the next goal after that is getting New York up and running. I mean, that's the next market that we want to be in. And a lot of that has been pushed to the back burner a little bit just because we spent so much time like building this thing up in Ohio. We just want to make sure that that's running efficiently. with us being able to take a step away and be more remote. But next goal is New York, having a location in Manhattan, having a location in Long Island. So we're really excited about when we do get to that point where we take that next step and have that second market.
Justin Abrams: We also have a responsibility to balance and I'd like to hear a little bit about. how you're finding the balance of running the organization, but keeping all of these buckets full. Cause it's one thing to call your shot, it's another thing to make it. And I think you guys have done a great job of putting goals out there, checking some boxes off. And I'm interested like how now that you have efficiencies and you're replacing yourselves in some of these critical motions, and we're gonna have some stability with a true HQ and how do you find yourself being able to balance a little bit better? going forward or how have you balanced in the past to kind of make this all work.
Wes Henderson: Yeah, no, I think that balance is like a really important thing to try to nail down sooner in entrepreneurship than not. Um, I can speak to the fact that I've been doing entrepreneurship now for over 20 years and, um, it was really difficult in the beginning to balance your professional and your personal life, it's not an easy. Uh, thing to do it's hard to like Mike alluded to earlier, which is. Yeah. You can theoretically just work nine to five and you, you create that structure in your life and your professional life. Um, but when it's your own business, the reality is, is it doesn't stop at 5pm. It just, it doesn't work that way. You know, you usually do take it home. Um, but with that being said, I think with. some experience with entrepreneurship, like anything, like you've learned sort of after a period of time, like how to, to manage your professional life to the extent that your personal life doesn't suffer and it is challenging at times. I mean, like James said, we're gone two weeks. So that's, that's half my time. I'm away from my 12, my 12 year old son. And you get back and there isn't much of a. a pause to kind of take a little bit of a break. James has a little bit of one renegade his dog is, uh, demanding at times, but, um, but at the end of the day, yeah, I mean, I, I want to spend that time with my family and, um, it does it means a lot to me. So you just have to prioritize these things. It makes it challenging. You feel like you're burning the candle at both ends, but it's just, it's, I guess. from my perspective, I've always looked at things like, in these, like, I'm going to do this, I'm going to have this push for five years or six years or 10 years. Um, and at the end of that push, my life is going to be X, Y, Z. And I, I don't know if that's the right way to look at things. Um, but I think it's a motivating factor for me. It's there's this light at the end of the tunnel. There's a journey that you're working towards. Um, and then at the end of the day, what I would say to anybody is like I don't think entrepreneurship is, it should be money driven like financially driven, you have to be resilient to the failure. You have to be able to pick yourself up. And I think anybody that's like kind of considering going down any kind of entrepreneurship is just realize that there's going to be like a thousand failures and at the end of the day, you need to pick yourself up 1000 and one times. I mean, that's really what it boils down to. Um, James, if I, James and I two years in, and I think any entrepreneur partnership will realize this is like, you nearly come to tears at some points of these journeys. I mean, you, you've invested so much time and money into the, to the process. You're it's also very, it feels in a way like your child that's like, you're raising this thing, this brand and this, um, And it can be really challenging at times and it's really hard to remove your emotion from the process but um But yeah that's what I would say It's just it's a lot a lot of failure and you just have to keep you know driving forward
James: Yeah, resiliency is key because everybody's gonna get punched in the face and get knocked down in the mat. I mean, that's inevitable, but who has the grit to continuously, like, keep getting back up off the mat and be like, give me your best shot? You know, that, because technically until you quit, you've never failed so things might not always be going smoothly, but at the end of the day, like if it was easy, everybody would do it. So.
Wes Henderson: It's funny, all these cliches, like you hear these I just, I remember hearing all these cliches growing up as a child, and early entrepreneurship on various podcasts, reading everything, you hear all these cliches. And then I think you get to a point where all those cliches really ring true.
Mike: That's so interesting because I say to people like, I remember when I first got out of college and I had moved out to Colorado and I was not doing well, right? It was like 2008 financial crisis. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had like mounting debt. It was before I became an engineer and I remember feeling so down, but then I always said like, well, what would I have told myself if I could look like five years into the future? I would have just said, don't even worry about it. Like you're... you're going to be fine. You're going to make it all back and you're going to get this career that you enjoy. As long as you keep pushing for it, you would have been fine. I always envision in entrepreneurship because you end up in those same situations. You have issues with finances, cashflow, marketing, generating leads. We run into this all the time. And I always envision like a version of myself five years from now is just like, all that will go away. You're going to be fine. There's going to be other hard stuff and you'll survive all that hard stuff too. And I think there's like this other cliche, which is that 90% of businesses fail or something like that. And I kind of challenged that a little bit in both of our cases, because I say, when you do a service business, it's a little different. Like I don't know, I'm never going to be a unicorn, but there's always somebody buying software, there's always someone who needs a tattoo removed and you have a laser. There's always someone who needs a piece of software built and I have a keyboard and a computer. Right? So while I may not become a multi-billion dollar unicorn as a first business or as a startup business, you do live with the idea that your business is not failing at the same rate as some moonshot crypto AI. We don't even know if the world needs this thing, but we're just going to raise a million dollars and try. Very, very different style, I think, than this where it's like, well, I know people are buying my product. from somebody somewhere. And if I fail at this, it's really because I mismanaged it. It's not because I didn't figure out, it's not because there was no market for it.
James: Yeah, there's definitely a mark for tattoo removal. I mean, like we've we just crossed like, like the 10,000 like sessions completed mark. We only actually started seeing clients in November of 2021. Um, so I mean, we spent the first three months, like training all of the technicians, cause you can't just like all of a sudden just tell somebody, Hey, uh, go use this laser on this person's skin. I mean, there was a lot of like, uh, excessive, uh, training that went on to get to that point, um a lot of practicing on like temporary tattoos and all that jazz, so, um, yeah.
Justin Abrams: I really want to know what TakeTatt wants to be known for ultimately. And I don't think my question is specific to the business. I'm going to ask. both James and Wes, what you guys want to become or want to achieve individually and ultimately. But James, why don't you take the question, what does Taktat want to be known for ultimately? Like the box that you will check knowing that you have achieved your grandiose goal for this business, what would that look like?
James: Yeah, we want to provide a more affordable tattoo removal for individuals that might not have been able to afford it in the past. Even outside of our pro bono work with former inmates and victims of human trafficking, most markets we're in, we're still on average anywhere between 50, 100%. Sometimes they're more than that cheaper than any other option. So... But we'd also want to be able to achieve that without sacrificing quality. I mean, that was always really big for us. So you guys have been inside the hut. I mean, people like walk in, like I'll be getting them checked in kind of in a little waiting area and they're like, oh initially I thought this was a little bit shady initially, like coming up to a trailer to get this done. And then as soon as like, I always tell them when it's their first time, like pop back over after you're done and like let me know what you thought. Um, and they're always like, their mind is blown. They're like, this is literally nicer than the med spa or like doctor's office that I was in. And I'm like really big when it comes to, um client satisfaction. I think like, uh, over 10 years in recruiting and like putting such a big emphasis and really caring a lot about candidate experience that kind of like trickled into how I feel about client experience. I mean, if you like, look at our like Google reviews, I mean, I. I think you can kind of get a good vibe for that. So I take that part like really seriously. Like I want people to be telling their friends like, oh my God, like this was a great experience. That's the most important thing for me. And I think that's kind of like what TakeTat's mission is, is we wanna be able to provide this service that otherwise the person might be stuck with that tattoo. I mean, I think I read that. more than like 50% of people that have tattoos, like don't like them and want to remove them. But the price point before us, wasn't there for a lot of them.
Justin Abrams: I would ask Wes in the same in the same position you've made a career out of being in this industry. And I wonder what's your grandiose goal for TakeTatt and a measure of success several years down the line.
Wes Henderson: I find it fascinating no matter what you do, what, whatever your trade is, whether you're, uh you're a plumber, you're a mechanic or, or a software engineer, like achieving the best is really admirable. I think when you can say you're the best makeup artist or you're the best, um, software engineer or you. That type of accolade and it best, I think the client, I think defines that ultimately, but I feel like, um, with the time in the industry that we're getting really to the point of an exceptional experience. Um, and what's exciting about it is the mobile component because I think going in to take tat. We felt like our biggest weakness was going to be this idea that we have to convince people to come to this like mobile unit that's parked at the mall that day in reality. And what I'm excited about is I think that's going to be our biggest strength, which is you got to go to that place that's parked at the mall. You know, uh, it's, it's a, it's definitely a differentiating factor for us. Um, it's the way that we're able to charge the price that we charge. And, um, yeah, I that's what I think I would like this company to be known for is just like sort of being the Amazon of tax removal or being like that, that price point conscious business without impacting, but also revolution, revolutionizing the experience making sure that they can track their progress and eventually using things like machine learning to recognize images. We're actually working on a kind of cool project where it's like upload a photo. And the idea is you upload a photo of like with tattoos on your body and it automatically removes the tattoos and the photo. So it's like, imagine what you would look like without a tattoo with this tattoo.