“Let’s build this and see where it goes,” was the mindset of Braden Handley (Business Management ’12) and his brother Tyler as they launched Inkbox Tattoos in 2015.
This confidence allowed them, over the course of just seven years, to develop the world’s first two-week tattoo, raise millions in venture capital, pitch Dragons’ Den, have their products appear in TV shows such as Stranger Things, collaborate with poet Rupi Kaur, K-Pop phenomenon BTS, House of the Dragon and Marvel Studios, and hit US$27 million in sales.
Their success caught the attention of Société BiC SA (aka BiC). In January 2022, the Handley brothers sold Inkbox for US$65 million to the France-based pen manufacturer.
As part of the acquisition, the brothers will stay on and continue to run and grow Inkbox.
“We are an online, direct-to-consumer business,” says Handley. “The sale opens up new distribution channels for us.”
The brothers started the business — first in Braden’s 500-square-foot apartment then in TMU’s Fashion Zone — to create semi-permanent tattoos that looked and felt real.
Their research led them to Panama where they met Indigenous people who had been using an ink derived from fruits to dye their skin for thousands of years.
There have been many evolutions of Inkbox’s patented ink since then to make it more user-friendly and scalable, and they’ve worked with some of the world’s top tattoo artists, graphic designers and fine artists who receive a percentage of their designs’ sales.
Soon the brothers started seeing Inkbox’s designs on TV shows. This visibility opened the door to high-profile collaborations and licensing agreements with culturally relevant artists.
In July, Inkbox introduced its Thor tattoo collection with Marvel at Comic Con. Black Panther and Spider-Man collections are next.
Handley’s advice to other entrepreneurs: “Don’t focus on perfection. Get something out there and continue to work on it. That’s the first step to creating something great.”