Kate Matusiak and Hannah Cox set up Stag & Raven in 2014 selling tattoo art online. Here, Hannah reveals the drive behind setting up their business and where they intend to be in five years time.

What inspired you to set up your business?

We noticed that many tattoo artists don’t sell their designs as artwork or online, despite the fact there is a real market for tattoo lovers to own a piece of art by their favorite artists.

Part of the problem is that tattoo artists are not always viewed as artists in their own right; but you don’t need to have a design on your skin to appreciate the talent that many of them possess.  Moreover tattoo artists are busy and already juggling a lot, with constant enquiries and design time as well as tattooing so we thought we could create a business to support them in selling their work – putting their designs on limited edition & exclusive prints, as well as on a range of clothing, and helping them to get a secondary income.

We also wanted to showcase how beautiful the art is that they create, to an audience that may not be fans of being tattooed themselves!

What makes your business/you/your skills special and where are you based?

Our business not only supports the tattoo Industry, but also focuses on making sure artists are credited for their work, and customers hear about their story. We work closely with Inkluded, the UK’s award-winning tattoo community site, and tell the stories of our artists on our blog and website.

Many of our designs are Limited Edition and Exclusive, meaning customers can own a special piece of art at an affordable price. Our pieces deliberately have a low price point between £10 –  £35, because we believe art should be inclusive.

We are based in Manchester, at the iconic Afflecks Palace, where Kate runs our shop. I am currently travelling full time, so I work remotely wherever I can get wi-fi.

What makes you different to your competitors?

Our focus is on providing quality products with outstanding customer service. We are two best friends that only work with artists and creatives who we love. We showcase artists, and are always looking for new ways to support them. There is a real sense of community when it comes to buying art from us, and we have lots of repeat customers who are building a collection from us.

What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

Adapt and Review, take chances. We are constantly coming up with new ideas on how to grow the business. As there are only two of us, we can make quick decisions on how we want to change.

We have weekly meetings and monthly reviews to look at how we can grow and improve. Our original business plan was an online business selling Tattoo Art. Now we have a shop in Manchester, an art and clothing brand collaboration with one of the industries’ best tattoo websites, and even our own range of mugs!

What has been your greatest challenge?

Making sure we focus on growing and building and not get too caught up in the day-to-day running of a business. Taking big chances, like building a new website from scratch last year (I am self taught) was challenging but incredibly rewarding. It’s a really exciting job!

How do you switch off from work?

I am currently travelling full time with my partner, so I have to make sure I block off time every week to focus on the business. However I am constantly inspired by the places I visit for new ideas. The thing is, if you have a job you love, you don’t need to switch off, just prioritise your time.

What have you learnt in setting up your own business?

That you have to be open to changing plans last minute, you have to trust your gut and if you make a mistake it’s not the worst thing In the world. Learn from everything and be prepared to change.

Where do you see yourself/your business in five years’ time?

I’d like Stag & Raven to be recognised as a brand that showcases and supports alternative artists. I want our customers to feel part of a community and for Kate and I to enjoy a holiday together!

Where do you go on holiday?

Kate and I run our business very differently to most people. Kate is based in Manchester, and works not only as a business owner, but also as our full time shop manager. She favours long weekends away with her partner Mike. I work remotely; I am currently travelling from the UK to Bhutan overland, conducting research into happiness… so I work on the business most days for a few hours, and block of a day or two every week to get big projects done. For example, I’m writing this from Moscow where we are spending five days before travelling on the Transmongolian Railway. So two solid days is work, two exploring and one travel!

 What lesson do you wish you had learnt at school?

School should teach what I call ‘Life Admin’ which covers learning how to manage personal finances and a budget, basic food budgeting and cooking skills. Also I wish I had learnt that you can be academic AND creative. I was told at school I wasn’t creative, so it has taken me till my 30s to have the confidence to have a creative business and career.

What app/website/twitter account (other than your own!) would you recommend?

I follow tons of different blogs and websites to stay up to date. There is a chrome plug in called zest which turns your home page into a newsletter with latest marketing articles on. Websites – I like Inc.com, lifehacker and reddit, Also my other website www.betternotstop.com of course!

How do you use social media to help promote your business? 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stagandraven

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/stagandraven

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/stagandraven