Tell us a little about yourself:
So my name is Cara-Jade Frame, although I’m more commonly known under my moniker of Cara Frankenstein. I’m 23 years old and I’m a tattooist, laser tattoo removal technician, manager of a studio, and the co-owner/managing director of Kustom Kulture Tattoos in Worle, W-S-M. I’ve been working in tattoo studios full time since I was 18 and part time from the ages of 16-18 whilst I got my college education (everyone needs a backup plan).
What did you do before you went into your business?
I think it’s fair to say that whilst my responsibilities have changed over the years, for the entirety of my adult life I have been working towards this. I’ve never had an office job, I’ve never worked in a supermarket. For that I do have to thank my dad as he is a tattooist himself and sparked my interest in the tattoo world. After many years of badgering him he finally agreed to take me on as an apprentice but only if I first had something to fall back, hence college. My apprenticeship was really tough, because my mentor was my dad he was a lot harder on me than he would have been with anyone else. Which looking back on it is very understandable, he wanted to make sure I could stand on my own two feet despite what anyone else says or does.
What made you choose to create your own business?
Running my own studio was a kind of natural progression, ideally I
would have waited a little longer to open my own studio but when opportunity comes knockin’ you’re not just gonna turn it away!! I don’t ever regret it, even on the stressful days that make me want to pack up and quit. Running and owning a studio is one of the single most important and precious things to me. Kustom Kulture is like my baby, and there is no way anyone is taking my baby away.
How long have you been running your business for?
I’ve been running Kustom Kulture for 2 years in March, but this isn’t the first studio I’ve managed, I’ve worked all across the country, Melksham, Hereford, Gloucester, Leominster. I’m often told I seem too young to be doing what I do, but to be honest I’ve never wasted much of my time on things that don’t genuinely interest me, so of course with tattooing being something that genuinely excites the bejeesus out of me of course I’m going to do everything I can to make the dream real!!
Have you come across any sexist issues in owning your business?
I would love to turn around and say tattooing is the beautiful, sparkling land filled with unicorns and rainbows where no one is ever judged, where you can be a woman, or a man, or whoever you are and it not be a problem; but unfortunately that’s not the world I work in. I work in a male-dominated field. Whilst female tattooers are more common now, we’re still far from being 50/50. I regularly experience sexist issues where I work, not from the artists as we have an all female studio, but from clients or artists in other studios. The general consensus seems to be that you’re only allowed one female artist for every two male artists. I’ve been told I tattoo well ‘for a girl’, I’ve had people refuse to accept that I would be doing their tattoo for them as there is no way I could know what I’m doing. It seems bizarre to me that people are surprised by 3 women working in a studio together!! The women I work with are so important to me, they’re like my sisters and we all provide a mutual support network for each other. Whether it’s helping through serious issues or if it’s just making sure someone eats lunch today and has a bit of a giggle.
What are your 3 pros and 3 cons of owning your own business?
Running this business is hard. I mean really bloody hard. There is daily stress, late nights and early mornings, forgetting to eat for 2 days because you’re so focused on a clients design.
You lose touch with family and friends if you’re not careful.
It’s painfully high-pressure although that’s mostly down to my chosen field, if I spend one day feeling lazy I could ruin a tattoo and some poor soul has to live with that because I decided their tattoo wasn’t important enough.
But on the flip side if all the negative I get to do something I well and truly love every day of my life.
I get to create art for people, people look at my artwork and the tattoos I do and decide they want to walk around with it forever!!
I get to be the person I want to be every day, I don’t have to change who I am to fit into an environment that doesn’t suit me. I’m in a place now where I can be proud of who I am, I can get up every day and see that bleary eyed, bed-headed face in the mirror and know I’m doing the right thing.
What are the main things that drive your passion in relation to your business?
I could right a whole essay on the things that drive my passion, but as cliché as it sounds the main thing is my clients. I’ve met some absolutely remarkable people, the stories they share with me, the laughs, the secrets, I wouldn’t change any of it. Some of my clients have become close friends because it feels like we’re kindred spirits. I meet people of all walks of life. I’ve met lawyers who want to rebel against the box they’re put into, I’ve met ex-addicts who want to like themselves again. I’ve encountered people I never would have met if it weren’t for this business. But the thing that drives me the most is seeing a clients face light up when they see their finished tattoo. It could be anything, a tattoo for a loved one, a memorial, or even just something because they felt like it, but that face, that glow when they’re truly overwhelmed with the tattoo you’ve done, that is worth every late night, every minute of stress. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.
What’s your proudest moment in your business ownership so far?
There are 2 key people who inspire me in my work, one is my dad, and one is my tattoo sister, my best friend Tallulah.
My dad brought me into this business, he put up with the incessant bugging of a 16 year old who had no idea how this business worked but insisted she could do it, and every day I’m thankful he agreed to bring me through this. We’ve gone through hell together doing this and we’ve only become stronger. He taught me everything about tattooing and let me spread my wings and fly. So he’ll probably read this so I’ma put a little something here: Thank you, Dad!! I love you pops.
Who inspires you in relation to your work?
Tallulah is one of the artists I work with at Kustom Kulture, she’s an angry, loud, beautiful Liverpuddlian and I wouldn’t change her for the world. She inspires me everyday with her passion, her focus, her devotion. She’s been on one incredible journey to get where she is now and I swear, she is the person who keeps me going every damn day when I don’t want to. Lord knows how she puts up with me but she does and I love her for it. I think it would be fair to say we both mutually inspire each other to keep going when things get tough, when all you really want is a nap. Now I know Tallulah will read this because I’m going to wave it in her face, so: Oi, Tallulah!! I love you my darlin’ now go make me a cuppa.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Starting a business isn’t for everyone. Make sure you’re prepared for all the hard work, commit yourself. Don’t do anything by halves unless you want a half-arsed business. This is one of the most difficult things you will ever do, but the rewards will be overwhelming if you stick to it, don’t give up and never forget: it’s okay to ask for help!! If you believe you can start your own business and keep it going then get it going and see what magic you can put into the world!!
My Etsy: etsy.com/shop/carafrankenstein