Jason Alabaster and Malte Christesen couldn’t afford to buy their own booth or print ads when they started selling their Pure Tatts temporary tattoos at festivals.
âWe couldn’t afford all of this,â said Alabaster, 24. âSo we were literally in our backpacks. We would take our shirts off, put tattoos on us and walk around. Sometimes we had to put 30 on them to show people the designs.â
It was less than a year ago. Pure Tatts now sells in over 50 stores in the United States and Canada. They are also sold online at puretatts.com.
âIt’s just a way of self-expression, and it’s not permanent,â Alabaster said. “You can change it whenever you want. If you’re at a festival, you can wear an expression. Or if you go to yoga. You can just change them whenever you want.”
Acrylic ink tattoos, only available in white, black, or black and white, are on water transfer paper. âYou cut out the tattoo you want,â Alabaster said. “Much like an old-fashioned tattoo in Cracker Jack.”
The paper tattoo is placed face down on the skin, water is sprinkled on the back, then the paper is gently rubbed. When removed, a perfect tattoo is revealed. âIt will last four days,â Alabaster said. “You can remove it with baby oil or something like that.”
Each pack contains eight to 27 tattoos. Prices range from $ 10 to $ 20.
A native of Memphian, Alabaster learned how to sell to people from his grandfather, the late Jake Alabaster, who sold jewelry at flea markets. “No matter what you sell, you have to believe it and show them that you care.”
He met Christesen at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where they were both tennis players and All-America team captains. âI always wanted to have my own business,â Alabaster said. âI created an Internet start-up at the university. It was called theworksup.com. This was where students could post the work they needed and other students could do the work. We have set up a complete platform. People were using it. We didn’t have enough money to market it and we were still in school.
Alabaster and Christesen earned degrees in economics. âAfter I graduated he called me up and he said, ‘Hey, I don’t really know what I’m going to do now,â âAlabaster said.
He invited Christesen to move to Memphis. âI was like, ‘Hey, I have a really great idea.’ I saw that tattoos were very popular back then. And still are. I wanted to create something using art, but that you could wear at the same time. I found a way to make them do it. So we went from there. “
Christesen started buying and selling on eBay at the age of 12. âI have always had an entrepreneurial spirit,â he said.
Pure Tatts was something else. âAt first I was very confused because I had never paid attention to temporary tattoos and art in general,â Christesen said. âI was a little puzzled. But I liked the idea. It was very simple and very easy to do. It was a fun thing to do as a first business. It gave us a lot of experience. “
They found a graphic designer online and told him what they wanted. âAt first we were in the bohemian styles,â Alabaster said. âSo we were doing dream catchers, stuff like that. “
They started off with all white tattoos. âIt was our niche,â Alabaster said. âIt was just the purity of the white tattoos. Because no one had done any temporary tattoos in white. We started posting photos on Instagram, and all of a sudden we racked up a huge success.”
Their first festival was the Delta Fair 2015. Since they didn’t have their own booth, they asked the owner of Pure 13 Tattoo Studio, Paul Perry, who sells real tattoos, if they could partner with him. “He said to me, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea. We’re going to talk to adults, and you young adults and kids.'”
Pure Tatts was a success. âWe just killed him. It was crazy,â Alabaster said. “We were overwhelmed. We had to bring in two people to help us. I would say we did over a few thousand tattoos. We would have people lining up.”
They sold the Pure Tatts to other festivals, including the Cooper Young Festival, and during Trolley Night on South Main. âWe saw how much people started to like us. We were like, ‘Alright. Let’s take it to the next level. Let’s try to get them into the stores.’ So we literally packed our backpacks and was going down South Main, going to the stores and showing them our product, and we did that for six months.
âMalta and I would go together and say, ‘This is our product. Most of the time it was like a ladies’ store or something. We were surprised how many times we received a “yes”. We definitely put the charm. “
They wanted more detailed tattoos so they started looking for artists online. Pure Tatts now collaborates with artists from all over the world.
Artist Emily Deechaleune from Methuen, Massachusetts, has created 28 Pure Tatts models. âWhat I love about creating tattoos as opposed to other works of art is that I do it for the style, which makes it a fashion statement,â she said. declared. âCreating these lovely temporary tattoos allows people to express them as a form of body art using their own individual and unique style. It’s like working with the buyer; I design the tattoos, and they wear them in their own way. “
Pure Tatts now offers 16 packaged tattoo kits. The focus is “only on online sales and building online users,” Alabaster said. He said Pure Tatts reached 10,000 Instagram followers.
Tattoo artists, with 100,000 total subscribers, also post for Pure Tatts, Alabaster said.
Pure Tatts has been sent to celebrities, including Australian tennis player Daria Gavrilova. âShe’s in the world’s top 45 in tennis. And she’s worn them at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. On center court,â Alabaster said. “It was on national television, and everyone was talking about it. She had these white tattoos. And it was all over social media.”
Each month, the proceeds from sales of Pure Tatts are donated to charity. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the first. Now the focus is on Sgt. Pepper’s Friends, an Aruba-based animal rescue foundation.
In addition to Pure Tatts, Alabaster has created a line of t-shirts – Vibrational Warrior – for the “high vibration lifestyle – a balanced and healthy lifestyle,” he said.
âI literally wake up almost every day with an idea. I like to create stuff out of ideas and actually do it. A lot of people talk about doing things. They never really do it. But I really like it. carry them out. “
Alabaster recently moved to Santa Monica, California to take on an investment banker role. Christesen, who now lives in Santa Barbara, is focusing on her tennis career.
None of the founders of Pure Tatts have a permanent tattoo.
“I thought about it, but I think I would be fed up or regret it,” Alabaster said. “So I thought that was pretty cool. I could put whatever I want that day.”