If you're opening a tattoo shop, Arizona has some definite advantages as a location. In many parts of the United States, the industry is tightly regulated. Some local governments do the best they can to discourage tattoo businesses. Regulations on Arizona tattoo shops are lighter than many states.
Arizona Tattoo Locations
Even if you've had experience running a business before, opening tattoo shops in Phoenix, Tucson or elsewhere in the state is different from opening, say, an insurance office. Landlords may not be comfortable with renting to a tattoo parlor, so it may take time and effort to find a spot that fits your needs.
- You want a location that's visible and easy for customers to find. Most tattooists get customers from word of mouth, so it will help if recommendations come with "it's easy to find".
- You need a location that's big enough for you and your staff to all work on customers at the same time. That includes space for equipment, seating for customers getting their skin art and seating for waiting customers. Nobody should feel cramped.
- Arizona tattoo law flatly rules out some locations. You can't set up your shop in your home or an "impermanent structure, including a tent, trailer, trunk". You'll also have to find a space that conforms to local zoning, though the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that local governments can't refuse to let you set up shop.
- Do you want to provide music or videos so that the customers' time will pass a little more pleasantly? This might require the appropriate space to install and play at certain decibels or times.
- The location you choose has to be consistent with your startup budget.
Stocking Your Shop
Starting an Arizona tattoo business isn't something you can do on a shoestring. Unlike some fields, tattooing requires buying supplies and equipment:
- Art and stencil designs for sketching your ideas before putting needle to flesh
- Tattoo guns. You might want to get three: one for lining, one for shading in gray and black and one for color shading. As you grow, you will likely want duplicates of each type of gun.
- Black and colored ink
- Furniture for people undergoing skin art and for those who are waiting for one of your artists to finish and call them over
- Sterilization equipment. Arizona tattoo law does require that you use sterilized needles. The sterilization standards are the same as those for medical facilities.
You may be able to trim your costs if you hire tattoo artists who already have their own equipment.
Keep Things Clean
Using sterilized equipment is one of the few Arizona tattoo regulations along with requiring parental presence for underage customers. Currently, only Coconino County takes it further: You have to register your business with the county, and you and your team have to participate in annual training on bloodborne diseases.
Even though training isn't required for tattoo shops in, say, Phoenix or Mesa, it's still worth doing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides training and standards for dealing with bloodborne infections and preventing accidental needle sticks. Everyone will be safer if you and your staff know the rules.
Keeping your floors and furniture spick and span is both sanitary and a good image. People who still worry that tattoos are seedy and unpleasant may feel better if they come in and see that your store looks like a clean, professional business facility.
Stay Current on the Law
There's no guarantee that Arizona will still be the Wild West of tattooing. State legislators have repeatedly introduced bills to impose Coconino-style regulations on the industry. In 2018, State Representative Kelli Butler took a shot, but the bill died without ever getting a floor vote.
It's a safe bet that someone will eventually try pushing another bill. Keep an eye on the legislative news so that if the standards change, you aren't caught flat-footed.
- Phoenix New Times: Phoenix, Ink: Tattoos Not Just for 'Whores and Sailors' Anymore; What Happened?
- PainfulPleasures: Managing Your Tattoo Shop
- Arizona Legislature: 13-3721
- Tattoo.com: Opening a Tattoo Shop: How to Turn Your Dream Into Reality
- Body Shock: Starting Up: The Tattoo Supplies You Need
- LegiScan: Arizona House Bill 2442 (Prior Session Legislation)
- While Arizona doesn't require you to obtain a license or permit to run a tattoo shop as of 2010, you still need to register the business, as any other, with the Arizona Corporations Commission.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com