Matt Orlic knows what it’s like to have a tattoo you regret. He has an arm full of them, which he jokes he was inspired to get after seeing soccer star David Beckham’s tattoos.
“Everyone had it you know, it was a thing, everyone had a sleeve.”
After a bad experience trying to get them removed, he sensed a business opportunity.
“I had blisters and my arm was so swollen, couldn’t put my shirt on for a couple weeks. So it came to mind that something had to be done,” Matt says. “No matter what we did, research we did, whoever we were speaking to, competitors – it was more or less about price and how quick they could do it… So we combined a skin rejuvenation technology using a fractional laser – that’s the first process – then the second process is when we actually use the tattoo removal treatment.”
He launched his business, the Tattoo Removal Institute, in Parramatta last year.
With specialist laser machines ranging from $150,000 to $300 000 dollars, start-up costs in this line of business are substantial, and getting financing isn’t easy.
Matt says banks aren’t interested in providing loans for the purchase of laser machines.
“It’s a risk category for them,” he explains. “We’re pretty lucky we’ve got a history, several other businesses that are guarantors, which helped us. We still leased a small portion of it but a lot of it we paid up front.”
Regulations are also less strict in the removal industry, compared to the tattoo sector. Because the procedure doesn’t penetrate the skin – the way a tattoo needle does – it’s not regulated under the New South Wales Public Health Act. While that may make it easier for removal businesses to operate, consumers need to do their research before choosing a clinic.
After six months in operation, Matt says the Tattoo Removal Institute is averaging 30-40 clients a week, and is expecting turnover of a quarter of a million dollars by the end of this financial year.
With an average of ten sessions required to remove a tattoo – and each session costing anywhere from $50 to $750 (depending on a number of factors), it’s a pricey process.
For Allysse Tait, it’s worth it. As she rolls up her sleeve to show a tattoo she’s having removed on her upper arm, she laughs. “It’s pretty ironic. [It reads] ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
Her second tattoo reads ‘spero’ on her wrist. “Latin for hope,” she explains.
Allysse says both tattoos were done by the same person, badly. “After a week, once it was starting to heal, I realised the ink had bled so it looked like a quite a big bruise surrounding the tattoo.”
She’s representative of many of the business’ clients. Tattoo removal technician Edit Pali says 60 percent of those who come through the doors are young adults.
“The reasons [they come] are far and varied but what’s coming though most is either it’s a bad tattoo, originally has been a bad art. And then some of them, things change in your life.”
Nevertheless, the tattoo trend continues – as does the demand for removals. Owner Matt Orlic is now organising franchisees and he’s confident his removal business has more permanence than the ink on his skin.