Throughout March, I shared insights on the business via social media. Here, you can find them all in one space!
I’m Naomi Hoang, Tattoo Artist and founder of NAOHOA Luxury Bespoke Tattoos. I studied Fine Art and Graphic Design throughout my school years, before gaining a BA(Hons) in Illustration at the (then named) Arts University College in Bournemouth. A year after graduating, I managed to break into the gaming industry as an Illustrator and Concept Artist, before leaving it all and falling into the world of tattooing.
Here at NAOHOA, I get to know clients one-to-one so I can design tattoos that are truly unique and personal to them. Nowadays, I use an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to design these, as it’s much quicker. If you follow my Instagram Stories, you may catch me every now and then sharing updates or doing a Live stream, where you can chat with me while I draw! .
I’m a self-taught tattoo artist, since going down the apprentice route didn’t work out for me. A lot of people fret if they hear this bit too soon, so I often leave it out until they get to know my work. 😜 Tattooing is much like painting, so it didn’t take long for me to pick it up. 🎨
How Did I Get Here?
As mentioned in my previous MMM post, the apprentice route didn’t work for me, so instead I undertook business training via Business in Focus (Cardiff) and any free sources I could find online.
Without a clue how to secure a premise, my adviser told me to simply knock on doors until someone let me in! Straight after my appointment with him, I walked around Cardiff, knocking on every salon door asking for a room to rent. So, so many people turned me down for being a tattoo artist, as if I’d be trouble. 😅 Eventually, I stumbled at Leila & Violetta’s salon, which has since changed owner to Susan. It was unstable here for the first 2-3 years, due to conflicts between the first two owners, which put a tense vibe in the building. 😞 Also, I didn’t have the full room to myself, so 1/3 was ugly and too embarrassing to show (I didn’t even take a photo before painting it!)…I think these were blockers from me advertising too much as I wasn’t proud of my space, especially with “luxury” in the title. I’m defo grateful to my early clients for glazing over the dodgy walls and salon drama!! 🙈
Things are much better now, thankfully. 😊 It took a crazy intense 3 months to go from idea to fully functioning and licensed studio with basically no work experience in tattooing…all or nothing, eh? 🤣 Without a doubt it’s concerning how easy(…ish) it is to set up a space, but I’m also kinda glad, since I knew I had the skills to pull through and didn’t wanna put up with more BS I’d already been through in gaming and tattooing. Time to put a spin on things!! 💪🏼
….and that’s how I became my own boss. 😎
Flat Lay / Tools
I’ve split this into three images of my essential equipment, based on type of use.
As you can see, I’m quite tech-heavy! I grew up with tech and gaming, thanks to an older brother who saw me (the youngest) as a last chance for a little bro, ended up with yet another sis, then decided to treat me like a bro anyway. 😆
From top left to right: iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, which I use to draw my designs (also used during Instagram Lives). Selfie Light for taking photos of tattoos and products (rarely for actual selfies, hah). Wireless mouse and wrist rest for when I’m doing admin and my compact Brother thermal stencil printer. I use a mix of the printer and old-school tracing out the stencil, depending on the design.
Then there’s my laptop (Dell XPs13), my trusty Contigo flask that has survived 6 years so far, and my personal phone. Besides the printer, I use these pretty much every day!
Organic, vegan-friendly ink by Japanese brand, Kuro Sumi. I love how bright, yet earthy their colours are. For black, I use Dynamic Color, as I find it much darker than Kuro Sumi’s. DC is vegan-friendly but not organic. Machines used are by British craftsman Wayne Taylor and well-established American brand, Bishop Rotary. I tend to use the former for shading and latter for lining.
Although I have decent posture; tattooing for long hours, designing and admin pretty much all involve sitting down and being hunched over. It really does a number on my body and mind if I don’t take steps to maintain them. I have a thick pilates mat on the left, which I use for working out and doing stretches. Gua Sha for applying pressure all over to improve circulation and a very spiky foam roller for deep-tissue massage around my body – especially for my back and glutes. Adorable bento box for lunch breaks, ’cause besides art, food is my life*! NeckSaviour to stretch out my neck and the @calm app on my phone to meditate – clearing my mind so it has time to chill out. I use these every day.
My uniform is black because it’s smart, sleek and gives consistency (…also more forgiving if ink lands on it!). When doing Consultations, I’m able to wear long sleeves, glasses, jewellery and leave my hair down. When tattooing, I opt for contact lenses, garments with shorter sleeves, remove jewellery and put my hair up with a stick to avoid distraction when working. 😊⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
On the right, I’m wearing a Vietnamese dress (Ao Dai) I designed specifically for work. It’s all-black with purple orchids that are on-brand. NAOHOA’s colour scheme is off-white, purple and occasionally pink and the logo is an orchid, because my Vietnamese name (Mai Lan – ‘Lan’ being an exerpt from ‘Phonglan’) is based on the Dendrobium Orchid. Ao Dai are often floor-length, but this one stops at the knee for more practical use.⠀⠀
From day one, NAOHOA (all caps) was intended to be a brand – a platform for creativity and giving. I want to expand into different sectors over time, starting with tattoos, which is why the name is not attached to any given field. As some of you have figured out by now, NAOHOA consists of the first three letters from my first and second name: Naomi Hoang = NAOHOA. It took a while to figure out the right combination of letters to name my brand but once it appeared, that was it! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Here, you can see my attempts to figure out nice-sounding names based on my name (Vietnamese/Western/meanings behind them). Most were taken by other companies or people and although Nao Hoa is a Vietnamese name, NAOHOA wasn’t taken, so happy days! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You can read more in my blog post:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ http://www.naohoa.com/naohoa-logo⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Inspiration was drawn from luxury brands such as @bezant_london, @shiseido and @swarovski 💎
Thanks for following my journey through this, folks! I hope they were interesting to read. 😊⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ On July 3rd, NAOHOA will have been up-and-running for 4 whole years!! I cannot thank you enough for being here – especially during the early stages where I was finding my ground. Since the latter half of 2018, things have really taken off and I’ve finally hired an assistant to help with admin tasks (you’ll have seen her social media posts here and there lately). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It’s been a tumultuous journey of elating highs and devastating lows. Running a business is definitely not for the faint-hearted and I’m grateful to have help all around me – in particular, my parents and partner (Zan). Mum’s a Buddhist and gave me this statuette last year for the business, along with a beaded bracelet she had blessed by the head monk of the temple she attends. I wear it every day, along with a ring from Zan on my right hand as a reminder of their support. If it weren’t for them & few more, I’d have quit so. many. times. 😐 As much as I love what I do and meeting all of you, sometimes the pressure of it all can really get to me, but they’ve egged me on and picked me up no matter how low I sank. Don’t worry, things have evened out over the last year, so I’m okay!! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ NAOHOA has made me stronger as a person, taught me to appreciate and look after myself (…because no sick days) and enabled me to meet the most wonderful people. From fellow business owners to amazing clients who become friends, I truly am grateful to all of you. 💛⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So…how should I celebrate all this in July?! Post ideas via Instagram or Facebook! 😃
Happy #InternationalWomensDay ! Along with my attempts at calligraphy, I’ll be dedicating this post to some wonderful female business owners I’ve had the pleasure to befriend. 💕 In order of when they gave me selfies. 😜
In July last year, Sophie made a firm decision to open Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero waste store. She achieved this with an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, aiming to raise £30k in 13 days. Fair to say, she totally aced the target with over £3k spare, thanks to the collective efforts of eco-warriors far and wide. I’m incredibly honoured to have been able to help by donating tattoo Gift Certificates, which whisked away in no time, raising £800 towards the kitty. Sophie’s been a real trailblazer and so many of us are grateful to her vision of making eco-living that much easier in Cardiff.
I met Alice during our stint at NatWest Accelerator 2018 and although our businesses are completely different, it’s super cool that our passion for an ethical, eco-friendly lifestyle is a common thread between them. Alice runs a Subscription Box service, where you can receive a monthly parcel of goodies and tips to live a life more in tune with our planet. 🌍 She puts a lot of thought into her posts and it’s a joy to see her business grow. 🌱
Star clients who leave a review on Google AND Facebook have a chance to win an exclusive Deluxe Box from her at my seasonal Prize Draw!
Emily and I befriended over Instagram and although we haven’t met in person yet, we totally will when we’re in the same area! Running Camarthen’s only specialised tea house, Emily serves an amazing range of teas and homemade cakes I want to dive my face into whenever I see her posts. In fact, NAOHOA will be switching tea supplier to Leaf & Bean very soon! 🍵
Along with running a vintage cafe, Emily is also open about her Crohn’s Disease in order to normalise and comfort those who also live with colostomy. There really is nothing better than supporting nice people doing good in the world. 😊
NatWest-Accelerator-Bestie-and-fellow-Nerd, Marina specialises in helping businesses find their voice and encourages them to shout to the rooftops. Nudging people’s mindsets away from thinking brands are just logos and business cards, she shares her knowledge so that people can express themselves authentically, inevitably making them stand out from the crowd. You’ll have seen pics of us now and then from gallivanting around arty museums and events. 🎨 Check out her latest workshop here (ticket sales end Sunday 10th March!): https://bit.ly/2J5LAym
Who inspires you?
Why not give them a call or shout out on social media? I’m sure it would make their day~ ✨
“I would thoroughly recommend NAOHOA whether you are going for a first tattoo or just want a beautiful custom piece designed by a truly talented artist. Naomi creates a wonderful tattoo experience ☺️ it’s the longest I’ve had to sit for thus far but the chat was easy and engaging and the process was pretty much as painless as it gets bearing in mind you’ve got a needle sticking in your skin!! Thanks a bunch, I’m sure I’ll be back!”
In July 2018, an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise £30k in 13 days began. Its mission? To open Cardiff’s first zero-waste store.
(Spoiler Alert: They totally nailed it, and NAOHOA helped raise over £800 towards it by donating tattoo Gift Certificates) .
Climate change and our impact on the planet has been firmly in our minds over the past few years – particularly after the boom of Blue Planet II‘s release in 2017 . Since then, many of us have tried switching to more eco-friendly alternatives such as shampoo bars, bringing flasks to cafes or switching to bamboo toothbrushes. Many bars and restaurants have replaced plastic straws with paper ones, or scrap the use of them altogether.
In-store, you’ll find dried goods ranging from loose-leaf teas and snacks to a plethora of grains, pulses and spices. Household products such as shampoo, conditioner, washing up liquid and even bath salts are on offer, along with ethically-sourced, sustainable swaps and clothing.
The choice available is impressive and, with Sammy’s Fruit & Veg stand across the road, I’ve happily done my plastic-free food shop between the two every week without feeling like I’m compromising on my lifestyle. The only time I shop at a supermarket these days is to buy meat and eggs. Granted, these can be bought at the local farmer’s market on weekends and I’ll try to add this to my routine once I’ve finished working on Saturdays.
Spices in particular have been a pleasant surprise. When reusing glass spice jars, I’ve managed to refill on smoked paprika (35p), garlic powder (15p) and ground cumin (9p) for ridiculous prices. For someone who loves to cook, this is a huge bonus.
The atmosphere is upbeat, staff are super friendly and helpful and customers themselves tend to be polite and patient. It does take longer to shop there, as you need to weigh your containers before and afterwards (or just afterwards, if you’ve used them in-store before), so factor that in when you visit next. If you’re a total dork like me, you can make a Tare Book to keep the stickers in (instead of leaving them on containers).
UPDATE: 06/03/19 You can now go label-less at Ripple! Simply write the container weight with a permanent marker, then bring your items to the till for the staff to process for you. 😀
* Speaking of tote bags: You can now support yours truly by buying a NAOHOA Tote Bag for just £10! (or £5 if you buy one straight after getting your tattoo). It’s made using sustainable cotton by the eco-friendly UK company, BIDBI. /shameless plug
Personally, I started this journey after watching a documentary called Plastic China (2016), which follows the harsh reality of families working at recycling factories. In 2018, China decided to refuse recycling material from other countries in an effort to restore damage made to their land.
Since then, I’ve added on a bunch of eco-switches to existing habits, including furoshiki, soap-making and, more recently, baking sourdough…all of which my farmer-from-Vietnam mother finds both amusing and endearing that things are, in her words, ‘going back the old way’.
As mentioned, NAOHOA was able to help raise £800 towards their £30k goal by donating 1hr Gift Certificates. It was a huge rush to see the first batch go within two days, then the last push in just 1.5hrs!
It was an honour to help and I’m grateful that a.) I was able to at all, and b.) the shop exists, because it’s become an integral part of my lifestyle now.
Being an independent business owner, I know how important and uplifting it is to support one another, and I’m loving the scene here in Cardiff right now. 💕
Habits That Make a Difference
If you’re offered something you don’t genuinely want or need, refuse it. It’s a simple notion that often gets overlooked, especially when it comes to freebies.
Utilise items that are useful, such as containers for food (even when eating out, to save the restaurant giving you more plastic or single-use boxes that can’t be recycled due to contamination). Get creative and repurpose or upcycle objects to either use yourself, give away or sell. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration.
If you have space, composting food is a great way to give plants and crops extra nutrients…for free!
Besides discarding, this should be our last port of call. Why? Currently, Britain doesn’t process all of its recyclable waste, relying heavily on other countries to finish their work. When I discovered this and the shocking fact that waste that isn’t processed gets dumped…well, it made it clear that throwing things into green bins is nowhere near enough to make an impact.
What steps have you taken to do your bit for the planet?
Ripple Tattoo Gallery
I’ll keep this updated with photos of what the pledgers got inked!
This year has been a major one for personal and business growth for me, and I’m super grateful to those who supported me along the way. Each day, along with my biz tasks, I write down three things I’m grateful for and any ‘wins‘ for that day. They encourage me to maintain a positive mindset and helps keep me motivated. ^_^
To anyone wanting to build a positive habit in the New Year, I highly recommend it! It’s cheap, takes moments and can be done anywhere. Mine are logged in a massive spreadsheet alongside my cashflow forecast etc. (trying to be more minimalist and have fewer material things), but having a dedicated book or gratitude jar are fab ways to incorporate it into your life.
My Personal Highlights:
The top thing that’s really enriched my life lately is opening up to people. I’m closer to my parents and have started making friends in Cardiff (at last!). For years, I’ve been spending so much time on the business, I’d not made much effort to venture outside of it…besides networking…which is still biz-related. 😐 Although I still need more balance, tiny steps are better than none!
From May – October, I took part in the NatWest Accelerator program, based in Cardiff. We had lectures on how to run our businesses, access to people and schemes that could help, and a co-working space to get the work done. The one-to-one mentorship was invaluable, as was the amazing community. From the program, I was able to get outside of my isolating work bubble and meet like-minded people. We now have a little biz family and it’s fab~ 😊
Online Booking System
Feeling annoyed with how much time communication was taking away from core activities (designing and tattooing), Zan suggested I automated a few things and I finally got round to implementing them. 😜 Making it easier for clients to book me in while I’m busy (or out of hours) has been a game-changer and I’m glad you’re all loving it too!
When I started out, inking for 2-3 hours would konk me out…now I can do 6-8hrs before my brain turns into mush. 😁 I need to do more physio exercises and rest my eyes to recover, but it’s all part of the job. My ability to do fine line work has increased too, which I’m pleased about. It’s a trend that’s still going strong and I like how elegant it looks.
Downsizing my belongings and simplifying my life has had a calming affect on me. The studio has always been light, clean and airy, so now I’m trying to make my personal life match that!
For my 3rd business birthday, my partner (Zan) treated me to an iPad Pro. I’d been oggling it for aaaaages but couldn’t afford one and felt bad asking for anything that big. It’s helped my workflow so. much. It’s a joy to draw with and I enjoy sharing that process with you via Instagram Live, which I’ll talk more about below…
Doing events and generally putting myself out there has been a huge mental blocker for me. However, being held accountable during my stay at NatWest Accerlator really pushed me to do Comic Con, which turned out great! It was fun nerding out with you guys and getting to know some of you more whilst tattooing. I also pushed myself to do more videos via Instagram Stories, Lives and am finally taking steps towards building my YouTube Channel.
These are all things I’ve wanted to do for years but didn’t feel I had the courage until after I did it…which goes to show, there’s some truth to the saying, “Fake it ’til you make it”!
Religious or not, most of us get swept away with Christmas cheer – but how can we continue celebrating whilst being mindful of our beautiful blue planet? Read on for simple ways we can alter our habits and perception for a merry Christmas, without the guilt of a carbon footprint a yeti would gawk at.
When we think ‘gift’, the same image normally comes to mind. Something that’s tangible and wrapped with a pretty bow. However, not all presents need be physical. Here are some examples:
What’s the thing they’ve always wanted to do but never got round to doing? Visit an attraction? See a show? Take a class*? Get a tattoo? *cough* How about purchasing a Gift Certificate so they can tick something off their bucket list? ‘Cause let’s face it: more socks are never on anyone’s bucket list…or any wish list for that matter!
From a coffee date to helping move house; you choose how much time you’re willing to give. Time is a precious commodity and I find the older we get, the less we have (until retirement years, at least). Use the opportunity to revive old friendships and strengthen ones that have weathered the stormiest of weathers. You may find that you cherish those moments far more than a material gift ever could.
Let’s get real: Who doesn’t love receiving cake at any time of the year? Cakes, cookies or something savoury – Pinterest is overloaded with ideas and recipes. If you’re a dab hand at things like knitting or crocheting, you could make plushies or accessories instead.
* I bought some lessons for myself via Udemy** on Black Friday and can’t wait to try them!
** Not a sponsored post. Just sharing the love. 🙂
Support Local Businesses
Naturally, I’m biased here. 😉 However, when you buy locally, from owners whose livelihood relies solely on lovely people appreciating our skills and/or products, it really does make our day. We spend all our energy in something we hope others will acknowledge and you buying from us ensures we can cover the rent, bills, food and gosh, maybe even a treat for ourselves!
Personally, it’s taken me over three years to get to a stage where the thought of buying a coffee and slice of cake doesn’t riddle me with anxiety…and that’s all thanks to the accumulative efforts of me showing up and you guys spreading the word. Our businesses can’t survive without you and our spirits would surely sink if we had to give it up.
Need ideas on ways to wrap your pressies, without the traditional wrapping paper that can’t always be recycled? Try these on for size…
Cardiff’s very own Green Squirrel community recently held a workshop, where they reused all sorts of materials to present their gifts. Parcel paper, scarves, twine, foliage…even loo roll! Spark your creativity and give something truly unique by trying a different approach this year.
Every year, someone is guaranteed to give you a box of chocolates or biscuits for Christmas. Is this a British thing? I swear it’s almost compulsory to have a family tin of something, regardless of whether you have kids or not. Either way, thanks to this fabbo blogger, you can magic a tacky-looking tub into something super cute (or chic, depending what finish you go for).
If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has a zero-waste store (like we are now, thanks to Ripple Living and Viva Organic), they’ll normally stock all sorts of goods that can be bought as gifts (e.g. handmade soap or reusable cosmetic pads). Check them out! You’ll be doing extra do-goodery by supporting local business whilst helping the planet. 💚
Recently, I purchased an advent calendar from Authentic House, which promotes sustainable living in an easy subscription box that’s delivered straight to your door. Each day, you can unravel an item that can either help you swap habits for more eco-friendly ones (such as replacing cling film with beeswax wraps), or an ethical treat for yourself, such as handmade lip balm made by a local producer. The one pictured above was a limited edition piece I bought for a friend as a wedding gift for her and her family. 🙂
…this way, every day leading up to Christmas can feel like…well, Christmas! 🎄
That’s all from me! Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. 😚💕