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Thirteen Feet Tattoo leaving their mark on the growing Tattoo Industry

2023-03-19 05:30

From starting out on their own to managing three shops and a staff of nearly 25, the pair behind Sydney’s fast-growing tattoo empire are certainly leaving their mark on the industry.

In 2017, Todd and Katie Bailey opened the doors of their first tattoo studio, Thirteen Feet Tattoo, in the heart of Sydney’s bustling Newtown. With one in four Aussies nowadays having a tattoo, quality artistry has never been more in demand.

From designing someone’s first ink, to being called backstage to tattoo Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Todd and his team of artists have done it all. Now with their second shop in Haymarket, and recently opened third in Circular Quay in, the duo has picked up some important lessons throughout each stage of business growth.

Where passion meets preparation

Sharing the responsibilities across the business, Todd oversees the artists and day-to-day running of the studios, leaving the management of cash flow, profitability, expenses in the trusty hands of his wife, Katie. Even as the pair have expanded into newer spaces and expanded their team, their love and passion for the age-old practice still remains at the heart of their operations.

“Thirteen Feet Tattoo is the past, present, and future of tattooing,” Todd says. “It’s about keeping the fundamentals of tattooing because it’s quite sacred. Tattooing is one of the oldest trades in the history of humanity, so that means a lot.”

While he boasts an impressive 17-year career in tattoo artistry, Todd admits business admin isn’t his strong point.

Fortunately, his wife and co-founder Katie steps in with her legal background to look after such areas of the business.

“We compliment each other,” Todd says. “Katie deals with the business side of things, the forecasting and the cash flow and that keeps us ticking over.”

Watch Todd and Katie’s story here…


Working on his own for many years, Todd’s decision to open the first shop was still a daunting prospect, especially for his wife Katie, who eventually left a career in property law to support the growing business. Despite some teething issues, both Katie and Todd have never looked back, finding the flexibility that comes with being your own boss well worth the hard work.

“It was scary though, I won’t lie,” Katie says. “I left my job and committed fully to that, and it was the best thing I ever did. It’s so much more freeing when you work for yourself.”

Finding the confidence to expand

Two years after they opened their first store, they were approached by developer Lendlease with an opportunity to expand with a second store in an up-and-coming new Darling Square precinct in Haymarket.

“We’ve sort of gone in feet first,” says Todd. “It’s been a juggling act and we just put all our money back into the business and back into tattooing”.

According to Katie, acknowledging when you need to seek help to fill your gaps of business knowledge, whether it’s around financial advice or staffing, is an important habit for sustainable growth.

“I think for anyone starting a small business or a business of any sort you need support for sure,” urges Katie “It really does help you keep on track and know exactly what you’re doing so you don’t get yourself in trouble.”

For Todd and Katie, hiring a team of highly skilled artists and admin staff across their locations has allowed them to focus on expansion, as well as new and exciting projects. With guidance from their ANZ business banker and using tools and resources on the ANZ Financially Ready hub, they mapped out a plan for financial growth that complemented their growing business.

“Starting out in the first shop, we didn’t have any banking sort of system in place,” Katie says.

Katie and Todd explored the benefits of separating their personal and business activity, allowing them to accurately track their cash flow and expenses. Unlike many cashless businesses today, Todd and Katie’s frequent collaboration with contractors and artists means cash is still very central to their daily operations, an important point they had to consider when setting up their accounts.

“We went into ANZ and said, ‘look, we’re opening this new business and we’re changing our structure and we need to get some accounts’,” Katie says.

“They gave a lot of advice on what sort of account would be good for us,” Katie says. “It was kind of interesting talking to ANZ in the beginning because we were sort of a bit different to a lot of other businesses, but they were still very accommodating in listening to what we had to do.”

The next steps for Thirteen Feet Tattoo

With a combined total of nearly 135K followers across their self-managed social media accounts, Thirteen Feet Tattoo convert followers into customers with a game-changing booking system – the first of its kind in Australia.

“Social media is everything these days,” says Todd. “You can book an appointment on the website now and you just turn up at the shop, which is unheard of in the tattoo industry.”

Their next step will be to finally launch a passion project they’ve been working on for years: the Sydney Tattoo Convention, to be hosted later this year at Sydney’s Town Hall.

“We’ve always wanted to do a tattoo owned and run convention, and it’s an invitational,” says Todd. “So you get the best artists in the world coming to Sydney, Australia, and I think Sydney needs something that has quality over quantity.”

The convention, funded entirely by personal savings, has proven to be their greatest venture yet. While getting it off the ground has taken much longer than anticipated – a side effect of the pandemic – Katie anticipates the convention will become an annual event in Sydney.

“It’s a whole new business,” Katie says. “Usually people that do conventions have an entire team behind them, but I’m up working until 2am every night at the moment trying to get all this done. But I do see in the future that I will have a team.”

Find out more about Thirteen Feet Tattoo here.

Thirteen Feet Tattoo leaving their mark on the growing Tattoo Industry
Mia Erickson

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