Havana Street Tattoo opened 15 years ago in Aurora. The tattooing industry has shown its potential for significant growth in the past 10 years and continues to do so, because the customer base and artists offering the service have evolved past an old stereotype into a market of true professional artistry and serious collectors.
In mid-2019, business partners and co-owners, Larry Foussat and Gilbert Ledesma decided to open a new location in Aurora to expand the shop’s client base and create opportunity to contract additional artists. Build-out commenced in January 2020 with an intentional opening date at the end of March. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 shelter in place order was a major obstacle to opening a second business, but there were others as well.
Despite the experience of running a reputable business for over a decade, the process of applying for funding and opening a new business was unclear. Contacting the Aurora-South Metro SBDC was the most beneficial first step possible. The small business consultant offered direction on a plan of action, creating a comprehensive well-organized business plan and ultimately provided information about optional funding sources, including possible grants and loans offered by the city of Aurora. The shop took out a commercial loan and line of credit to finance the expansion.
An additional hindrance included a local resident that submitted a complaint to the city of Aurora Planning Commission about a tattoo business opening in the neighborhood. A zoning hearing was scheduled to rectify this issue, and an Aurora-South Metro SBDC representative provided supportive comments at the hearing.
The new location, Legacy Tattoo Collective, successfully opened in mid-September 2020. The current growth is generating enough revenue to pay the bills and maintain a steady minimum operational balance, despite the financial impact of responsibly conducting business during the pandemic. Failure for the new shop was not an option.
“The guidance and assistance that we’ve received from the Aurora-South Metro SBDC prior to opening our new shop, and throughout the process, has been amazing! It has been like having an expert, professional friend who is always available to help with whatever questions or issues that come up.”
The business brothers are looking past the pandemic. The business has grown from four employees to seven, the commercial loan should be paid off within five years, and federal funding received during COVID-19 will be paid if the pandemic complications ease soon. A third location in northeast Aurora is the new goal once the debt has been paid and the city builds out a little more in that direction.