In November I was attending a design fair here in Austria and there were many different vendors that left me in awe of their products and creativity but there were two girls, Elke Bauer and Barbara Hoffmann from Young & Smitten, that stood out from the crowd. They make temporary tattoos and if you follow me on Instagram, you might know how much I love those. And their were so special: real cool and whimsical designs and all made in Austria. I bought a whole bunch and gave them away as presents for Christmas (am I stupid?! I should have kept them all!).
However talking to them on that day, left me wondering about their story and I thought: when summer comes, I’ll HAVE TO introduce them to you. You can get to know them in this fantastic interview they gave me from which you can totally tell how cool and fun they are and also learn more about the struggles and fun about starting a side business in the creative field.
1 | You design temporary tattoos and sell them via your online shop and on markets: what’s your story? How did Young & Smitten come to life?
As it happens when growing up one is often drawn to the idea of getting oneself a tattoo. It turns out to be quite a difficult enterprise, though, as deciding on which tattoo it actually seems a sheer act of impossibility. Furthermore, Elke is still terrified of needles. So we came across those wonderful temporary tattoos from our childhood which enchanted us and made us laugh. Now we try to revive them with charming and funny illustrations.
Parents are happy that the fake tattoos, they know from their childhood, are now available also for their children, but with modern illustrations and made in Austria. Furthermore, they are skin friendly and with safe ink.
Every few months we try to launch new ones. Our inventory covers a range of designs for children and adults, hipsters and non-hipsters and, of course, classics such as the anchor. Our favourites, however, are definitely atypical tattoo designs, such as underpants or running bums.
2 | What were the first steps you took to be where you are today?
Before knowing that we will be going for temporary tattoos, we had the idea of creating a product that combines our most beloved categories in design: packaging and illustration. Furthermore, it should be easy to sell via an online shop with low postage costs, and it should be small, as our flat was small and storage space was scarce. Basically, we were in search for the almighty, magical unicorn of products. So we started to do some research…
3 | What is your educational background? How do you learn things that are necessary for your business of temporary tattoos? Is there anything you’d wish you’d learned but haven’t?
We studied graphic design and illustration, and as we both run our own graphic design studio we were already confronted with issues such as project management, marketing, and accounting. We painfully acquired our knowledge in the course of our career, and indeed, it would have been great to learn more about selling our work. But step by step one turns into an entrepeneur. It’s like babies: first they crawl, then they fall and one day they walk.
4 | What were your biggest obstacles you had to overcome or are still working on?
Marketing. It’s a pain in the arse, but you can’t do without.
5 | With what did (do) you struggle the most?
- Not loosing our minds while trying to understand the system of Austrian Insurance for self-employed persons.
- Making a decent living in the creative business sector.
- Walking in heels.
6 | How are you working creatively? Who designs, who decides and how do the tattoos get produced?
Our working process includes the usual parts: motivation, fun, desperation, frustration, acceptance. We like absurd things, we get together for a draw & drink and try to think about what correlates with the Zeitgeist and what correlates with the images we have in our minds. Then we doodle excessively, sort out, ask friends and colleagues and in the end a (unfortunately always very small) selection of the designs is sent to Salzburg, where the tattoos are printed.
7 | What’s your day like? When do you work on Young & Smitten?
In our case, we sell one tattoo for 2 €. Of these 2 € we pay the running expenses for our online shop, packaging, production, bank fees, etc. Believing that we could afford a living only from selling our tattoos would be naive. It would mean to become bigger which would lead to the fact that we would be spending more time with the so abhorrent fields of marketing and project management. So we work on graphic design- and illustration projects and Young & Smitten can remain a project to delight our hearts that should be fun and give us the opportunity to be creative and room for experimentation – and which shouldn’t be undermined by the capitalistic rules of growth and profit.
8 | Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
We find inspiration in daily life, when talking to friends, in stories, films, and exhibitions. Strangely enough, we also find ourselves drawn to swearing, Viennese tram drivers who have become our muse for many of our works (oh, Vienna, you pool of moody and swearing people). There are classic tattoo designs and current trends we follow, such as geometric shapes. However, we find it more interesting to design whimsical absurdities that noone would go for when thinking about permanent tattoos – a leek with boobs or friendly milk. Our tattoos are supposed to be delightful and fun and make people at least smile.
9 | Could you give some practical advice to someone who’s just starting out or considering starting their own business?
The euphoria at the beginning is overwhelming and fantastic, also because it helps to overcome many many hurdles light-heartedly and creatively. Nevertheless, it is important and necessary to cover more boring issues:
- What to do when a project is being aborted?
- What happens if one business partner decides to leave and get a secure and decent job?
- Who is responsible for which part and are the responsibilities distributed in a fair way?
10 | What would you liked to have know prior to starting your own business?
As smallest-scale entrepeneur one is engaged in many different tasks, such as acquisition of new projects/clients, sale, promotion, production, accounting, and cleaning. This means that one is facing the fact that apart from the usual business of illustrating there are 3 additional jobs to be done. Conclusion: it’s all about time management. And marketing continues to be a pain in the arse.
11 | What’s next? Any plans for new projects?
Because of the nice weather, summer is always the busiest and favourite time for us. Currently we are part of several street parties where we sell and tattoo people on the street. We also wander through the streets with our vendor’s tray or park our ”tatmobile” at the Wiener Donaukanal as part of the Radsommer, as we will on the 12th of August.
We dream of painted banana peels and whole-body-tattoo-suits (working title: ”TattOnesies”), of a colossal underpants-installation at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, and, of course, of launching a fragrance line – because the one thing we have learnt of magazines is the fact, that successful people at some point in their life launch an eau-de-something.
I’m sure their dream of an eau de Young & Smitten will become reality one day. Listen to your own unicorn and believe in the impossible! You can help them (and also have one of the coolest accessories this summer) by ordering one (or two or many) of their tattoos. I’ve just stocked up myself.
Now. Carry on!