In City Ink: A business that’s ‘inked’ for success

In City Ink is one of Pretoria’s most popular tattoo studios and is run by two passionate artists who are about to revolutionise the industry

After opening its doors in 2014, In City Ink has quickly become the go-to tattoo studio for those serious about their ink.

“It’s a lifestyle that’s evolved over the years and flourished in the now post-stigma era,” says Kortez van Wyk, the 23-year-old CEO.

“Tattoos have become a form of expression in the most extreme way. In the past, many people associated tattoos with a traditional biker-lifestyle community and they were often seen as something indicating a dark nature,” Van Wyk says. “But in the past few years, they’ve become an important part of modern life; they’re a strong fashion statement. We wear tattoos like a permanent item of clothing on ourselves and, in some way, they’ve become intertwined with our style.”

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But it was no easy beginning for the two partners, Van Wyk and Kgopotso “Sparks” Komana, who not only had to self-fund the opening of the store, but were also entering an industry that they say was white-dominated.

“Trying to make a name for ourselves as young black entrepreneurs was one of our biggest challenges and getting people to trust us proved to be quite a task. Our work quickly began to speak for itself,” Van Wyk says.

At the core of their vision is a desire to change the face of the tattoo industry. Van Wyk notes that they didn’t have access to mentors who could give them direction, which is why his daily mantra became: “No-one can teach you how to do something’s that’s never been done.” It was a way of reminding himself that every step they took with the business had to be revolutionary.

All in all, we’re living up to our original vision and taking the tattoo lifestyle to the next level

The studio is situated in an area of Tshwane’s CBD that’s being revamped into a contemporary lifestyle zone. This location was not chosen by chance.

“Apart from the fact that Tshwane is the capital of the country and we grew up here, there was a need for a business like ours. We wanted to be the leaders and the go-to professionals for the African market in a place where they could find us easily, experience the culture and get to speak their language while being tattooed,” he says.

The choice of location came with its own set of blessings and, in part, led to the massive growth of the studio. City Property recently began a project to revamp the area and turn it into something similar to the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg, and the studio has partnered with the developers to help make its revolutionary vision a reality.

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Liza Nel, Marketing Specialist at City Property, says: “Our team has been working tirelessly to breathe new life into Tshwane’s well-trodden streets by creating venues for the public and the creative industries. Our aim for the area is to help it grow into a thriving sub-culture that reflects not only our vision, but also our love for the city and the needs of our tenants.”

Because of this new project, In City Ink will soon become more than just a tattoo studio – it will be a lifestyle centre for the modern culture enthusiast.

“The lifestyle parlour will be extended and have an area where people can just come in casually, chill and have a cup of coffee or a drink. This is also the space where artists can come and express themselves, as there will be a platform to do so,” Van Wyk says. “All in all, we’re living up to our original vision and taking the tattoo lifestyle to the next level.”