I give start-up business owners a lot of credit, because starting a business can be quite a challenge. In addition to the risk that goes into the decision to branch out on one’s own, a lot of work, time and money need to be invested before the doors can open for the first time.
Mike Fasulo made a career of being a body piercer and tattoo artist. He started 12 years ago in a shop in Providence where he started to learn the trade at a time when body piercing and tattooing were more taboo than they are today.
“It was crazy to tattoo for a living,” Fasulo said of the time. “It was still illegal in Massachusetts, and you could smoke in the shop.”
Fasulo spent seven years there before moving to another studio down the street. There he polished his craft, building a strong client base in the process. He observed and learned from those around him, defining a good work ethic and what that meant to him and his career. Through their actions, his peers taught him about customer service — how to treat people, and more importantly, how not to treat people. After five and a half years, he decided that it was time for him to take control of his own future.
“After 12-plus years of service to other shops, it was time for me to create a studio to better suit the needs of my clients.”
Fasulo wrote a business plan to help him embark on this new journey, opening what would become Sin Alley Tattoo, and got his start-up capital by selling all of the hot rods that he owned. He found a location on Benefit Street in Pawtucket, sandwiched between a sports bar and a restaurant. Clearly visible from Newport Ave, it was easy for regulars to get to while being easy for potential walk-ins to see.
One of the biggest hurdles Fasulo had to endure involved the city of Pawtucket, as tattoo shops were not allowed at the time. He worked with the local government to get these laws changed. Once that hurdle was jumped, he worked to set up shop, and Sin Alley Tattoo opened its doors in 2007.
Once the doors were open, Fasulo started assembling a staff of tattoo artists and body piercers. He knew what he wanted in his staff, and he searched to find people who were honest, motivated, humble and talented, and who were good with clients.
“Our staff is diverse,” Fasulo said. “We have both men and women, and each has their own style, allowing us to offer something for everyone.”
Fasulo has seen Sin Alley Tattoo continue to grow each day. The focus on customer service has led to repeat customers and word-of-mouth business. The environment is clean and safe with artists who are competent and friendly.
Body art has become a lot more acceptable and mainstream in the past 15 or so years, which has had its pros and cons for Sin Alley Tattoo. While more people are interested in getting piercings or tattoos, shops seem to be popping up everywhere.
“This leads to a breakdown of quality and customer service in the industry,” Fasulo says of the oversaturation of shops. “However, we successfully maintain our values of positive customer experiences throughout all of this.”
Fasulo has enjoyed watching Sin Alley Tattoo grow and succeed. While he envisions the shop constantly evolving with the end goal of staying fresh and current while keeping values and integrity in tact, he is proud of where he is.
“If I drive by it at night or in the morning, I feel proud to have built it.”