“Purveyors of tattoo culture.”
This is how Brothers Matthew Lawson and Marques Rainey described their roles as owners of the tattoo-based app InkGeeks.
"We are not tattoo artists but we love what we see in the culture and wanted to do something to spread it," said Lawson.
The Milwaukee-based pair started InkGeeks in 2013 when they identified a growing desire for both tattoo customers and artists to have an online platform to connect with each other. They've branched out into other related areas, including sales of artists' NFTs.
The InkGeeks duo also designed an app to function as a marketplace where artists can connect with customers who may be looking for non-tattoo-based art.
“Once we started digging in a little bit deeper, we realized how talented a lot of these artists are — a lot of them are multifaceted, meaning they don't just do tattoos,” Rainey said. “There are a lot of painters, drawers and designers, too. The app has grown in popularity to where it is now used in numerous countries, and InkGeeks has an Instagram account with more than 300,000 followers.
Connecting customers, artists
For customers looking for a tattoo artist, the InkGeeks app is free and offers a locator feature that will connect them with tattoo artists in their area. For artists looking to connect with customers, the app offers a tiered subscription system that provides various amounts of exposure.
The emergence of InkGeeks comes at a time when the tattoo industry is seeing immense growth. Since 2014, the industry has grown an estimated 8.4% each year with a total United States market worth of $1.4 billion in that time, according to IBISWorld reports.
“I think it's a very exciting time to be in the industry because like we used to say, it was super taboo to get a tattoo. Back in the day, like it meant that you were rebelling against society, and now I think it's turned into more of a form of self-expression,” Lawson said.
The proliferation of arts expression is also a motivating factor in why Lawson and Rainey started the app. They said they wanted to make art more accessible while simultaneously working to empower those who make it.
“I think the time we're living in is so rich culturally, and with all these different, previously marginalized, groups making their voice heard, it feels like everything is kind of wide open right now — nothing is off-limits,” Rainey said.
InkGeeks has a global audience containing more than 450 artists, practicing a variety of mediums, that span from California to Bolivia to South Korea.
The pair attributes the growth to their willingness to evolve, something that can be seen with a recent addition to their website where customers can buy uniquely created NFTs made by artists within the InkGeeks community.
“We pride ourselves on innovation, so it is all about how can we stay relevant within the tattoo community and even try to push the envelope even more,” Lawson said.
While the app has gone global the pair are adamant on giving back to a "rich and vibrant" Milwaukee community where they started. This includes hosting charity events and setting up mentorship programs for Milwaukee youth.