On Our Radar: Inkbox

Article by Lauren Martin

Things don’t have to last forever to be appreciated.

co-founders (Tyler & Braden)
Co-founders Tyler & Braden Handley

Two brothers from Toronto teamed up to create a revolutionary product called Inkbox. Now sold in 25 countries worldwide, the brothers have possibly trumped the temporary tattoo industry.

Tyler and Braden Handley introduced their ink product in early 2015, which is pain free, certified organic, safe and can be used by all ages. The ink is made of a pulp from the Genipa Americana that grows in the jungles of Central America. A percentage of every sale goes towards supporting local indigenous communities in Panama – Learn more here.

They both desired tattoos for a long time, but couldn’t decide on what they wanted permanently. In the meantime, they wanted tattoos that were trendy, meaningful, and most importantly, temporary.

How big can the stencils get?

Tyler: Typically 5×5 is the largest size that we can do right now with the gel, but we are currently in the process of improving our product to stain quicker, and that will then give the option of doing entire body tattoos, because it will be even easier to apply.

What about customers who want a custom design, but might not be the best artists?

Tyler: In the future, we are working on a “Build Your own Tattoo” system that allows individuals to design their own tattoo online, for easier submission. This system will allow customers to pull shapes, or any images they are inspired from online.

How do you generate new designs?

Tyler: We have 8 artists that work with us, and we gain inspiration through sites, like Pinterest, in search for the latest trends. Walking around the city, seeing what tattoos people have or what they are wearing also is great inspiration.

What are the top 3 skills to be a successful Entrepreneur?

Tyler: 1st, It’s important to have full commitment. If you really want to be successful and if you want to do something really big you have to give it your all, everyday and have it consume your life, basically. At least for getting started, because that’s all you have and it’s important to consistently work at it. One of my favorite quotes is “Chance favours those who are well prepared”, and what I take from that quote is to work as hard as possible, and do the right things and you will get lucky, eventually because you have casted enough hooks –  you’re most likely to get noticed.

2nd: Make sure you have the right connections and hustle for the right connections. Once you have them, things begin to fall into place. It’s important to leverage those networks to get more connections to the right people.

3rd: Talk to as many people about your idea, even if they are not necessary in your industry. You will get so many insights from people. When you have a business and people get excited about it, they want to help you, or know someone they can make introductions for you, then you know you’re onto something.

What would you say, long-term success would be?

Tyler: Long term success would be a loyal fan base and customers who are your fans. We listen closely to our following, and most people generally like to wear the latest fashion, and be creative to be recognized, so we gain inspiration from customer’s creativity. This is the base of our design and marketing through word-of-mouth is a great strategy for conversions. It’s extremely important to leverage that and listen to your customers.

inkbox

What is your background?

Tyler: I received my masters in Humanities, from Kings College University in London England and did my BA in Communications at Laurier University of Waterloo. I have an interest and experience working in social media and worked at the technology accelerator at BBC London. I also had a previous social media startup and I have a marketing and web design background.

What motivates you?

Tyler: I would say, I have always enjoyed creating things, and creating things motivates me, whether it is through design or music.

Why did you decide to push this business?

Tyler: For months we walked around wearing our own temporary tattoos. People began to talk. They asked if they were real. They were shocked when we told them they weren’t. Then they would ask, “How can I get one?” So this really motivated us to continue with our business.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

Tyler: We want to be a completely new way of tattooing. We call them semi-permanent tattoos because we are not associated with the “stick” and “peel” method. We want to define an entirely new market for semi-permanent tattoos that will allow people to unleash their own creativity. This will help with the “build your own tattoo tool”, where you can resell your designs and make profit. We want to bring tattoo artists and artists of all sorts over into the digital world –  to design tattoos who want them. So in 5 years we want to be the number one place for someone to go design and get a tattoo, and continue to gain a large following and take a significant chunk out of the tattoo market.

This is something unlike anything I’ve come across. With their determination, constant branding and work ethic, Inkbox is an exceptional product, which is transforming the tattoo industry into something new and worth checking out.

On Our Radar: Man Kind Grooming

With her third location now open in Parkdale, located at Queen Street West and O’Hara Avenue, Anka Miron’s grooming studio for men, Mankind, is a new welcomed neighbour in the growing area. The “Proudly Parkdale” sticker from the Parkdale BIA shines in the window under the signature orange gentleman above her door.

“It’s never happened before where we open and we have business owners from around us walk in and welcome us to the neighbourhood and congratulating us,” Miron gushes. “Even saying, ‘wow, you are here! We have been waiting’. I love the community here. It is so friendly.”

Miron’s other locations are at Richmond Street West and Brandt St, which has been open for five years, as well as uptown at Eglinton Avenue East by Mount Pleasant Road, which has been there for three years.

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“It’s interesting how people react after each opening,” she laughs, when asked about further expansion plans for her brand. “After the first, everyone is so excited about something new, and doesn’t ask about the second. Then when the second opens, people are impressed your business is going up but nobody asks about the third. Once the third is open though, everyone is asking about the fourth. I mean, I like having babies, but I don’t know how many! I need a little recovery.”

When the opportunity knocked on her door to open the Queen Street West store, it was too good to pass up. Originally, Miron was looking at Queen Street East but she hadn’t committed to it just yet. When the opportunity for the Queen Street West space opened, she didn’t want to think twice about it.

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“I wanted to mimic the old style of barbershop, with the chandelier and the accent pieces. “Mankind covers head to toe. The evolution of barbershops has come to this and differentiates us from the standard shop. We have implemented the aesthetics and anything that has to do with overall hygiene, like manicures and pedicures. It brings the shop to a trendier look, but also covering the basics of men’s grooming.”

Mankind offers services such as manicures, pedicures, facials, hot stone massages and waxing, on top of all the barbershop services it provides, like straight razor shaves. Each member of Miron’s staff is hand selected by her, based not only on their high level of skill, but on their personality and whether or not she believes they will fit into one particular store in the three very different demographics of Toronto.

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“We present our products through education. I like my staff to be the educators of our clients and that way, they can guide them in their decision,” Miron explains, on why she chooses certain products for her stores. “We have a long relationship with American Crew and our clients have a say in the variety we bring into the store, so we can support them as much as they support us. It’s a constant dialogue between one another, which creates that bond and lasting relationship.”

The most popular service at Mankind is Alpha Male, an ultimate bliss package that includes haircut and style with shampoo and conditioning treatment, scalp massage, paraffin hand wax with hand massage and hot towel with facial toner. As well, the package for the men’s side of the wedding party is a client favourite, where the guys get to come in and get ready together in a fun and relaxed setting.

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The launch party for the third store in Parkdale will be in June, so be sure to keep up with Anka Miron and Mankind on at @mankindtoronto on Instagram and @mankindstudio Twitter.

On Our Radar: Natasha Koifman

Natasha Koifman is on top of the world. President of one of North America’s biggest PR companies — the Toronto-based NKPR — she works with the most influential initiatives and the brightest of stars. Though she has an office in New York and is about to expand to LA as well,Koifman has made Toronto proud by helping to put us on the map like no other public relations firm has done before. Novella sat down with the mogul to listen to Koifman’s unique story, to get an insider’s look at the crazy world of PR and to hear her argument against the “fluffiness” that’s so often attributed to her industry. Read about why adding Koifman to our On Our Radar was a no-brainer.

Photo courtesy of NKPR

Cliché opening question: What triggered your interest in PR?

NK: When I first graduated, I moved to New York where I worked as a journalist for several years. This is where I had my first experiences working with publicists. I saw a huge opportunity to work in PR, translating my learnings from being on the receiving end of pitches into developing more strategic outreaches resulting in meaningful coverage and awareness for brands.

What’s NKPR’s definition of public relations?

NK: At NKPR, public relations is about bringing stories and issues of substance to the attention of North Americans. Our first question for a client is always, “What does success look like?” From there we develop tailored strategies and tactics that ensure our communications programs come full circle and secure results that drive our clients’ brands forward.

NKPR is the giant of Toronto’s highly competitive PR landscape. How do you plan on keeping and increasing this momentum?

NK: I believe that it’s so important to always innovate and to challenge ourselves to evolve, ensuring we don’t get stagnant and that we’re delivering meaningful results for our clients. Last year we launched our talent division, representing artists we feel passionate about, including Dancing with the Stars competitor and Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin, fashion photographer Sophie Elgort and Coveteur co-founder and fashion designer Erin Kleinberg, to name a few. In addition to our Toronto and New York offices, we’re planning on opening a third location in LA.

What’s your ultimate goal for NKPR? Have you met it already?

NK: My goal for NKPR was always to combine my two passions: shining a spotlight on stories of substance and supporting causes that are making a difference around the world. I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to do so far for our clients and also for the philanthropic organizations we support. That said, I think it’s so important to set new goals as learning and growing should happen for every person, no matter their role or position, every single day.

What does it take to do your job, and do it so well?

NK: It takes an incredible team! I work with some of the most hardworking and talented individuals in the industry who challenge me and inspire me every day. It also takes Amanda, who’s the best executive assistant in the world! She is my other half and keeps me organized no matter which city I’m in. I also wake up very early every morning to meditate and reflect on the day to come, which keeps me balanced and lets me clear my head before I start answering emails.

Photo courtesy of NKPR

Pubic relations is often viewed as an industry that involves a lot of sugar-coating, a lot of cheese, a lot of fake smiles — is there any truth to this? How do you combat these opinions?

NK: I think what has allowed us to grow into the agency that we are, is that we’re incredibly hardworking and strategic in all that we do. Every recommendation we provide to our clients is deliberate and is made to help generate awareness and drive their brand forward. I think our proven track record of delivered results combats and misconceptions that our field is exclusively about air-kissing and going to parties. My favourite part of PR is actually doing the work. I’m an introvert, so for me, the party isn’t the fun part — it’s the work leading up to it.

You’ve worked closely with Toronto’s most well-known movers and shakers, as well as icons from around the world. Who have you learned the most from?

NK: I’ve learned a lot from my dear friend Paul Haggis, who is an Academy Award-winner and founder of Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), a charity that supports education in Haiti. I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with Paul in supporting this organization. His unwavering passion and commitment to the people of Haiti is inspiring. I’m in awe every single day of the work that APJ is able to do. Each time I visit the first free high school that APJ built in Port-au-Prince, I’m reminded of the power of education and the difference it can make for those who wouldn’t normally have access to it. Paul opened my mind and world to this.

Favourite place to spend your day off in Toronto?

NK: At home! I always joke that I’m an introvert living an extrovert’s life. I love to recharge at home by my pool with my two dogs.

You must have tons of stories to tell — care to share?

NK: We launched APJ at TIFF (and have since gone on to raise over five million dollars through festival initiatives alone!) and one of my favourite memories was the first red carpet event we ever did for the organization. It was during TIFF 2009, before the earthquake hit and when most people couldn’t even find Haiti on a map. We built a live-art red carpet with artist Peter Tunney where talent including Colin Farrell, Kim Cattrall and Olivia Wilde dipped thier feet in red paint and walked on a canvas “red carpet” that was auctioned off for charity. It was an incredible vision, and one that I remember very fondly. When they finished walked the carpet, we had pedicure stations to take care of their toes!

On Our Radar: Sofar Sounds Toronto

Crowd at a Sofar Sounds night in Toronto

Ever feel like listening to live music without hearing all the chitter chatter from a big venue? Well, Sofar Sounds brings together music lovers from all over the world in an intimate setting, where the focus lies solely between you and the music. Novella talked to Brandon Lablong, one of the producers of Sofar Sounds Toronto, and talked about how Toronto has responded to the intimate setting shows, the bands that have already performed with Sofar and how you can get exclusively invited to the private shows that are scattered throughout Toronto.

Read about Sofar Sounds Toronto, our first feature for the ‘On Our Radar’ segment, and find out why they top our list.

Tell me a little bit about Sofar Sounds and why you decided to bring it to Toronto.

Brandon: Sofar Sounds Toronto produces secret, invite-only concerts in intimate settings (including people’s living rooms) where dedicated music fans can discover their new favourite sound from both local and international artists. We put on shows once a month, letting members of our mailing list sign up for spots on the first of each month. Admission is limited, with room for 80 people or less, and we frequently sell out within minutes (our waiting list gets pretty long). The show venue is only revealed 24 hours before showtime and guests only find out the featured musicians once they arrive.

Run by a dedicated team of volunteers who are passionate about music, our goal at Sofar Sounds Toronto is to bring a truly unique experience that not only showcases great local and international talent, but also introduce serious music fans to interesting venues and locations around the city they might never have been before.

Is the goal just to work with local bands from our city? Or would you be open to bringing in other local bands from all over the world?

Brandon: We’re very open to welcoming bands from all around the world. Our goal is to provide opportunities for bands to get exposed by the international soundscape and to open the ears of music fans to new sounds from around the globe. Our music selection is like choosing a dish off a menu. There is amazing Canadian cuisine but you’re missing out if you don’t try a new flavour every once in a while.

At each of our shows we have a professional audio technician, photographer and videographers. We produce audio tracks and video for each band that gets put on our international YouTube and SoundCloud pages. Our YouTube channel has over 62,000 subscribers from around the world and is among one of the most highly viewed music channels on YouTube. In March, we actually got a million hits!

I recently interviewed a singer-songwriter from Toronto who has had more luck in Europe. He’s said that the difference between the European audience and Toronto audience is that they actually stop and listen to the music, whereas Toronto treats band nights as a social gathering – people catching up with friends. Do you agree? Do you think Sofar Sounds can change the way Toronto listens to music?

Brandon: It’s funny you say that. One of the comments we get from our bands is how eerie it is to perform to a quiet, attentive audience. I tend to agree though that when people go out to a show, the music might be seen as ambiance more than the attraction. Although, as we’ve seen there is a strong contingent of music lovers who respect the craft and believe going to a concert is no different than walking through an art gallery or seeing a play. I think it largely comes down to value.  If someone values what they are getting, they will give it the attention it deserves. By limiting our attendance and holding back on revealing the venue and artists, we create a stronger demand for the product and therefore more value.

What has been the reaction in Toronto with hosting these music nights in an intimate setting?

Brandon: I think the reaction has generally been good. Having it in an intimate setting creates a very unique way for the audience and the artists to interact.

Which bands have you worked with already? 

Brandon: We’ve had a load of amazing bands already. Our February show featured Bellwoods, Kira May and Art & Woodhouse. Following that we hosted an International Women’s Day show in March with Stacey, Emma Lee and Katy Carswell. Finally, our latest show in April featured AHI, Nick Ferrio, Birds of Bellwoods and Ivory Hours.

How can our readers find out about one of the secret shows?

Brandon: Get on the Sofar Sounds newsletter by visiting sofarsounds.com. Sofar Sounds is now in more than 100 cities and we encourage you to check out a show not only in Toronto but whenever you visit one of these cities.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Brandon: If you want to get involved, beyond attending a show, contact toronto@sofarsounds.com. We are always looking for new bands, people who want to host a show in their space (whether that’s a home or business) and volunteers to help with production.

Novella’s May Feature: On Our Radar

Toronto is a diverse city filled with an array of talent in various industries. From music to fashion to foodies to artists to entrepreneurs and even to tech-savvy individuals, who make our lives a little bit easier with just a simple ‘click’, there is no question that the amount of talent Toronto produces is not only impressive but inspiring.

on our radar

For the month of May, Novella will highlight certain Torontonians who are bringing positive and influencing change to our flourishing city each day. Starting today May 1st, keep track of the city’s inspiring entrepreneurs who are making headways not just in our neck of the woods but across the globe as well. Stay tuned for our special month feature – On Our Radar.