If you’re one of her 108K Instagram followers you’ve seen Vanessa Dong’s business grow tremendously over the last 5 years. If not, you may have seen her work featured in Hypebae, Daily Hive Vancouver, Narcity Canada, as well as The Mix Society. Not only is her local business taking off, so are her initiatives to give back to the community, with packed Customer Appreciation Nights, her own line of merchandise, and a recent partnership in support of the BCSPCA. We asked Vanessa to share her unique experience with us as part of our local business highlight series
Q. How did you get your start in tattooing?
I started off as a graphic designer and like most creatives, I found myself stuck in a job that limited my creative output. I also found that it was a constant struggle to establish a position where I felt appreciated for the work I put in. I knew that I needed to grow and challenge myself as an artist and tattooing was something I never thought I could actually achieve but I decided to start my career over and take a chance.
Q. What inspired you to open your own shop and run your own business?
I feel like I’ve always been the type to pave my own path. One of my strengths is that when I want to do something, I go for it. I have a vision and I don’t think about failing. Thinking of failing only creates anxiety and doubt in your mind and that will prevent people from creating opportunities. I was inspired to run my own business because I worked hard at my craft. I realized I needed to be the one to control and be free from boundaries. I wanted to create my own rules. I wanted to run a business that felt honest and real to who I am.
Q. Much of your portfolio reflects nature in the floral pieces you create. What about the natural world inspires your work, life, and nutrition?
I think flowers and nature just felt right for me. I grew up in a household where I always remember my mom gardening in the yard. She knew all the flower and plant names just by looking at them. I think as I continue to work in this subject area, it allowed me to want to be surrounded by it more. It felt like flowers and the natural world needed me as much as I needed it in my life. It’s funny, but the more you are open to seeing beauty, the more the world will show itself to you.
Q. What drove your decision to start your Customer Appreciation events and other community initiatives?
Without my clients, I would not be tattooing. Without the support I would not be able to do what I love every single day. I owe my clients everything. They push me to create and to want to constantly grow. My customer appreciation events are a way for me to say, “thank you.” A night where I provide food and drinks and have a welcoming space where people can come and feel like they’re part of a community (whether they have tattoos by me or not). I think we all want to feel like we’re part of something.
Q. What’s the biggest struggle you face on a daily basis in your business? How do you overcome it?
There’s a lot! Definitely balance. I struggle with the balance between doing too much and feeling like I’m not doing enough. Another struggle is staying inspired and motivated. I think that sometimes I can stay in this comfort zone, which in most cases isn’t a bad thing, but I think staying too comfortable can be limiting. I try to overcome these things by taking some time away. I think it’s important to connect to the natural world and in a way, notice your place in it. I think it’s also important to find other areas of interests as hobbies. Those hobbies often inspire my work.
Q. What's your biggest piece of advice for other local business owners and entrepreneurs in Vancouver?
I would say to stay grounded, and to also think about your values as a person and an entrepreneur. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to be financially stable? Do you want to create community? Do you want to raise awareness? Think about the message that you want to project and achieve. From there, use that as fuel for making your business whatever you want it to be.
Q. How did you come to be a customer of Body Energy Club? What do you value about the brand?
Every time I go into Body Energy Club, I am always treated like a friend. I think we all want to feel accepted and we all want to feel connected. I can tell that BEC is creating a company that cares about people and their well-being. Oh and they make the best smoothies I’ve ever had!
Q. Do you have a favourite Body Energy Club smoothie you would recommend and why?
Maca rush! I love the balance in it. There’s lots of health benefits to maca including boosting energy and mood levels. Also they add dates into the smoothie, so sometimes you get treasure chunks, yum!