Black Business Spotlight: Blasted Ink 

Courtesy of Blasted Ink Matt Lara, owner of Blasted Ink

Tattoo shop set to expand its territory 

Local entrepreneur Matt Lara owns Blasted Ink, a tattoo shop located on University Ave. in St. Paul that will soon open a second location at the Mall of America. “My goal is just to give back to the community,” said Lara. 

“I’m really from Reno, Nevada,” he said, “but I was raised here [in Minnesota]. I always say I’m from Minnesota to be honest—this is who raised me.” 

Growing up, Lara’s mother served as a strong role model. Years ago, “My mom remodeled Heritage Park—she was one of the lead managers there.” Her ambition and drive had a long-lasting impression upon him. 

Most importantly, “She taught me independence. She quit her job when I was like 12 to become a realtor and was working for herself,” said Lara. 

He added, “My mom built that in me. She never installed fear, and I seen her quit and never had to work for people.” Her independence inspired him to follow suit by becoming an entrepreneur. 

As a tattoo artist, Lara is well-versed in the following genres: “photorealism, portraits, black and gray, anything to be honest.” He added, “I love doing portraits of family members, parents, moms, your kids, grandparents, celebrities—color work too.” 

He acquired a wealth of knowledge, skills and expertise by working in different tattoo shops to gain experience. There’s a process and protocol that tattoo artists must follow in order to become a professional. “It took me 2½ years to get my actual license, but that’s quicker than most schools.” 

Lara initially had plans of becoming a barber but decided to focus instead on tattoo artistry, primarily because he didn’t want to be in debt. “At 20, I was like, I don’t want no student loans. Then what I found out about tattooing is you’ll have no student loans. You work for them. You pay off your debt basically working for them.”

“And then when you get your provisional license, they take a percentage,” he continued, “but you’re basically working and you’re making more than the average person. When they sign off, you’re able to sign off on other people and license people also.” 

Lara entered the tattoo industry during 2012. “I started at 21 while everybody was at college—I dropped out of college and started apprenticing.” Through hard work and dedication, Lara opened his own business, “Blasted Ink,” in 2015 at age 23.

The business features other tattoo artists as well. Lara said, “The artists that have been with me lately, for like four or five years, they’re starting to get their own apprentices. So I’m cutting them in on their own percentage and then giving them possibly, after a certain amount of years, a percentage of the company.”

“I’m starting a nonprofit called Entrepreneur, so we’re gonna start trying to give back to the kids,” he said. The youth will have an opportunity to learn about “entrepreneurship, photography, video editing, art—microblading, embroidery skills, flooring skills, barbering,” said Lara. 

Courtesy of Blasted Ink

The Blasted Ink business will also offer a clothing line for customers; two brands will be available in the near future. “Realistically, there’s a lot of things I can do—I just want to have residual income,” said Lara. 

Blasted Ink is set to open at the Mall of America sometime this summer. There was a lot of grit, planning and preparation that was required for Lara to open there. “I wanted to advance my team—I felt like the Mall of America would be a great place for me to showcase myself and my team’s talent,” he said. 

Speaking on his work ethic, Lara said, “What I’ve learned over the years—my mom told me that people are going to value your business, but they’re never going to value it or take care of it like you will.” He operates the shop “like a family,” he said.

Although business is flourishing, there are ups and downs. Lara explained what it took to establish and maintain his business. “The first thing is just saving. I wanted to get out; I wanted to not be a statistic, so I just started saving,” he explained. 

Lara shared advice for youth and upcoming entrepreneurs: “Right away, while you’re in high school, try stuff. Before you even get into the real world, try things and try to start a business so you get the idea of management, failures, ups and downs,” he said. 

He also encourages individuals to “save.” 

Blasted Ink is located at 1722 University Ave W, St Paul, MN. For more information visit www.blastedinktattoos.com or call 612-483-2838. 

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