Entrepreneur defied prejudice to make mark in tattoo world

The Rotherham Young Entrepreneur of The Year Awards 2017 overall winner Emily Dawson of Holy Ghost Tattoo Collective. Pic: Shaun Flannery/shaunflanneryphotography.com
The Rotherham Young Entrepreneur of The Year Awards 2017 overall winner Emily Dawson of Holy Ghost Tattoo Collective. Pic: Shaun Flannery/shaunflanneryphotography.com
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Facing gender discrimination in the industry but still holding a desire to continue as a tattooist, Emily Dawson decided to launch her own business in 2013.

The young entrepreneur’s business called Holy Ghost has since gone on to become a tattoo collective, housing 13 self employed artists. Ms Dawson is now preparing to open her second studio in Rotherham town centre.

Ms Dawson, who was recently named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rotherham Youth Enterprise and UK Steel Enterprise, says that sexual harassment and discrimination is something that she and her female peers are all too familiar with.

“Personally, for me I’ve had some really bad experiences within the tattoo industry of being discriminated against,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

Everyone who works at the Holy Ghost studio has suffered from mental health issues sometimes due to being discriminated against.

Ms Dawson said: “We’ve all got our own individual stories of why we suffered and a lot of it is to do with being different, being alternative.

“Not everybody is accepting of that so we’ve all battled our demons in that sense and we’ve all come together. Now we can offer a safe space for people to come to and not feel judged and not feel like they’re alone in the world.

“They’ve got somewhere as an outlet, whether that be through the art or just whether they want to pop in and have a chat with us.

“We’re very open people and we’re more than happy to help anyone.”

Holy Ghost may be a collective but Ms Dawson says it’s more of a family.

The second studio at the Old Town Hall in Rotherham will provide Holy Ghost with much needed extra space and will also enable Ms Dawson to expand the range of services.

She said: “We can offer more room for people and also we’re starting to do laser tattoo removal. We have a second body piercer as well who is going to be down at the new shop.”

The changing styles in tattoos and the advances in technology have led to older generations looking to have tattoos redone or removed completely, says Ms Dawson.

“The styles and what we’re actually able to achieve through tattooing is a lot different now,” she said. “People want better tattoos so they’re having lasers to maybe lighten them so that they can get something else over it or it might be that they made a mistake when they were younger and they want rid of it.”

The name for the business comes from Ms Dawson’s own religious beliefs.

“I’m a Catholic and it has a personal meaning to me,” she said. “It means the holy spirit. That was a personal thing.”

While studying photography at university the 27-year-old learnt body piercing and also did her tattoo apprenticeship.

Although she faced gender discrimination when starting off in the male dominated tattoo industry, Ms Dawson says that things have “definitely improved massively” since then.

She added: “It was very male orientated and unfortunately women tattooists weren’t really looked at as equal but they are now and there are some amazing artists, male and female, out there.”

The reason for the change in attitudes is due to the increasing trend of more and more people getting inked.

“More people are getting them from all walks of life and therefore it’s more accepted,” she said. “I think that’s played a big part.”

With gender discrimination in the headlines of late, how women are perceived and treated in the tattoo industry is likely to improve further, says Ms Dawson.

The young entrepreneur is also looking to push a positive message about Rotherham.

She said: “There’s an amazing array of independent businesses in Rotherham that are going unnoticed. It’s got such potential.

“I’m a massive supporter of Rotherham town centre.

“We’re trying to push that message and if everybody else can recognise that then it’s going to be thriving.”

Recognition from enterprises

Emily Dawson was named Rotherham Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Rotherham Youth Enterprise and UK Steel Enterprise.

Ms Dawson was presented with a cheque for £1,000 at an awards ceremony at Magna Science Centre.

She will be using the £1,000 prize fund to purchase an Apple iMac for her second studio.

In addition, winners in four other categories each walked away with £500 to contribute to the further success of their individual businesses.

UK Steel Enterprise looks to aid economic development in areas impacted by the downturn in the steel industry. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel and provides equity and loan finance.