Meet Nini Beltran-Bullard, kick-ass engineer graduate, mother, wife, and co-owner of the popular tattoo parlour, ‘Ninja Ink’ in Vietnam. The Head Tattoo Artist prides herself on her professionalism and her work is literally a work of art (trust me, I know!). Before I left Vietnam, I wanted to get a few extra tattoos to tidy up my existing ones. I reached out to some friends who had lived in Hanoi for a few years and they all recommended Nini and Jack at Ninja Ink.
It was a moody afternoon one day in Hanoi when I hustled on down to their Nghi Tam shop in Tay Ho for my custom tattoos with Nini. As soon as I entered her shop, music piped through the walls. I ascended the stairs and stepped into her office where she was working on the finishing touches to my tattoos. She swiveled around on her chair and greeted me with the biggest smile and then we chatted about where we were putting the tattoos. Nearly two hours later, I was all tattooed up and thanking Nini for her talented work. I was so impressed with my own tattoos I had to interview Nini for Whatsheblogged.
Hi Nini, you co-own the business, Ninja Ink with your husband Jack here in Hanoi, Vietnam, how long have you both been tattoo artists?
I started tattooing August 2009, back in Manila, Philippines. I was under guidance by Tattoo icons of Manila – Ricky Sta Ana of Skinworkz Tattoo, and Khamil Batuigas of Cherrybomb Tattoo. Fast forward to 2013, I met Jack in Hanoi, we fell in love, and he decided to pursue tattooing as well, so I taught him! The rest is history. We are now both tattooing 6 days a week and managing two separate studios in one city.
How long have you had Ninja Ink, and what sparked the idea to start a tattoo parlour?
Ninja Ink Tattoo started in 2013, in our spare room in our apartment in 31 Xuan Dieu. Jack and I kept our day jobs and tattooed after work and over the weekends. In 2014, we decided to dive in and start our business and career in art. We left our jobs and opened our flagship store at 35 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho.
With an awesome website, 5-star reviews, and regular clients, Ninja Ink is booming! I want to ask though, how has the journey been from start to right now?
Haaa. I did the website. Ninja Ink is not just for tattoos, we are a Creative studio. We mainly do tattoos and permanent makeup/tattoo, but also heavily work in graphic design, logo design, branding essentials, and website development. Design, marketing, and artistic development is a huge part of our work. Designing and working with outside brands is what drives us to be creative towards our own label.
Hanoi is famous for its artists, you create custom tattoo designs, can you talk me through your regular artists?
We are always open to collaborations, apprenticeships, and guest artists, we openly express in our social media posts and website. For apprenticeships, we teach not just how to be a tattoo artist, we want our apprentices to be able to run a tattoo shop of their own. An all-inclusive course to create quality artists that can either fit directly into any other shops without issue or in time open and successfully run their own shop. We have a very strong senior Guest artist transfer programs, swapping artists between Skinworkz tattoo studio-Manila, Cookies and Ink-Ilocos Norte, Inkcedible18-Manila and Ninja Ink Hanoi. We’ve also guested artists from Scotland, France, Spain, Australia. We currently have an apprentice from mainland china, a qualified (junior artist) from America, and few more guest artists lined up for the coming year!
You use high-quality vegan inks, what made you choose to go vegan?
Doing this for more than a decade, you develop standards, preferences, and confidence in trusted products. We worked through many different inks over the years and then finally found what we were looking for, we use this ink on ourselves (cos it rocks) so we obviously would use it on our customers! We use Intenze tattoo ink, Eternal Tattoo Ink, Saniderm for aftercare, Fk Irons, Bishops, Inkjekta, and Bis Nguyen tattoo machines.
What three things make a tattoo parlour top the rest?
We provide a personal service that is custom made for you, we are not a factory, we are tailor-fitted to provide to our customers, we want to work with our customers and we want to make the best damn tattoos around. We often end up meeting our customers weeks later at the bar for a couple of cold ones after building a strong relationship.
What’s your advice for anyone in a position to take a leap and launch a business?
Dive, with your whole heart. No what-ifs. With no other options. Because you know you can, you’re just afraid. Don’t be. We can help you.
I know this is a big ask but, where do you want Ninja Ink to be 5 years from now?
I would love to have 20 shops in Vietnam. We are a culture, a way of life, and by then, people will understand what that means.