Marketing a Henna Body Art Business”
So you have decided to take
henna hobby to the next level and to try to make some money at
I have written the following sections with the assumption that you
know a little about how to make and apply henna. This is designed
to give you a basic understanding of what it takes to make the leap
artist to businessperson. You have to have clearly defined goals,
knowledge of city, state, and federal requirements, basic skill at
henna, the ability to identify and communicate with a network of
and an idea of what your product is and how you are going to sell it.
The first step in starting any
is determining what you want to achieve with your business. If
don’t know where you’re going…you won’t get there! Do you just
to do an occasional party or private appointment? Do you want a steady
job in a salon, club, or shop? Do you want to work at
Or do you want to do a combination of these?
Once you have thought about
you want from your business, assess the risks and determine whether or
not your goals are reasonable. Do these plans fit with your family’s
What sacrifices will you need to make to achieve your goals? Do
have the money for start-up costs? Are you disciplined enough to keep
records? Are you at the skill and comfort level needed to begin working
on paying customers? Do you have a large enough customer base?
you have determined that your goals are reasonable, go for it!
a business plan.
There are certain things that
cannot avoid buying, such as henna-making supplies. But that does
not mean you need to order ten design books, two kilograms of henna and
a quart of essential oils just to get started. I started my
with a $15 henna kit and designs that I had printed from the
I made $40 at a party and used that money to buy more henna
For working at festivals, you are going to want to have a tent, tables,
chairs, décor etc… You do not need to have it all purchased
your first festival. There are many festivals where you will not
need a tent and many will provide tables and chairs for you. You
will get more support from your family and have less stress if your
feeds itself rather than maxes out your credit cards.
- Record Keeping
Licensing is an issue that
from state to state and from business to business. If you just work at
festivals, you will be working under the temporary license that the
organizer had to obtain from the city. If you work at a salon or
shop, you are working under their occupational license. If you
from home, you will need an occupational license from the city, which
be expensive or even impossible to obtain. Most henna artists who
work from home do not bother getting an occupational license for their
home business. Typically, if you were creating a nuisance and
reported you for running a business from your home, you would simply be
asked to stop. However, depending on the location, there may be
as well. Each businessperson should contact their city-licensing
department, usually located in a tax collector’s office, to determine
or not licensing is needed or desirable.
Insurance is another gray
the henna business. Some events will not allow you to set up a
unless you have an insurance policy. Although it is unlikely that
a henna artist using strictly natural henna powder would be sued for
in a highly litigious society such as ours, insurance policies are
necessary for every business. Several companies will insure henna
artists for $100-$200 annually. Check with companies that insure
Renaissance fair businesses, clowns and entertainers, face-painters, or
even the company that insures your home.
Generally, henna body art is
a taxable service, but again that may depend on your city and
If you are selling henna kits or any other merchandise, then you may be
required to collect sales tax and to remit a quarterly statement along
with the sales tax that you collected. To find out your local
tax requirements, contact the State or City Revenue Department for your
Every dollar you make needs
reported to the IRS on a Schedule C along with your regular federal
tax forms. Even if you are only doing henna body art as a hobby,
any money earned is taxable. To reduce your tax liability, you
keep track of all of your business related expenses. You can buy
accounting software, a bookkeeping ledger, or simply throw all of your
receipts in a box and figure it out at the end of the year.
that you purchase to run your business or to improve your skill as a
artist is a legitimate tax write-off. These expenses may include
festival fees, tables, chairs, henna making supplies, shipping costs,
costs, décor, design books, magazines, website design and
costuming or clothing purchased to wear for business, conference fees,
mileage to henna jobs or conferences, art classes, etc…
You do not have to be a
artist to have a henna body art business. In my festival
I offer 14 small simple designs, 8 bracelet designs, and 8 hand
Most people are content to choose from among those designs. If
want something more complicated and tattoo-like, then I use a tattoo
that gives me the outline over which to apply henna. If you have
a design book that has designs you are not comfortable doing, leave
designs at home. Choose the designs that you want to do and can
and offer only those designs. Practice those designs until you
create them in a reasonable amount of time. In a festival
time is money. The faster you work, the more people you can
Prices for individual henna designs in most places range from
If it takes you 15 minutes to complete a $5 design, you need to gain
speed before working in a festival. Offer your friends free henna
to let you practice on them. Practice on a piece of paper.
Every pursuit has its
risk. Small businesses have a notoriously high rate of
What level of risk are you willing to accept? If you quit your
to start a henna business, would the failure of your business devastate
your family’s finances? If you are the sole breadwinner for your
family, risking everything to start up a new business may not be a wise
move. I have yet to encounter a henna artist who is supporting
family solely on income from their henna business. The henna
provides a nice supplementary income, but most henna artists either
a “regular job” doing something else or they have a partner who is
and has benefits. Health insurance for small business owners is
expensive and your retirement account consists entirely of what you can
save up on your own. Although it seems grim to have to think
failure before you even begin your business, if you are prepared for
worst there should not be any surprises. Most successful business
owners had many failures before they found a formula that worked.
Don’t be afraid to try. Learn from your mistakes.
To minimize risk, the
important concept is adaptability. If something is not working,
it. Try something else. Do not wait until you hit rock
to reevaluate your business plan. If you are not making enough
at your location, decide if you just need a little more time for people
to find you or if you should start looking for a new location. If
you are spending a lot of money building and maintaining a website that
has not brought you any business, maybe you should look for a simple
website to host pictures. If you are paying for advertisement and
the cost of the ad is more than the income you have made from leads
by the ad, look for a new place to advertise. Seek out
for free advertisement.
Some events will only
that you give a percentage of your income to the event
Other events will require that you pay a booth fee ahead of time.
These booth fees are rarely refundable, even if a storm blows the
away or of the event was so poorly advertised that only three people
up. When you choose to work at a certain event, you are giving up
the opportunity to work at another event…and even the opportunity to
stay home with your family and rest. You must determine which
is going to give you the most profit for your time. Profit is not
only monetary. There is also the potential for making important
contacts and establishing rapport with event organizers.
If you think that
an ad in the paper or on the Internet will get your business started,
again. If you want a job, you have to go get it. The jobs
just fall in your lap are few and far between. If you stop
yourself, be prepared for your business to start disappearing.
that you will never ever reach a point in your business lifecycle where
you can relax and stop promoting yourself. Look up local events
start calling or emailing the event organizers to see what it would
to set up there. Visit the local coffee shops, nail salons,
shops, health food stores, and new age stores to see where you might be
able to set up. Look for fundraising events and offer a
of what you take in if they will let you set up at their event.
networking with people who work with they type of people that you hope
to work for. Talk with people who are working at local festivals
and ask them to let you know when something comes up.
I started working in my
about two years ago. I have established rapport with the local
organizers, the city event organizers for several cities in my county,
and with several large corporations. When they need someone to do
henna, they call me. When another henna artist wants to set up at
a festival where I know the event organizers, they make it clear that
already have a henna artist. Establishing rapport is more than
paying your booth fee, setting up, breaking down, and going home.
You need to get to know these people by name and to be a responsible
owner. Pay your event fees on time. Handle any problems with a
and friendly attitude. Praise the event organizers for a job well
done. Let them know that you appreciate their hard work. If
you cannot make it to one of their events, let them know well ahead of
time and assure them that you will be back for the next event.
Four months ago, I started
henna classes. Many of the students in the class are hoping
to start their own henna business. Now I have to choose either to
feel threatened by this new competition and stop teaching classes or
advantage of the opportunity that this creates. With more henna
in the area, I have a customer base for the henna supplies and
that I sell. I have determined that while I might make a nice
doing henna at festivals and in clubs, I can never get rich by working
all alone. By creating an entertainment company and employing
new henna artists, I can continue working my most lucrative gigs and
a percentage of what my henna students earn when I set them up at gigs.
Even competitors are
part of the business ecosystem. If there is a gig that you cannot do
some reason, call up a competitor and offer it to them. Start a
of henna artists in the area and establish a sense of goodwill and
This could lead to more jobs for you and the potential of sharing
with other artists in order to work at a festival with a hefty booth
With other businesses this might not work, but there are too few henna
artists in the world for the market to become saturated any time
You can also build a network
other people who work at festivals, such as face painters, hair
airbrush artists, etc… I find out about many of the events that I
work at because another festival person called me up to ask if I was
on working the event.
Networking skills are
necessity in the business world. In the henna business you need
be able to effectively interact with suppliers, clients, other festival
vendors, event organizers, shop owners, advertising agents, and
The thing that sets
apart from others is how you market your product. You can be the
best artist in the country and not have a successful business if you do
not market your business effectively.
Any marketing textbook
about the “Five P’s of Marketing.”
Product: What are
Are you selling temporary tattoos, the ancient art of henna, or some
Place: How does a
get your product? Do you set up in a tourist hot spot, a New Age
store, a tattoo shop, or a nightclub? How does your decision to
up in that particular location affect the client’s perception of the
Packaging: Does the
sell the product? Do you dress yourself and your workspace to
the type of experience that you want to share with your clients?
Promotion: How do people find
about your product? Do they hear it from other satisfied
Do they hear about it from you? Do they hear about it from the
Is the media showing your product in a positive or negative light?
Price: Are you
most potential profit for the amount of time you spend working? Do you
regularly check with what your competitors are charging and what the
rate” is for your product? Avoid pricing yourself above what the
local economy supports, but also avoid pricing your product so low that
it loses its perceived value. Do you consider all of the time
you spend earning your money? You might earn $200 at a 3-hour
but how much time was spent preparing for and cleaning up after the
How much time was spent driving? Consider this example: You
serve 20 clients at a festival, charging $3 for a basic design.
decide to raise your base price from $3 to $5, and lose 4 customers who
are not willing to pay the higher price. You were earning $60 for
20 clients. Now you earn $80 and do not have to work as hard and
you use less of your supplies.
The new Five P’s of
a greater need for product differentiation and appealing to the less
more emotional human side of marketing.
Paradox: Create a
for your product. What makes you different from your
What makes your product a necessity?
in your client’s place. What do you think they want from your
Do they just want an affordable no-frills experience? Would they
pay a little more if you spent the time to chat with them? Does
workspace ambiance draw people in?
the patterns of human nature. Your typical clients are tourists
they want fake-tattoo type designs. Do you give them what they
or search for a new place to work?
audience. Research the history and properties of your product so
that you sound knowledgeable and convincing when you talk to people.
Passion: Believe in
do. Is this business just something to pay the bills? Did
get into the henna business because you love everything about henna?
The goal of marketing your
is to create a need for your product. In order to do that, you
to fully understand your product so that you can effectively discuss
You have to convince your prospective clients that your product is
different from and better than a competitor’s product. You have
make your clients believe that buying your product will somehow improve
If you enjoy working
henna and you enjoy working with people, the henna body art business
be a satisfying way to make money. Like any business, the henna
art business is not without risk. You must create a business plan
that will help you start your business with the least amount of risk
sacrifice. You need to be flexible and willing to change your
if something is not working. You need to develop a marketing plan
that makes your product desirable or even necessary to your clients.
to Start Your Own Henna Body Art Business by Erika Harrison
Henna Page Publications (2003)
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