Today we’d like to introduce you to Mara DeFilippis.
Mara, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In November of 2009, I felt a pea-sized lump in my left breast. Though five diagnostic procedures reported negative for breast cancer, it was the sixth that proved them wrong. In early April of 2010, I received a call from the surgeon, who explained the diagnosis of DCIS, the reasons why it was so hard to find, and that I would need to undergo a single mastectomy (though I elected to a double due to the challenges in diagnosing, the fact that I was a single mother, and that it would be easier to “match” in reconstruction). The mastectomy was scheduled to take place three weeks later.
Being a single woman, who had identified herself with beauty to some extent (though always humbly) having no breasts, and especially no nipples, was very difficult. Though all women have a different experience during this time, during the breast reconstruction process and related procedures, I did not feel very womanly. I felt blank; incomplete; in transition; between genders (strangely); between chapters of my life; between changes in my values personally, spiritually, professionally and felt confused about what I understood my womanhood to be.
I was mourning my breasts, my sexual freedom, my birthright to breastfeed ever again and, at times, my very womanhood. Every time I accidentally caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror unclothed, my blank canvas was a reminder of all that was lost. My friends and my son were there for me along my journey, and this helped my spirits tremendously.
TataTattoos (a DBA of Honored Ink, LLC) seeded itself in my mind during the dark and challenging times above but wasn’t seeded in my heart until I could openly discuss my story without it causing negative triggers. Ultimately, I launched TataTattoos out of financial necessity when the timing just happened to feel right emotionally. Though I had started a few non-profits, this would be my first for-profit business, and definitely my first online sales company. I spent quite a bit of time and effort on the “feel” of TataTattoos, prioritizing the customer’s experience being light, feminine and reminding them that they are sexual beings and already whole.
I found a graphic artist to work with me on the tattoo images and another to work with me on the branding. I located a manufacturer for the temporary tattoos, built a website myself, and began selling them in 2015. Eventually, I began selling them through Amazon and more recently expanded through Amazon to the EU. It has been a fun, challenging and rewarding experience and I am extremely blessed to have had the support of friends, professionals and thank you notes from customers that can bring me to tears.
TataTattoos represents my offering of love and support for my sisters in a period of loss, of rebuilding and moving forward into new life chapters. It is my intention and hopes that these temporary tattoos bring these women a rekindled spirit of fun, sassiness, feminism and of course… sexiness.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Although TataTattoos is a relatively simple business model, it has come with some challenges, primarily with the manufacturing process (along with juggling a full-time job!). I pride TataTattoos on having superior quality and consistency of image. The image is a photo of an actual areola and nipple, and I worked with a graphic designer to alter the photo to offer six different shades.
As it turns out, it is extremely difficult to print skin tones on temporary tattoos with any consistency. I would sometimes request a reprint from the manufacturer two or three times to get the correct colors in an inventory replenishment. There was a point when the manufacturer I was working with changed their policy to offer no guaranty and no reprints if the color was off. This could have been the end of my business. Thankfully, being the luckiest person I know, I found a manufacturer that actually worked with me to strategize how we might decrease the risk in color-shifting during the print. I am very thankful for kind and caring people who believe in the impact that TataTattoos has on these women and what it can offer them.
In addition, I have started a few non-profits, but TataTattoos was my first for-profit and first online sales business I have started. My biggest business weaknesses are marketing (which I have not significantly done for TataTattoos) and an understanding the business of online sales, so I am extremely thankful for the organic growth through customer and breast cancer professional referrals. Lastly, there have been many requests to ship TataTattoos internationally, which is cost-prohibitive to the customer due to shipping. In 2019, I expanded TataTattoos to the European market through Amazon, which has been a complex process to navigate legally and administratively.
Please tell us about TataTattoos. What should we know?
Often (though not always), women who’ve undergone mastectomies chose to reconstruct breasts with a plastic surgeon. The process is, at a minimum, several months long, quite painful and life-disrupting in a variety of ways. During this time, there is typically no nipple and areola (unless they were able to have a nipple-sparing mastectomy), and the woman often feels blank, incomplete, less-than-sexy, embarrassed and even androgynous. It is a visual reminder, and sometimes negative trigger of the trauma of experiencing breast cancer. The last step in the reconstruction process is to permanently tattoo an image of a nipple and areola on the breast. If there are no complications, the process can easily take up to nine months or longer. The “final touches” of the nipple and areola images often bring these women to tears with a sense of normalcy, closure and wholeness.
TataTattoos (a DBA of Honored Ink, LLC) are temporary, realistic nipple/areola tattoos for women who’ve undergone a mastectomy and are waiting to undergo reconstructive breast surgery, or for those choosing not to. They offer a solution for women to once again feel womanly, normal and (hopefully!) sexy.
TataTattoos specializes in superior quality of nipple and areola images for women who’ve undergone mastectomies. I am most proud of the consistent quality of product that I am committed to, exceeding customer service expectations and loving customers up throughout the entire sales process: from the website messaging all the way through to hand-written notes to each and every customer on their packing slip.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I think the definition of success is individual to each person. My personal views on success are that I am living an authentic life that speaks to my values and priorities, that I am a light in this world best I can be, and that I provide a positive contribution to the world and others.
My definition of success as a business is that it aligns with my priorities, which are simplicity for keeping quality of life while also working a full-time job, and providing a positive contribution. I have kept the business model to maintain very low overhead, created efficient processes to minimize time spent filling orders (which I do myself) and to support women to feeling more complete as they go through the mastectomy and reconstruction process.
TataTattoos has doubled in sales every year since it launched in 2015, without any significant marketing efforts. This is due to customer, reconstructive surgeon and other breast cancer professionals’ referrals. It is truly an honor and humbling to grow in this organic manner. Personally, I’d call that success. ☺
- Light, Medium and Dark Variety packs (three shades with two tattoos each, six total): $11.99
- Four temporary tattoos in six options of shades: $10.99
- Ten temporary tattoos in six options of shades: $20.99
- Twenty temporary tattoos in six options of shades: $30.99
- Website: www.TataTattoos.com
- Email: mara@TataTattoos.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TataTattoos/