From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
To close out the month of April, we caught up with Maria Joukov, Co-Founder & CEO of inq Tattoos. Located on King St., inq is a female- and veteran-owned small business that opened summer of 2019.
AEDP: To get us started, please tell us a little about inq.
Maria: I’m the co-owner of inq Tattoos at 1011 King Street in historic Old Town. inq is a premium tattoo boutique, and we created inq to make sure that every customer could have a great tattoo experience and that every artist could work in a nurturing professional environment. Our goal is to have customers of all levels of experience with tattoos feel welcome—whether it’s their first tattoo or fiftieth!
AEDP: How did you get started?
Maria: My husband and I created inq from the ground up and we first opened our doors to customers in July 2019. We are not tattoo artists and had no experience in this industry, but we do have a background in building companies and in business operations. We were also able to lean on the insights of an experienced tattoo artist with 50 years in the industry who has seen it evolve from an underground scene to the more mainstream phenomenon it has become. While tattoos have become extremely popular, the experience of getting a tattoo was still largely not quite fitting with the expectations of today’s customer. That’s really what inq is solving.
AEDP: For you, what is the most rewarding aspect of running inq?
Maria: The most rewarding aspect of running inq Tattoos is getting to be part of a team that delivers such a meaningful service to our customers. Every single tattoo has a story behind it (even those whose meaning is only obvious to its owner). We have so many customers who come in to get a tattoo as a memorial piece for someone they love, or to celebrate a really big fitness goal, to honor a relationship, to have a quote that motivates them—and other really great reasons. Seeing them walk out with a custom tattoo that they love is really rewarding. The other thing I love is working with our artists. Their creativity and approach to problem-solving is so inspiring and is so refreshingly different from what you might find working in an office.
AEDP: Would you mind sharing your next “big thing?”
Maria: The next big step for inq is to take what we’ve built in Alexandria and expand it nationwide. We are now franchising the inq Tattoos model. This means that someone interested in opening up an inq Tattoos boutique in their town can join us as a franchise owner and have the support of our corporate team, use of our intellectual property and our proven business model to build and operate a boutique of their own. We encourage anyone interested to visit our franchising website and of course, we’re excited to be able to share that the very first inq Tattoos was started right here in Alexandria.
AEDP: Are there any charities that inq supports?
Maria: Giving back to the community is a huge part of the inq Tattoos culture and we really make it a company priority to give back. We support many causes throughout the year; some of the ones we love in particular are organizations that support the military and veteran communities (inq is a veteran-owned business, so this is near and dear to our hearts,) as well as organizations that work with low-income youth and first-generation Americans.
This past year has been so difficult for many, and we were fortunate to be in a position where we could give back. While we were closed last spring for over two months, we donated all appointment deposits to two area food banks (AFAC and Capital Area Food Bank). We also supported a veteran-owned non-profit called Chow, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Live Water Foundation. All of these organizations are doing great work with increasingly constrained resources, so we encourage the community to look them up and support them if able.
AEDP: To close us out, can you tell us why you decided to locate in Alexandria?
Maria: There are so many things to love about Alexandria, but we decided to open our flagship boutique in Alexandria, and specifically, right on historic King Street, because a premium location is so central to our business model. At inq, we’re showing that tattoos can be accessible to today’s customers of all levels of experience, and a huge part of that is ensuring our boutiques are in premium, high visibility, high walkability areas with a storefront that invites a passerby to stop in and take a look. As we scale nationwide, we really stress the importance of such a premium location to our partners who want to open up their own inq Tattoos boutique. We couldn’t think of a better place than Alexandria to have our flagship location!
To learn more about inq, visit their website, or their location at 1011 King St.