Getting to the Point of Hobby Starts Business
As a Woodland Hills high school student, Matthew Joseph got a piece of body jewelry as a souvenir for each transitional period in his life. By the time he graduated, he had pierced his ears, tongue, nose, nipple, eyebrow and navel.
Seeking to capitalize on the growing trend, he worked for two years at a tattoo parlor and body piercing shop on Sunset Boulevard, saving every dime he could.
Now 30, Joseph opened up his own Los Angeles shop, House of Freaks Inc., in 1995.
“It took probably around $10,000 to get the lease and first and last month’s security. I already had some inventory. I had been building it up over the years. I already had my own wholesale account with some jewelry vendors.
“I now have thousands of pieces of inventory in a couple hundred different styles of jewelry. I get stock from jewelry wholesalers local and overseas through catalogs and the Internet. There are rings, nostril screws, which are gem settings at the end of posts, bar bells, which are a post with a ball on each end, and plugs for earlobe expansion. You insert it in the earlobe and gradually work your way up through the different sizes of plugs.
“(Customer) age groups are from 18 years old to 30 years old. I’ve never had any parents really complain. I don’t pierce minors usually 15 and up without a parent present.
“For some people, it serves as a transitional phase in their life that they want to remember. Others do it for the way it looks, the way it feels, for social acceptance, to be decadent shocking to other people who aren’t interested in it. The navel piercing is the most popular. I think everybody’s got earrings already.
“I like dealing with people and I like doing a service that helps people change the way they feel about themselves. If they’re happy with the piercing, that’s when I really get paid.
“Revenues are traditionally around $150,000 a year. It varies so much depending on trends and the time of the year and the economy. When the economy is strong, it does better. Basically getting piercings is not a necessity. It is a luxury. This is a definite record low year probably around $100,000 in sales.
“I have an autoclave and ultrasonic cleaner, which are medical industry standard equipment. It’s imperative. Otherwise there’s no way to guarantee that anything is sterile. I don’t want to accidentally contract or transmit a disease to somebody. Probably one in 100 people even ask if everything is sterilized. I want them to ask.”