Temporary tattoos with "Inkster" - Business studies graduates start their own business

"A tattoo? I would like to try it out, but I don't want to get a permanent one." If these thoughts are not new to you, perhaps the two founders of Inkster can help you soon. Their business idea was awarded second place in the LIFT-OFF start-up competition at the University of Göttingen this year, as well as the audience award in the category "Start-up Potential". The award ceremony took place online on 14 July 2020.

We spoke with the two young entrepreneurs Melvyn Wittwer and Michael Noack. Both studied Business Administration at the Faculty of Business and Economics and recently completed their Bachelor's degree.

What is "Inkster"?
"Inkster" is working on innovative "patches" that allow customers to apply real looking temporary tattoos to their skin that last for two weeks. The fruit extract based color moves from the patch into the first layer of skin (epidermis) and fades with the natural renewal of the first layer of skin. Conventional temporary tattoos, so-called "stick-ons", on the other hand, stick to the skin and do not penetrate the skin. They last one to three days. Customers are thus given the opportunity to discover tattoo art, but without a guilty conscience, health risks, high financial investment, minimum age and lifelong commitment - "Inkster" thus makes it possible to try out a tattoo.

After the first phase (development of the prototype and market test) of the project has been supported and successfully completed by the NBank, the market entry will be financed by the EXIST start-up grant. The product is currently being developed to market maturity and will be certified afterwards. The foundation is planned for August and the launch for October.

How did you get the idea to set up your own business while you were still studying? How did you get the idea for "Inkster"?
We got to know each other during our studies at the University of Göttingen. Already during our studies we both chose courses around the topic foundation. To learn more about entrepreneurship and marketing, we also went to San Diego State University in California together for a semester in August 2018.

During an idea brainstorming in the course "Business Plan Development", which is the equivalent of the module "Project Seminar Start-up Management" in Göttingen, Melvyn was looking for a solution to his own problem. He wanted to get his first tattoo, but didn't know which would be the right place and motif for a lifetime tattoo. After intensive research he came across the plant "Genipa Americana", whose fruit extract colours the first layer of skin of a person black-blue for about two weeks and fades with the natural renewal of the skin. Native South Americans have been using this colour for body painting for thousands of years. With "Inkster" we are now working together to bring a real looking two-week tattoo to Europe.

It makes sense to become self-employed or to work on an idea already during your studies, because you learn an incredible amount about yourself and for your professional career. Furthermore, there is no social pressure because you are a full-time student. We choose this path as an alternative to the classical way of a graduate, especially because we benefit from a much steeper learning curve, the motivation is higher and the limits can be set by yourself.

To what extent have you been/are supported by institutions of the University of Göttingen, such as the University's start-up support or the SNIC?
The project was included in the Pre-Incubator of the South Lower Saxony Innovation Campus (SNIC) and has since been accompanied and supported by the Start-up support of the university. Dr. Anna Maria Beck (Start-up Coach Pre-Incubator) and Martin Stammann (Team Leader Start-up support) help us with the development of business models and business plans as well as with the procurement of financial resources. In addition, through the SNIC we have access to the network of the entire South Lower Saxony Foundation and can use the SNIC office space.

What are your plans for the future?
Within a year, we were able to build up and learn from almost 40,000 followers on the Instagram and Pinterest social media platforms. In the future, we will use social media marketing to sell the two-week tattoos in an online shop. In addition to thousands of ready-made designs by tattoo artists from all over the world, we plan to develop a software that allows customers to upload a photo of the desired tattoo and purchase it as a two-week tattoo. A successful company also needs enough turnover to finance its own life and that of other employees. That is what we are working on.

Thinking back to your studies in Göttingen...
The time of study in Göttingen has been the most instructive and at the same time the most beautiful time in our lives. Göttingen is a very good choice for a Bachelor's programme, because the size of the city and the many students make it easy to build up a social environment. At the same time, however, you enjoy all the advantages of a big city. We would choose Göttingen again and again.

Thank you very much for the interview.

In addition, this year's LIFT-OFF start-up competition has awarded prizes to other projects involving students from the Faculty of Business and Economics:

  • Audience Award Science: VineForecast
    A student of business administration and a graduate of meteorology are developing an app to be able to individually predict the occurrence of vine diseases in viticulture.

  • Special prize for social entrepreneurship: Honigfarm (honey farm)
    The prize for sustainable and social action in the category "Social Entrepreneurship" went to the "Honigfarm" (honey farm) team: Eleven students of the Faculty of Business and Economics would like to support beekeeping as a second financial pillar for cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast together with Enactus Göttingen e.V.