Tattoo artist turned inventor inks major export deals
AN INTERNATIONALLY renowned tattoo artist has turned his hand to manufacturing with the launch of a new brand, selling machines and accessories to tattoo studios across the globe.
Richard “Bez” Beston, owner of TripleSix Studios in Sunderland, started manufacturing tattoo machines in his spare time, above the super-studio on Fawcett St after he began suffering from arthritis.
The idea was to create a machine that was super-lightweight, friendly on the wrist and which would help him to maintain his grip, comfortably, for longer. The result was a machine which would not only aid Bez, but artists across the globe.
He said: “I’ve always been something of an inventor. In fact, my career started as a games developer when I moved to the US at 21 and I’ve always been interested in designing and finding new ways to improve things.
“After taking a break from the industry, I started tattooing and I fell in love with it. Since then, I’ve tattooed people across the globe. I must’ve clocked up thousands of air miles!
“However, it wasn’t until further down the line in my career that I decided to turn my hand to designing my own tattoo machines. I started suffering from arthritis a few years back and noticed that there was nothing on the market that could aid myself and others suffering from the condition, so I thought, ‘why not design and make one myself?’”
Initially building machines in the spare room above the studio, Bez set up a new business, Richard Beston Designs Ltd, and started to receive interest from other artists plying their trade across the UK. Then, as word began to spread, demand for his products increased significantly.
To cope with this rising demand, and to satisfy his inventive desire, he drafted in his friend and colleague Tim Kingsbury to help him with the assembly and distribution of orders, meaning he could start working on new, innovative products to add to the range.
Before long, the company was not only producing tattoo machines but had also launched its own range of patented tattoo machine grips under the brand name EGO, which Bez designed and manufactured using 3D Printing, another skill he honed himself in his spare time.
“Our disposable tattoo grips are now our most popular product,” he adds. “We design them in-house and manufacture them via our 3D printers. I think the reason they’ve proven so popular is because they are far more comfortable and easy to use than the usual products on the market.
“They’re a lot bigger than usual tattoo machine grips, which means you don’t need to grip as hard. For people like myself, who often spend hours on end tattooing, they’re a God-send as they take away all of the strain of the process.”
The pioneering EGO grips have also helped Richard Beston Designs Ltd diversify into new markets. After discovering how the grip eased the strain of tattooing, Bez decided to apply the concept to other every-day processes and has since developed a whole range of products for an array of sectors.
This has seen the company produce grips for the dental and medical industries as well as bringing to market a patented grip for the Apple Pen, aimed at helping people with a range of conditions embrace new technologies.
Speaking about the company’s diversification, he said: “When I started making the machines, it was purely through my inventive nature and the constant urge I have to make things better, so it’s not much of a surprise that the company continues to spiral off into new areas. I always thought that would happen.
“One thing I didn’t expect however, was for the demand for our products to soar as much as it has and to have such an impact on so many people’s lives. It’s amazing to think that, from a small room above our studio, we’ve created a business which is helping so many people across the world; it’s amazing.”
Richard Beston Designs Ltd now has distribution partners across the globe and actively sells its machines and EGO accessories to customers in markets as far away as the US, Russia, China and even India.
However, this continued growth didn’t come without its obstacles. In the early stages of the business, Bez found it hard to tap into business support and funding streams due to the fact that the company had such a heavy focus on the tattoo industry.
He recalls: “It was quite hard in the early days of the business. We approached a number of funding providers and business support initiatives but because we were so heavily focused on tattooing, they just turned their noses up at us.
“We literally had to self-fund the business ourselves. I was tattooing seven days a week at one point, just to fund our research and development.”
Bez was then introduced to Sunderland Software Centre and was shown around the centre by the business investment team at Sunderland City Council.
Being just a few minutes’ walk away from the TripleSix Studio and boasting superfast broadband and meeting room facilities, it provided Bez, Leslie and Tim with the space and infrastructure needed to take Richard Beston Designs and EGO to the next level.
“It really opened my eyes when the team from the council showed me around the Software Centre,” he said, “it was perfect for us.
“We’ve also been in contact with the council since then and have spoken to other tenants within the centre, who have all been really receptive. Whenever we need advice, there’s someone there to help. The collaborative approach of the businesses in here is fantastic and has opened a lot of doors for us.
“I’ve always been guilty of, ‘right, I’m doing everything myself’ but there’s only so much you can do before you run out of steam. It’s great to be able to just walk down the corridor and knock on someone’s door and there you have it, there’s someone there to help.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland has always been a city famed for its inventors, from Joseph Swan to Sir William Mills, the city has a rich engineering and manufacturing heritage.
“It’s also a city which is adapting to the digital-age and Bez is a perfect example of this. By embracing new technologies such as 3D Printing and fusing it with his entrepreneurial, can-do attitude, he is once again helping put Sunderland on the map not only as a city moving into the digital-age, but a city built on innovation.
“We’re delighted that we’ve been able to help Richard Beston Designs and are looking forward to working more closely with the team going forward.”
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