Create a positive and inspiring work environment. Happy people are more likely to deliver great work, so develop a work setting that people are excited to come to every day.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dani Egna. Dani is the founder & CEO of INKED by Dani, the line of chic and creative temporary tattoos inspired by Dani’s hand-drawn designs. Dani is a fine artist and graduated from the University of Southern California.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.

The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming- everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a light bulb went off in my head… I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot- I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A pivotal moment that changed everything for INKED by Dani was when 3 large, well-known retailers were the first to pick up and sell our temporary tattoo designs: Brandy Melville, American Eagle, and Nasty Gal- all while I was still in college! Getting recognized by these huge companies not only brought a new level of legitimacy to the brand, but also made me realize it was feasible for me to make a career out of selling my art in tattoo form. It proved to me that there really was a gap and need in the market for my more sophisticated and elevated tattoo designs.

This boosted my confidence to fully focus on this new career path, and utilize my fine art skills in a new way.

From this point, the exposure and sales that these retail partnerships brought led to press coverage in publications like Vogue, BuzzFeed, and Cosmopolitan; a huge increase in our social following; and opening relationships with retailers like Nordstrom and Zumiez soon after! We then started selling to hundreds of smaller boutiques across the country.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we were starting off, we had high demand to jump into the retail space, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Our packaging started off with a label that just said INKED by Dani — no mention of temporary tattoos, and no depiction of what was even inside…. I look back and definitely laugh at that! Since then, we’ve completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers’ and customers’ favorite parts of our product! It’s so important to invest time in customer experience- and in how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

INKED by Dani is the first-ever “Rent the Runway” for your tattoo look. INKED by Dani offers a curated selection of elevated, on-trend and temporary wearable art hand-drawn by me. INKED by Dani lets wearers test and try out sleek tattoo looks for any mood or occasion, without the permanent and costly commitment. INKED by Dani temporary tattoos are inspired by my fine art designs as well as coveted tattoo trends such as tiny, minimal styles; edgy shapes and designs; finger tattoos; script tattoos; and more. All of the designs are made in the U.S.A. with cruelty free, waterproof and FDA approved ink.

Many other temporary tattoos brands don’t incorporate designs created by fine artists and have a very broad selection without a signature aesthetic, unlike INKED by Dani.

INKED by Dani also has a large retail presence, as it’s available at over 10,000 retail locations including Target, Ulta, Spencer’s, and Hot Topic.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re constantly evolving INKED by Dani with the varying trends in tattoos, beauty and fashion. We’re always collaborating with new brands and bringing our tattoo designs to new experiential platforms. In the same vein of the collaborations we’ve launched in the past (we’ve developed home decor with Dormify, activewear with Terez, etc.), we are continuing to explore how our designs resonate on varying products!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their teams to thrive?

  • Create a positive and inspiring work environment. Happy people are more likely to deliver great work, so develop a work setting that people are excited to come to every day.
  • Get to know and understand the people that you work with. Not everyone works at the same pace, or the same way, or has the same personality. Learn about your employees’ interests and work styles to develop a thriving team.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Be adaptable, communicate openly, and acknowledge good work. Trust those around you, and let them know they’re doing a good job.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say my amazing team both at our office, and our wonderful back office and warehouse teams who make everything possible! There would be no way I could do what I do without their dedication and support.

I couldn’t call one particular story out- they are grinding absolutely every single day creating a strong internal structure, which allows me to go out there and grow the business!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

INKED by Dani has a charitable tats collection! Proceeds from each design in this collection goes to different coveted charities.

For the tattoo Happy Elephant, $1.50, proceeds go to Reteti Elephant Orphanage in Kenya; for Cancer Sucks!, $1.75, proceeds go to the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation!; for Girl Power, $1.50, proceeds go to the #TIMESUP movement; and for Think Pink!, $1.75, proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

What are your “4 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Just go with your gut! You’ll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don’t get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I’ve been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Tackle the biggest priorities on your to-do list first. The night before each workday, I create a clear to-do list with the deliverables I need to tackle for the day ahead and the remainder of the week. I always write my tasks down on paper and sort them by the biggest priorities first. I suggest taking on your biggest priorities first thing in the morning, so you can ensure you have enough time to dedicate to these important tasks. I also share my to do-lists with my team so we can collaborate when necessary, too.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” — Oprah Winfrey. I’ve always been passionate about art; I spent four years studying it in college. Being able to turn something that I love into a career has been so amazing.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would LOVE to meet with so many people… that’s a tough question! I am a huge fan of Emily Weiss and the empire she has built with Glossier. I think it would be completely valuable to sit and chat with her!

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