Test Drive Your Tattoo With This Philly Startup

Before it's permanent, why not try it on?

These are not real tattoos. (Photos courtesy of Momentary Ink.)

These are not real tattoos. (Photos courtesy of Momentary Ink.)

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t have any tattoos. In a city like Philadelphia, I feel like I’m in the minority. It wasn’t that I was too scared of the needle, just that I didn’t have a good idea for a design and couldn’t commit to anything.

In the late 1990s, I thought a barbwire tattoo around my arm would have looked cool (thank God I didn’t go that route!) In college, I thought about some sort of pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword design (since I’m a writer) but that never materialized either (again, thankfully). I love baseball, but am I really going to get a Phillies tattoo? Nah.

So my body is a clean canvas. But maybe if Momentary Ink was around back then, I’d actually have a tattoo by now. Momentary Ink is a Philly-based startup that allows people to try on a high-quality temporary tattoo that looks identical to the real thing. Unlike traditional temp tattoos that are basically stickers, Momentary Ink lasts for three to 10 days and can give people the piece of mind to know their tattoo is a good decision.

It was developed by Jordan Denny who had an epiphany on his last day living in Austin, Texas. He and his wife wanted to get tattoos to commemorate their time in Austin, but had no idea what to get.

“I’m very non-committal. Then it hit me — it would be amazing if I were able to try these designs on in different placements on my body,” said Denny. Although they left Austin without tattoos, they came to Philly with a killer idea.

Momentary Ink works like this: You send the company your design by uploading a photo to their website. You’ll get back a kit with your tattoo and a proprietary sealing and matting solution. “That’s where the secret sauce is,” said Denny. “It turns those shiny temporary tattoos into something that blends into the skin.” The company also has in-house tattoo artists who can create custom designs.

Tattoos start at $15.

Denny thinks the idea will work because the market for tattoos has changed. People don’t want a generic “cookie cutter” designs these days. Instead, they want “intricate 3-D and water-color tattoos with complex, custom designs” made by more legitimate artists.

“There’s been a big shift in the customers getting tattoos nowadays,” said Denny. “A lot of these folks are affluent business types who are getting away from impulsive desires, and are instead looking for true artists — and money and impulse are less of an issue.”

For years, tattoo artists have typically drawn an outline of a tattoo without shading or full color to give the customer final approval. But that really only means the customer can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quickly. With Momentary Ink, they have days to ponder the decision.

Denny bootstrapped his launch with help from family and friends but hopes to conduct a round of fundraising soon. While the business is currently selling direct to consumers, he hopes to partner with tattoo shops and artists in the future.

There sure seems to be other markets for the product. Maybe selling to entertainment companies that need high-quality tattoos for TV show or movies, or disrupting the existing market for temporary tattoos, are options. For now, though, Denny’s sticking to the “test-drive-your-tattoo” model.

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