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Delaney: Interview with an Autistic Henna Tattoo Artist

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Delaney creates impressive henna tattoo designs through her business Henna Laney LLC.

She turned her artistic passion into a travelling henna tattoo business.

Delaney is a talented and hardworking entrepreneur based in Phoenix, AZ.

How did you think of the idea for your business?

I had been a henna artist for almost 3 years by the time I created Henna Laney. I had worked both as a freelance henna artist and as an artist at a brick-and-mortar shop, and while I enjoyed both, I wanted to combine the flexibility and personalized experience of hiring a freelance artist with the professionalism of a brick-and-mortar. It was a fun thought, but I had no idea how to make it a reality. One day, while walking through a flea market in my town with my mom, we spotted a small camper that was renovated into a travelling boutique! My mom and I looked at each other, and the gears in our heads both started turning. After a few long nights and brainstorming sessions, my mom and I had come up with the idea to turn a school bus into a travelling henna store!

How did you fund your business in the very beginning?

If I want something to happen, I go out there to make it happen. Starting Henna Laney was no different. I have not reached my startup goal in order to buy my bus that I plan to renovate and turn into my travelling storefront, so I am currently working as a freelance artist in Phoenix. My plan to fund my business is to continue to work as a freelance artist and to put aside my revenue until I reach my startup cost goals. It’s hard work, and I still have a ways to go, but I’m getting there!

How long have you been running your business?

I have been running my business for 2 years now. I continue to work as a freelance artist, travelling to my clients and pursuing my dream, and I couldn’t be happier.

Did you have any previous experience in your field before you started your business?

Yes, I did. I have been an artist since the day I could hold a paintbrush, and my special interest has always been all things art. I had taken oil painting classes in elementary school then went on to win national art competitions as I grew up. I had always been fascinated by drawing on skin and considered pursuing a career in tattoo artistry in high school, so when I discovered henna tattoos as a teenager I was instantly hooked. I began my henna art journey in a small kiosk in the middle of a mall in Chandler, Arizona when I was 16 years old. I was mentored by a very talented henna artist that taught me everything I needed to know about the history of henna art, the techniques I needed to succeed and more. After two years of hard work and practice, I had enough experience under my belt to pursue opening my own henna business!

Henna tattoo design by Delaney with Henna Laney.

Now that your business has been running successfully, is there anything you wish would have done differently in the beginning?

I wish I had known how to be better about setting my prices when I first started on my own. I was not aware how easily you can be taken advantage of and haggled down when you are self-employed and control your own prices. After running my business successfully for a while, I have learned how to best explain to my clients why my pricing is the way that it is and how the quality of my art is worth the prices I set. You are not only paying for the tattoo; you are paying for my experience, my time and the quality of henna you want. Art can be difficult to price sometimes, and because of that I struggled to come up with fair estimates in the beginning.

When your business was merely an idea, what steps did you take to make it a reality?

Although I have not yet gotten to the point where I have my travelling bus to run my business out of, I have taken quite a few steps to get to where I am today. I have a family made of entrepreneurs that have helped me develop my business plan and put my name out there, which has been one of the most important pieces in making my dream into a reality. But one of the best things I did to help me start my business was joining my community and putting my neck out in business competitions. I went on to win a business competition run by my community college and had the opportunity to work alongside a handful of very talented entrepreneurs like me to develop our business plans like professionals. If I hadn’t taken a chance and applied to be a part of that competition, I would not have been able to develop my business to where it is today. 

How has being autistic helped you succeed with your business?

I think being autistic has helped me create my business in a few different ways. Having an autistic brain comes with a myriad of unique struggles and strengths, and I think both have helped me become the businesswoman I am. Two of my greatest weaknesses are my need for a plan and my dislike of change, and my autism can sometimes make pivoting my business a struggle. But I am thankful that I know that about myself so I can better step back and work on myself so I can embrace the need for change in my business.

Although my struggles continue to keep me on my toes, I am fueled by my passion for creating art and problem solving, and I think that because of this I am able to keep my passion for building my business alive. Effective problem solving is not only one of my best strengths that I possess, but it is also one of my special interests as a woman with autism. Combining my love for brainstorming solutions and my natural artistic ability, I discovered that the entrepreneurial path I am walking was meant for me. It is what keeps me waking up in the morning, and I am proud to say that I found a way to use both my autistic strengths and struggles to become self-sufficient and successful in my business.

Has being autistic created challenges for you? If so, what helped you overcome or cope with the difficulties?

Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, my biggest struggles are my need for a plan and my apprehension for change. I think that these challenges have been especially difficult for me in growing my business because I have learned that one of the main parts of running a successful business is pivoting and taking your ideas in different directions. I’ve had to learn how to overcome my personal challenges in order to continue to run a successful business, and I think that having a good support system and a strong group of business mentors is a wonderful way to help cope with my difficulties.

What advice would you give a fellow autistic person who is thinking of starting their own business?

Start. Do it! Your brain may work in different ways, and you may struggle with some things that not everyone has to struggle with, but that does not mean you are any less capable of success or of running your own business. If you are willing to take a look at yourself, discover your personal strengths and struggles and use them to your advantage, you will be just fine. I suggest you start growing a group of mentors to help you with some parts of the business that are not your strong suits, because that was one of the biggest reasons I have come this far in my own business. Be confident in your choices, be confident in yourself, and just START!

Does your business have a social media profile or a website where The Autistic Innovator readers can follow you and learn more about what you do?

My Instagram is Henna_Laney, and my Facebook is Henna Laney as well. I have a TikTok account, @naturalaneyarts, for anyone that enjoys that platform as well. If you would like to reach me directly, my business email is hennalaneyaz@yahoo.com, and I typically respond within a day!

Delaney with Henna Laney creating her amazing tattoos.

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