One woman who turned her passion for art into a successful Danforth businessby Rachel Kovach
Monika Mitchell is the owner of Definitive Studios, a body art and piercing shop she founded in 2007. At the age of 18, Monika initially wanted to become a piercer. Working in a silver jewellery store at the time, she saw there was a demand for this work. Monika researched and taught herself how to pierce, and the store quickly profited from her skills. Soon after, she became interested in tattooing. With a talent for art and a strong desire to learn, she established a clientele and developed her skills as a tattoo artist.
Sixteen years later, Monika is now the owner of her own business, which is “half empowering half terrifying,’” she admits, “I enjoy the freedom, but it’s also a huge responsibility.”
Monika chose the Danforth as the location of her store because of the diversity of the area, and has since felt embraced by the neighbourhood. Her intent was to create a space that works against the negative stereotypes that plague tattoo shops. Dylan LeBlanc, an employee of Monika’s, asserts that, “We try to make everyone feel at home here and we’ve gone out of our way to avoid the dark, stereotypical feel that most shops have.”
As an employer, Monika actively trains her staff, both in technique, and in connecting with clients, to guarantee the space remains welcoming and comfortable. Dylan received his first apprenticeship from Monika four years ago. It’s difficult to be taken on as an apprentice because it takes away from the owner’s business, Dylan explains. It’s a huge commitment. “I approached many other stores in the city. Monika took a big chance on me. I feel like I owe her something for what she’s given me.”
Definitive Studios is a place where art is created. Monika clarifies, “If the focus was on making the shop more popular, then business would be more important. My focus is making people happy and doing the best work we can.”
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, Monika is an example of strength and determination. While challenging stereotypes around tattoo shops, she also fights against bias towards female artists and piercers. These are unfortunate cultural attitudes that she faces, but her talent speaks for itself and her business is always growing. Monika is a truly empowering woman who exudes self-assurance — a powerful role-model for any young female entrepreneur.
This year Definitive Studios will be celebrating five years in business, but it is every day in between that counts. For Monika, each day and each interaction is about quality. “I’m always striving to make my work better so that the shop will always be better.” The word “can’t” is not in her vocabulary.
Definitive Studios is located at 584 Danforth Avenue.