Eliamin Ali is the founder of Eliam Ink, a popular tattoo and piercing shop in Nairobi.
The artist is minting millions from his tattoo business despite the fact that he dis not complete school after dropping out in Class 8.
However, Ali’s rise to the top was not easy as he had to do some hawking at some point to earn some income for himself.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
Ali was born and raised in Migadini, Mombasa County.
In 2008, he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education (KCPE), but he did not perform well.
Also, due to financial constraints at home, Ali was not able to further his studies by joining secondary school.
“I did not proceed further. Light dimmed on my dream to excel in education. I was living in Migadini in the coastal region where I was born and raised. I stepped out to look for greener pastures,” he said.
Ali left the coastal city for Nairobi and settled in Majengo estate where he started engaging in art work.
At the same time, he did menial jobs such as working as a broker in Gikomba Market, in a bid to make ends meet.
“I would negotiate a price for a shoe, picked off the bales to interested customers. First, I would strike a sale price with the customer, which had a small commission for my effort before I direct them to the stall selling the item,” Ali recalled.
Ali made an income for himself through the business and in no time he had saved enough money that saw him move from Majengo to Shauri Moyo.
At his new locality, he partnered with a friend to set up a car wash while at the same time continuing with his art career.
“As I was doing all these hustles, I was busy perfecting my skills in art. I used to get T-shirts at the same Gikomba, customise them, then sell at a premium price,” he shared.
In the course of his art career, he made friends who helped him secure a tender to paint Nairobi City Council buildings.
Despite working for two weeks and giving their best, the city county failed to compensate them for their work. However, despite the setback, he continued putting in effort to his craft.
This was not long before Ali was introduced to tattooing.
“While still feeling dejected after the deal fell through, I bumped into a friend, who had inked a big tattoo of his father’s face on his chest. I had perfected my skills in drawing by then. It inspired me to try my hand in tattoo art,” he said.
He was introduced to the tattoo artist behind the art, and after a few sessions with him, he was set to venture into the lucrative field.
“From there, I researched how I could make my work unique and perfect. I visited a friend in the city’s Central Business District, who did graffiti for matatus. He had a machine for tattoos and it’s there that my star started shining,” Ali said.
In 2011, Ali got a tender to draw a mural at Getrude’s Children Hospital, and used the pay to buy his own tattooing machine.
At the time, he had closed down the car wash and opened a mitumba shop but it was not bringing in much profit.
He closed down the shop and decided to primarily focused on the tattooing business.
“Art is a full-time job, which pays my bills. At the same time, it’s a medicine, people use art to relieve their pain in a different way,” Ali said.
Since establishing his business, he has worked with among other celebrities Diamond Platnumz, Khaligraph Jones, Otile Brown, Nazizi and Talia Oyando.
“I felt privileged because it gives me the feel of how good my work tag is out there. Majority of celebrities I get them through referrals or my social media handles, which is a sign that my work is being appreciated out there,” Ali said.