As comfortable in a tattoo chair as he is in the head chair at a board meeting, Jaime Smith isn’t your typical entrepreneur. He prepares for the risks and losses of every venture he begins, and his entry into the tattoo world was no different. When he got his first tattoo—a spider—at 16, his father told him, “Son, figure out what you want to do with your life, and then tattoo all you want.” Smith has done just that, making sure his business suit aligns with his jacket of ink underneath; although he’s lost track of how many tattoos he has, he keeps his neck, hands, and knuckles unadorned for the meetings he has with business associates around the globe.
At 32, Smith runs an agricultural and chemical manufacturing company and founded Hub International, a company that developed HandStand, a device that angles the iPad for easier typing and improves functionality by allowing it to spin 360 degrees in your hand. “I was getting surround sound done in my house, which I found out could all be controlled by my iPad. But I got tired of holding it so I decided to design the case,” he says of his invention. He’s also launching a plethora of products made with carbon fiber, from watches to bullet-proof vests, and helping other young entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality.
Along the way, Smith has made sure he designs and manufactures in the USA because he wants to support the economy as much as it has supported him. “America is run on small businesses,” he says. “I find myself knocking boots with Apple, Nike, Verizon, and other big corporations, so the goal is for small businesses to succeed in corporate-run environments.”
When he’s not working 20-hour days, Smith divides his time between motorcycles and tattoos. He says there was a time when he would travel to different continents and his tattoos would bewilder people—but now when he meets with contacts they want to see his latest additions. And why does he keep adding? “I would look in the mirror and see one arm done, so the other would look weird. Then I’d see my chest done so my torso would look weird.” Much of his ink is inspired by his Christian faith. Some of his favorites are the words “Perseverance,” written in cursive from his armpit down to his knee, “Misguided Angel,” across his stomach, and “Virtue Lies in Blood,” across his chest. “I always knew I wanted to be heavily tattooed. When I look at my pictures as a little boy, I don’t just have one stick-on tattoo, I have many—everywhere.” Although some people have responded negatively to Smith’s work, his tattoos have also opened doors to new networks and friends. “People always said it was going to affect me negatively in business. But tattooing has been the most rewarding experience, and when people see them and they see the professionalism, they know I’m unique and serious.”
For his next batch of ink, Smith plans to take the leap into getting his neck and hands done, and he also wants to continue developing products and companies that bring not only profits, but value, satisfaction, and change. He says his ink will lead him in that direction: “My tattoos represent that I can live differently, but I can still live great.” —Nadia Kadri