Pam Winnie, Founder of Artistree LLC

“For me, defining success is more internal. It’s the feeling I get when I see my clients’ reaction when they look in the mirror for the first time.  Often happy tears are involved.” – Pam Winnie

Pam has an very unique story. When she graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, having studied Graphic and Fine Arts, she could never have guessed where her path would lead. She started out like many in her field, doing commercial art, designing logos and brochures and such. But Pam’s story takes a turn when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In our interview with Pam she digs deeper into this, as it pertains to the launch of her company Artistree, LLC. Pam is not out to get rich, she’s out to do good in the world and make a significant impact with her art, one survivor at a time. She’s no outsider, she’s the real deal.

And just in case you were wondering about her qualifications, according to Pam is a certified permanent cosmetics tattoo technician. She attended the American Institute of Intradermal Cosmetics in Arlington, Texas, and was trained and certified by Master Instructors in Pensacola and Tampa, Florida; Houston, Texas; and San Diego and Los Angeles, California. She is a member of the American Academy of Micropigmentation and the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. We are honored to share Pam’s story with the world.

Age: 57
Company Name:
Artistree, LLC.
Title: Permanent Cosmetic and Paramedical Tattoo Technician
Joppa, MD

My real story begins with a positive diagnosis of HER2 breast cancer in October of 2009.  I felt like I was thrown in the deep end with no idea how long the fight ahead would have me treading water.  My surgery didn’t happen until January 6, 2010 and it was while I was in the beginning stages of recovery that I realized what may have started as a joke was about to become my reality.  I was lamenting to a friend that I didn’t like what I saw in the surgeons photo albums as far as the last phase of tattooing went.  The photos looked as though someone used a Sharpie marker, drawing a circle and coloring it in.  I knew I could do better – even though I had no idea how to do it, though being an trained artist gave me an edge.

Why did you start your business(es)?

This is my Why.  Even though I was told by someone famous in this industry that I couldn’t do it.  His explanation was he had people doing real tattoos for 15 yrs and they wouldn’t touch an areola.  It drove me to go for it and to find someone who would train me.  I am thankful because of the wonderful people that I have met along my journey!  This is my passion!  I will never get rich on the backs of breast cancer survivors, since I do a lot of pro bono work. I truly wish I could afford to tattoo every one of my beautiful clients for free.  I know what we go through, and I know what it means to reach that last phase of this journey and to finally be able to look in that mirror and their scars are not the first things they see.

What entrepreneur has most inspired you?

Other technicians and instructors inspire me the most!  This is a field where you never stop learning!  And social media has played a valuable role in helping techs connect, share information and upcoming classes being offered.  I feel so blessed to be able to call my colleagues friends!

What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome thus far in business?

The biggest obstacle was stepping out in the first place, going from working on canvases to working on a human canvas.  I knew I wanted to concentrate on doing 3D areola and nipple tattooing.  It was also a huge financial commitment in setting up two offices, equipment and training over the years, but it’s been worth the sacrifices our family has made in order to make this happen.

What have you learned from failure?

As I stated earlier, this is a field you never, ever stop learning!  I learned other aspects of permanent make up, like eyebrows, eyeliners and lips.  After all, some of my clients who have undergone chemo treatments and depending on the type they were/are on, their brows or lashes may not always come back, so I can help with that.

How does your leadership style foster your company’s culture?

My business consists of me.  I don’t really lead anyone else.  Although I have recently started sharing my techniques with other technicians from across the country who are looking to enhance their skills for creating 3 Dimensional areolas and nipples.   The classes are kept small so the techs have a lot of hands on training and send them home with a manual, DVD’s, equipment and copies of the power point presentation and provide after class connections with them should any questions arise.

What internal process do you use to guide your decision-making?

Since it is just me, I’m constantly striving to be organized and keep up with the plethora of paperwork, scheduling etc.

How do you define success?

For me, defining success is more internal. It’s the feeling I get when I see my clients’ reaction when they look in the mirror for the first time.  Often happy tears are involved.  In some cases, it may be years since they have had areolas and several clients have told me they didn’t realize how much they missed having them until they got them back!  And sometimes they may turn from side to side, expecting to see a nipple popping out.  But the other aspect that I will never take for granted is gaining the trust and recommendations of some of the best surgeons in the area!