This tattoo shop wouldn’t exist without TikTok
When Jroo Winquist (aka Winnie the Jroo) was 16, he learned how to tattoo from YouTube videos. Ten years later, he owns Olympus Tattoo, a shop in Salt Lake City that fills its yearly booking quota in one day.
“It’s all because of TikTok,” he says.
Winquist downloaded the app in 2019 at his younger sister’s insistence.
“She’s a dancer, and she loves posting dance trends,” he says. “I made videos with her, and finally just got my own account.”
At the time, Winquist was staffed at a local tattoo shop, picking up clients when he could. During his downtime, he started to work on his social media presence.
“A talk by Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur I really respect, finally motivated me to take it seriously,” he says. “I didn’t want to be working at somebody else’s shop forever, and growing online, getting more visibility seemed like the way out.”
It was. Within six months, he had half a million followers on TikTok. The digital traffic translated to actual foot traffic, enough that Winquist was able to open his own store.
“I went from handling a few accounts to bringing in all of the store’s clients,” he says. “Everybody that was coming there was coming for me. When I realized I’d outgrown my situation, we opened the doors to Olympus Tattoo.”
That was almost two years ago. Now, his TikTok follower count has climbed to 1.5 million, with over 22 million likes combined. If you search any tattoo-related term on the app, the algorithm recommends @winniethejroo, Winquist’s account.
Despite his domination of the tattoo corner of the internet, Winquist’s first viral video wasn’t about tattoos.
“It’s embarrassing,” he laughs. “But I got my start on TikTok from a thirst trap. Nothing to do with my art or tattoos, unless you count the fact that I have tattoos.”
It’s that variation––and his commitment to it––that Winquist credits his online success to.
“When that first video took off, I knew I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed into that kind of content —or any one kind of video,” he says. “People have their niche, and it’s tempting to stick to that. But the connection points that I can make through tattoos are limited—there’s a small percentage of people who like tattoos, and an even smaller portion of those people like my art style. If I only posted about that, I’d be fishing from a tiny pond.”
Instead, Winnie shares his “entire life” online—from Pokémon card unboxings to trips with his kids. He even posts a boomerang of his made bed every morning.
“My personality blew up,” he says. “Not necessarily my art, my body, my comedy skits, or any one thing.”
Even with that massive audience, the actual cash Winquist earns from the app itself hovers around $1,000 to $3,000 a month.
“I’ve never withdrawn the money I’ve made from the TikTok Creator Fund,” he says. “It’s such a small amount that it hasn’t been worth it to me.”
The true value of his TikTok account comes from what he makes in a day of tattooing.
“Usually around $5,000,” he says. “And I’m filling these tattoo appointments sometimes years in advance. I can tie all that demand to my TikTok presence—people recognize me from online and make an appointment or tell their friends to book with me.”
Unlike other online creators and influencers, Winquist also limits the number of outside brand deals he does on his TikTok account. Instead, he uses it primarily to advertise his businesses––both Olympus Tattoos and new ventures targeted at people who may not be as passionate about getting tattooed.
“My varied content means I’ve got a varied audience,” he says. “And I want to speak to all of them. That’s why we’ve got an NFT project in the works, along with educational workshops for people interested in learning how to tattoo, or just more about the process.”
But his biggest effort has been Tatventures, a tattoo and travel giveaway. Every dollar spent on Winquist’s merch is an entry into that year’s experience. Winners are flown somewhere in the world to go on a week-long adventure with Winquist––and get thousands of dollars’ worth of tattoos if they so choose.
“We’ve hiked waterfalls in Hawaii, road buggies through the desert in Moab, swam with sharks,” he says. “It’s always fun.”
Even with TikTok as its sole promoter, Tatventures is another major stream of income for Winquist, second only to his tattoo practice.
“The power of social media, at least to me, is the ability to amass a large audience,” he says. “When I started tattooing, I was relying on traditional word of mouth. Basically, I was using a fishing rod. Now that I’m online, it’s like I have a power bait, just this huge net. It’s given me the leverage to explore all my interests.”
His online success has done more than blow up his brick-and-mortar business front––it’s changed Winquist’s lifestyle, too. Now, he has clients worldwide who fly him out to visit (and get tattoos.)
“I’ve made awesome friends and seen cool places,” he says. “I used one of my favorite DJ’s songs as a sound on a TikTok and got to meet and tattoo him. I find myself around the world, in the craziest situations all the time, just by virtue of my username. These touchpoints I’m making are a lot bigger than finding someone to pay me for a service.”
The famous friends and big-budget trips weren’t Winquist’s signal that he’d found success, though.
“It’s when random people recognize me,” he says, “that makes me realize how crazy my life has become.”
He’s been stopped for pictures everywhere from a yacht in Dubai to a mall in the Salt Lake Valley, and it shocks him every time.
“I haven’t wrapped my head around my life shift yet,” he says. “I used to dream about getting to do tattoos, period. And now I’m flying around the world and getting interview requests. It just doesn’t seem real.”
But Winquist didn’t start online with the goal of a content-creating career––his work started in person, and he plans to keep it that way.
“TikTok is a vehicle,” he says. “It’s in no way the destination. My approach to life, and to my business, is about growth and evolution. I want to keep tattooing, and the audience that supports that is on TikTok.”
In fact, TikTok isn’t his ideal social media platform––he’s hired a videographer in hopes of coming full circle, back to where he first learned to tattoo: YouTube.
“It’s a big pivot from where I’ve been these last few years,” he says. “But I want to move into more long-form video. On YouTube, I can go more in-depth on my art and my process, and that’s just more interesting to me right now.”
He’s confident he can pull his TikTok crowd over to YouTube.
“All I’ve ever done is pivot,” he says. “And it’s managed to grow my audience significantly. I can keep growing. At the end of the day, all my audience expects from me is to be myself, and I think I’ve got that down.”