US Navy veteran Peter Joukov and his wife Maria founded inq Tattoos because they saw an unmet need in the market for today’s tattoo customers. It started out simple enough: Maria and Pete wanted to get a tattoo of their baby’s name but couldn’t find a comfortable environment. Leaning on their military, DoD civilian, and business backgrounds, they created a modern, inclusive tattoo experience for the everyday customer and a supportive environment for professional artists.
The flagship inq Tattoos boutique opened in Alexandria, Virginia in 2019. Now this concept is coming nationwide, and they are looking for veterans to grow with us as inq Franchise Owners
The founder, Pete, started his career as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy. Deployments to five continents, including a year supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and later, time spent in the Pentagon as a defense contractor, forged the kinds of leadership experiences that are hard to find in the civilian world.
When you transitioned in 2010 from the Navy, what were you most afraid of during your transition? And how did you work through those fears?
When I transitioned in 2010 from the Navy, I was most afraid of not knowing how to figure out all of the everyday logistics that come with working outside of the military support system – what to wear on my first day of work, what actual work I would be doing, how to schedule a doctor’s appointment, etc. – all things that the military ecosystem supports you with and sets standards and expectations. I worked through it by asking friends who had already transitioned on what to expect, and also looked at this period in my life like just another PCS. Each PCS has unknowns, new responsibilities, new cultures, and so I mentally framed this transition as just another PCS move, albeit a big one!
What did you do well during your transition?
I lucked into leaning on my network before I knew networking was a thing! My college roommate worked for a small defense contractor that was hiring at the time, and basically got me the job.
At the time, I already had a job offer from a government agency as a government civilian but am glad that I went the private industry route because it eventually set me on the path towards business and entrepreneurship. For others getting out now, I would advise them to learn as much as possible about networking, go to events, build out your LinkedIn profile, polish up and translate your resume so that someone outside of the military would understand what you bring to the team. And networking doesn’t have to be complicated! It can be something as simple as reaching out to friends who have already transitioned and just catching up with them or can be as intensive as attending job fairs and reaching out to people on LinkedIn who work at companies where you want to work. There is no right or wrong to networking, just put yourself out there.
What did you do poorly during the transition and more importantly what did you learn from that failure?
I did not understand the abundance of options out there in the ‘real’ world, as far as industries, roles, career fields, etc. After the Naval Academy and then 5 years of active duty, all I knew was the military, which meant I was really only aware of defense contractor jobs or government civilian jobs as career options.
I have since learned that there are so many other fascinating career options out there, and am lucky to have found a path that has allowed me to work in and learn different industries, from defense contracting, to running tech consulting and engineering teams, to private equity, venture capital, and now the tattoo and cannabis industries.
What do you miss most about the Military? And do you stay connected to the military family?
I miss having a single goal that everyone collaborates on to accomplish as a team. Yes, I have been on amazing teams and in amazing companies in the civilian world, but it is just not the same. While I do try and stay connected to the military network, I will admit that I am not as connected to friends who are still on active duty, since the worlds are so different and it’s hard to talk about civilian stuff because they haven’t yet experienced it, but I do remain in touch with other veterans who have already transitioned and have been steadily building my veteran network since we now have relatable experiences both on active duty and in the civilian world.
What advice would you give to someone who desires to work in Your Field?
I’ll broadly define my field as Entrepreneurship here….For someone looking to go the entrepreneur route, my advice would be to work in several different roles and industries prior to starting your own company. Entrepreneurship can mean a lot of multitasking and can be stressful, but also very rewarding (sort of like having kids!). My military background was actually extremely helpful and applicable. There are so many times in the military you have to take on leadership roles, figure out things on your own, and get immersed in new environments and roles – all of these experiences definitely set a great foundation for entrepreneurs.
How in the world did I go from the Naval Academy, active duty, consulting in the Pentagon, Georgetown MBA…..to starting companies in the tattoo industry and cannabis industry?
The answer is that I never ever would have imagined I would be here, which I would like to stress to those transitioning: keep an open mind and let go of the pressure of finding the perfect “career.” I know we focus on that a lot in the military, where it can take years, if not decades to build up a career and check all the boxes for a perfect resume. In the civilian world, the beautiful thing is that career paths don’t have to be so rigid. It’s totally ok to change jobs and industries. So, keep learning and don’t let others judge or influence your decisions about what you want to do. You never know where you’ll find yourself! Work can be fun!
Anything else you would like to say to a soon-to-be transitioning military member?
Reach out to friends and others who have already transitioned. I would guarantee that everyone who has gone through it already has lessons learned and is willing to provide advice and help. Even if you’ve never met them in person, reach out, and find them on LinkedIn, don’t be shy, ask for help.
Since leaving the military you have made a number of career changes; are there some tools/techniques you have used to successfully make those changes?
One thing that really helps me is to keep an open mindset. I know sometimes that sounds like a cliché. Keep learning, don’t think ‘we’ve always done it this way in a past job, so that’s the way we should do it here.’ Every new team, new responsibility, a new job is an opportunity to learn and better yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to jump in. You’re capable of figuring out more than you think you can.
What caused you to see the need for “inq Tattoos” and how can my readers (mid-career military officers) best leverage your company?
Very interesting question, It started out with a personal experience of looking for a place to get our first small tattoos, and not really seeing the kind of environment that was reflective of today’s customer’s standards. There’s so much less of a stigma associated with tattoos – they are now so prevalent across all demographics (think moms, lawyers, teachers, etc.) – but the experience itself hadn’t really evolved to serve these customers. So, we created that environment at inq to 1) better serve customers and 2) to also better support and take care of artists, by hiring them as salaried employees and offering benefits and a collaborative team-oriented workplace.
I see that you are a Veteran Transition Mentor, Can you talk about some common mistakes that you frequently see in transitioning service members.
It’s the same mistake that I made myself when I was getting out! Assuming that the only post-military path is in government or in the defense industry. Think about where else your experience can apply, be creative, and ask for an outside opinion.
At inq Tattoos how does your business benefits service members and business leaders?
At inq Tattoos, we continue working with veterans in several ways. We offer discounts on our services to vets and active-duty military. We really emphasize staying active in the community and throughout the year, support fundraising for various causes that benefit veterans and/or are founded by veterans.
We are growing our brand nationwide and would love to have every boutique be owned by a veteran since that is the community we love and relate to. To support this, we launched the Veterans’ Preference Program to provide discounts and comprehensive support for veterans who open their own inq Tattoos boutiques as franchise owners. Find out More info here
Pete Joukov is Co-Founder of inq Tattoos. Pete served in the Navy for five years and completed multiple deployments, leading military personnel on five continents. After leaving military service, Pete led a strategic cybersecurity planning initiative in the Pentagon that spanned the entire Department of Defense, and later led teams of consultants and engineers at NetApp. Pete was also COO of OWI, an events and market intelligence company in the identity space.
Pete is also the Co-Founder of the PBC Conference and has been involved in several other ventures including a private equity fund, a real estate investment company, and a government consulting company. Additionally, Pete is an Advisory Board Member with Strategic Cyber Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on the cybersecurity industry.
Pete is passionate about working with other veterans and volunteers as a mentor with Hire Heroes USA.
Pete has a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Political Science from the United States Naval Academy and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Georgetown University. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his family.