I’m of Indian descent, although I wasn’t born in India, and henna is a part of our culture so it was something I grew up with. But I didn’t get started as a henna artist until I was in my early 20s while backpacking through India, a world away from my native England and yet a place still very much home. I’ve always been a visual artist, so adding henna to my repertoire was a no-brainer, especially in the small Indian village I learned – it’s not like we could just go the mall to hang out! And besides, I was there to connect with my extended family and ancestral heritage.
Once I got back to England a friend of mine was getting married and I offered to do her mehendi – wedding henna – as a gift. My first client. Go big or go home, right? My artistry was a huge success and based on that alone I started to get wedding bookings. Not to age myself but this was in the late 90s. By 1998 I had a website up, leading to more bookings, and my business was off the ground and running. How fast was I running? Well, mine was the first henna business website in England, so imagine my huge wall phone ringing off the hook!
I decided to branch out, so I retargeted my marketing strategy and used the vast network I’d developed through my “real job” in real estate to get word out that I was available for any conceivable reason to apply henna – parties, events, and all that fun stuff. I advertised all over England and then all over Europe. In addition to corporate events and parties, I provided henna at the Charlie’s Angels movie London premiere in 2000, and then the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in 2001!
I reveled in mehendi applications. Indian weddings in particular are so steeped in joy and bright colour that the happiness is impossible not to soak up! Which why it’s no surprise that pretty soon I celebrated my own Indian wedding, had 2 kids, but then threw in a plot twist and moved the family to Canada. Rather than go through the hassle of moving my business, I sold it, and I am pleased to tell you that the person who ended up with my old phone number gets henna calls asking for me to this day.
Canada in 2003 was a strange new land for me. You’ve borrowed a lot of English mannerisms, and there’s certainly a vibrant Indian culture, but for all intents and purposes to running a henna business I was starting from scratch. Mehendi isn’t as in demand here, and I didn’t have a network of professionals to help spread word of the business. When I opened Henna4You I focused on providing henna at festivals and trade shows. My very first event here was the Total Woman’s Show at Bingeman’s in Kitchener back in 2004. I didn’t even have a banner, but I did have business cards, and it went extremely well! Soon after I booked Cambridge Riverfest, my first outdoor festival, so I bought a tent. If you have ever visited Henna4You at an outdoor festival you have seen that very tent! It has since been branded Henna4You and it’s the same one you see every festival we’ve booked since! 2005 was a banner year, and I say that literally because I finally got a banner at the insistence of a kind and intelligent regular client. And from there business BOOMED! Now I have a team of artists, a detailed training program for new artists, and we get booked to do birthday parties and showers, to work with cancer patients, and festivals all across Ontario including Toronto’s Buskerfest, PRIDE, Ottawa Comicon, The Yoga Show, and more. And yeah, of course I still do mehendi!
What I love most about my life as a henna artist is the people. I love people! It is so fun to meet new people, especially because when we meet it’s to do something fun. When you come to visit me at my booth or for a party we’re all having a great time. It’s an honour to be a part of your joy. It’s also been an adventure following design trends.
There are always asks for traditional flowers, peacocks, and other henna designs, but since I branch out into pop culture themes the design book includes superheroes, brand logos, and all kinds of animals! Right now the most popular asks are for arrows, elephants, trees, Dora the Explorer, and Spiderman, with Pikachu being the top ask from kids. I get to meet some VIPs when I do festivals too, so keep an eye on my Instagram page!
So that’s my life as a henna artist – travel, fabulous people, art every day, and absolute joy. I couldn’t ask for more!
Book Henna4You for your next corporate event, birthday party, shower, or festival by calling (519) 741 7007!