GREELEY (AP) – Jesus Bujanda and his wife, Gayedine, got the idea to open up a tattoo removal business thanks to their nephew. He’d been incarcerated and had a big neck tattoo. He’d had his girlfriend’s name covered up with a big dog bone. When he got out, he knew he had to get the tattoo removed if he wanted to get a job.
That nephew is now doing well. He has his own concrete business. He doesn’t think employers would have taken him seriously without losing the dog bone around his neck.
Bujanda has worked with at-risk youth throughout his career. He teaches auto shop at Jefferson High School in Jefferson County. If getting a dog bone removed helped his nephew get a job, he could only imagine how removing gang tattoos could help young people just getting out of juvenile detention centers or prison.
If they can’t get a job right out of prison, Bujanda said, they would probably slip back to doing what they know how to do to survive.
Bujanda retrofitted an old ambulance with all the tools he needed for a mobile tattoo removal unit. It took a whole summer to put together, but it was a labor of love – both for building vehicles and building up young people. He now makes trips into some facilities as a contractor with the state to start removing ink before folks are released. He calls his business TattooEmergency911, and he’s been operational since August.
He lives in Denver and travels around the state in the ambulance. He teaches full time, so he fits removals in after hours and on weekends. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it.
Growing up in Denver, he saw the havoc gangs could wreak on people’s lives and how difficult it was to survive if you struggled to get a decent job.
Inside, the old ambulance looks like a clean, simple clinic. The laser sits in a corner near the back. A comfy barber-type chair, where the client sits, is next to it. Across from the two is a cushy red bench. The bench is big enough for two – usually a case manager and another person using the service. A stash of protective goggles sits on a shelf. Alcohol, gloves and other tools are kept in their rightful place.
Bujanda has to keep close track of all his equipment. He keeps pens and staplers tucked away so kids can’t swipe them to make new tattoos.
The process is painful and long. The kids have to want it. “It feels like hot bacon grease and electricity,” Bujanda said. He does one treatment per month, and you can’t rush it or else you risk scarring and blistering. Each round of treatment takes only a couple minutes.
Gayedine, his wife, takes on the more aesthetic side of business in a brick-and-mortar shop in Denver. Now, she does permanent makeup and skin care. As business grows, she plans to expand into laser hair removal and scar correction.
Though it’ll be hard to retire from teaching, Bujanda is excited for the chance to make TattooEmergency911 his full-time focus.
“I’ll still be changing lives. It’ll just be on a different level.”