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'It's just a passion for me': 21-year-old Indianapolis man opens tattoo shop

With hundreds of customers and also working construction, Samuel Lewis was able to open his shop just south of downtown Indianapolis in June.

INDIANAPOLIS — These days it can be tough to launch and run your own business, but for one recent Indiana University student, he's making it happen and possibly setting new milestones in the process.

Samuel Lewis is Indiana's newest professional tattoo artist and shop owner — and also possibly the youngest. At 21 years old, Lewis just opened his shop, Big Lew's Tattoos, just south of downtown Indianapolis in June, and his age might surprise you.

"Putting art on people's body, it's just a passion for me," Lewis said. "I painted the whole place, I put up all the decorations, I built stuff in here. I made a way."

The art-lover got his craving for needling the human body as a teen.

"One day when I was 14, I grabbed a tattoo machine off of Amazon for like $20," Lewis said. "It was a terrible machine, and then, I went ahead and started doing tattoos on myself first."

From there, his passion grew, eventually tattooing friends while at IU.

"I was doing tattoos out of my dorm," Lewis said. "People just kept coming by and all these different things, it was great."

With hundreds of customers and also working construction, Lewis was able to open his shop at the age of 21. According to career website Zippia, the average age of a tattoo shop owner is 41.

"That's what really gets people every time they come in," Lewis said. "They're like, how old are you? I'm like, 'I'm only 21.'"

Even though he's only 21, Lewis aims to inspire the generations both before and after him.

"I want the community to see that a young Black man can do something," Lewis said. "I have this shop, not just for me but for the community to come in and feel comfortable and come in and hang out if they need to."

The Hoosier native is doing his part in giving back and hoping to inspire Indiana, one stroke of the needle at a time.

"I never thought I was going to have my own shop, especially not at the age of 21. Never thought that," Lewis said. "Obviously, I found a way because I kept telling myself I was going to do it. You don't sit there and say, I could have did something.' You just have to go and do it."

Lewis plans on teaching students how to tattoo at McKenzie Career Center in Lawrence in the near future. He is also collecting jackets and warm clothes for the homeless this winter.

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