CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) – In celebration of Women’s History Month, 18 News is highlighting four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women.
This week we meet Lisa Haley. She is a small business owner who, even in her toughest times, is a passionate philanthropist.
Lisa co-owns a local tattoo shop, Big Ink Tattoo, in Corning, N.Y. The store is open nine hours a day, seven days a week, with a total of 63 hours per week, most of which Lisa is operating the business alongside her husband.
“As a small business owner, you kind of have to be the person that does it all… Ultimately, I love what I do,” she said.
It’s hard to imagine someone having free time with a nearly 63-hour workweek. But when Lisa isn’t working, she’s volunteering.
She and her husband have allotted themselves three Thursdays off per month. Which she says is perfect because “[The Food Bank of the Southern Tier] does their distributions on Thursdays… My husband and I kind of treat it as dates.”
Lisa finds sanctuary in giving to others. It was especially apparent when her business had to shut down during the COVID lockdown months.
“We were lost. We were honestly lost,” she said, describing those months as one of the most difficult times in their lives.
The tattoo shop, which had been in the Arnot Mall at the time, was their primary mode of income. Aside from themselves, Lisa felt an immense responsibility for their tattoo artists, who also relied on them for an income. But Lisa was helpless on this front. The only thing they could do was wait for the mall to re-open.
In these times of despair, she turned to volunteer work, distributing food to families in need.
“Having everything that we knew taken away from us and not feeling that purpose…I really felt like I was doing something for society,” said Lisa.
She recalls in the first couple weeks of the distribution, 300-400 families, from all walks of life, would show up each day to pick up food. Lisa especially valued her volunteer work at this time because she could relate.
“It felt good to be helping people who were in essence just like me.,” she said. “Some people came through the distribution line with their car being held together with duct tape and others had a brand new Lincoln SUV. It affected everyone.”
When the business was finally allowed to reopen, Lisa and her husband were able to pick themselves up pretty quickly. They had customers who were waiting months trying to get an appointment.
“It was was it was great to see everybody fully supporting us after something so devastating,” said Lisa.
Soon after, they were able to apply for a loan and buy a bigger and better facility, and move to their current location in Corning. Their new space offers private rooms for tattoo artists, making the experience more personal for their customers. They have also been able to add more services such as microblading and cosmetics.
Lisa feels extremely fortunate for the way they were able to bounce back.
She now incorporates philanthropy into their business. Just this past December 2021, Big Ink Tattoo held a food drive for the Pantry of Angels, raising $1000 and donating over 1280 lbs of food through donations from their clients and customers.
“It was a really good opportunity to get our customers involved with something that we were passionate about,” said Lisa.
Lisa is currently involved with almost a dozen non-profits. While that might seem like a lot, she thinks of it as a need, because for her, it just feels good.
“Maybe I get more than I give because… it feels good,” she said. “And I think it’s easy…No volunteer organization expects your full-time commitment… I think if people tried it…they would feel really good too.”