How Kevin Mack, CEO of Australian Exhibition Group, kept his dream for the Australian tattoo community alive

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Kevin Mack

Perceptive, resourceful, and driven, serial entrepreneur, CEO of Australian Exhibition Group and Founder of Tatsup, Kevin Mack recently sold out two of his annual tattoo festivals, the Sydney Tattoo Festival on 1 April and Rites of Passage Melbourne, 22-24 April, but this recent success didn't always seem possible amid the grim reality COVID-19 brought small to medium enterprises. With over 10,000-20,000 patrons in attendance across each event and the Sydney show selling out completely, Kevin experienced some of the most tempestuous years in business in 2020-2021.

"We nearly went bankrupt." Explains Mr. Mack who is also the Founder of successful tattoo supply e-commerce business, Tatsup, "we had to forego venue deposits due to COVID-19. There was a reduction in tattoo supply requirements, Tatsup was also experiencing massive losses. We were losing hundreds of thousands and there was nothing we could do."

At the end of 2019, all of Australian Exhibition Group's Australian tattoo expos including Melbourne's Rites of Passage event and the Melbourne and Sydney Tattoo Festivals had long waitlists. 2020 promised to be a great year for the business group with expansion plans and additional community events on the horizon. However, like many businesses, Mr. Mack suffered multiple losses both financially and personally.

Kevin's businesses weren't the only businesses experiencing suffering and uncertainty. Many businesses in the MICE and creative industry were also struggling and contemplating bankruptcy.

"I sold all assets I could liquidate to keep us going, to keep my businesses afloat." Says Mr. Mack. "And we had to let go of our brand-new office too. We had to make a lot of sacrifices."

In 2020, Kevin welcomed the birth of his first son, Kanan who is now 2 years old. At the time, the idea of returning to running an event and e-commerce was very daunting and Kevin went on to explore other opportunities to bounce back.

"My partner and I also moved houses to a place with cheaper rent and I even sold treasured belongings but that wasn't enough so I started learning about the stock market."

In 2021, Kevin spent long 16-hour days learning about the stock market, studying company moves, stock platforms and how to trade. Despite being at a loss due to COVID-19 at the start of 2020, Kevin was quickly able to retain his knowledge about stock trading and used this new found knowledge to refinance his businesses.

"My partner and I now have two kids since COVID-19 started. Financially, it has been challenging but I just couldn't give up on our beloved tattoo community." Says Mr. Mack, "The tattoo industry is my home, it is a community I've always believed in and I want to see it continue to flourish for years to come. Trading has allowed me to keep the business afloat."

Kevin is now focused on the return of his other shows, the Brisbane Tattoo Festival, Perth Tattoo Festival, Sydney Rites of Passage and the Sexpo shows which are due to take place later this year.

"We have big plans for our upcoming shows, we had two years off and have been busy developing new concepts, awards and activities for our communities." Says Mr. Mack, "But this could not have been possible without the support of my wonderful family and incredible team, I'm so grateful to them."

Kevin has also re-opened his tattoo supply business, Tatsup and is in talks with overseas investors for global expansions into Asia and the United States.

"Tatsup has organically developed global interest and we have been approached by overseas investors who want to be a part of the business. 2022 has been good to us so far, but I'm still being cautious. Almost losing everything was tough." Says Mr. Mack.

More information on all of the Australian Exhibition Group's events can be found here:

Australian Tattoo Expo