By JORDAN GARCEAU/Montana State News
Owning a business while going to college is a rare event.
When asked about EJ Hanson, co-worker Holly Capp said, “EJ Hanson is the most interesting and down to earth person I have ever met.… Next to the Dos Equis man.”
While working as the Streamline’s latenight director, a 5 Guys employee, freelance photographer and full time Montana State University student, Hanson recently became co-owner of Bozeman’s Zhashki Henna.
Toward the end of 2014, the past owners of Zhashki became too busy to continue the business. The owners then offered the business to Hanson and another employee within the company. Hanson willingly accepted.
With her arms marked in henna tattooing, Hanson states, “Being a 20-year-old business owner was something I never even thought of for my life plan.”
Hanson is clearly excited to not only be a business owner but more specifically in the world of henna tattoo art. “I have always loved body art, including tattoos and piercings, and when my friend got me an interview with Zhashki, I was hooked.”
Henna tattoos are made from the henna plant. The artwork originated predominately in Egypt and was used as a cosmetic. Henna is still used in areas for traditional wedding ceremonies. Regardless of its cultural history, henna is healthy to use and apply.
Hanson did not always foresee herself owning her own Henna business. Growing up in Stevensville, Montana, Hanson wanted to be an actress or comedian as a little girl. Hanson says, “I love making people laugh. It makes me happy.”
As she grew older, her passion for photography came to the frontline of her career goals. After graduating from Stevensville High School, Hanson chose to attend MSU as a photography and studio art major where she began her journey of a busy college student.
Even before she left for college, Hanson kept busy and rose to success. Hanson says, “I did just about every club and activity that Stevensville High had to offer.”
Not only did she work as the manager and lifeguard of her hometown pool, but Hanson was heavily involved in speech and debate as well as track and field.
And if Hanson’s list of work experiences isn’t extensive and eclectic enough, she revealed that she was a summertime firefighter in her hometown before moving to Bozeman.
“There happened to be an incredible opportunity offered to me and I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot,” Hanson says.
She sees business ownership as an important step in her career path. “I have a jump-start to owning a company and the skills needed to do it again and again with my photography or any other projects I want to pursue.”
With the honing of her business skills and the opportunity she has been given, Hanson is excited about the possibility of expanding her business. Zhashki Henna offers a wide variety of services and all-natural products and is currently ranked the number No. 1 henna company in the state of Montana. However, settling is something that Hanson is not interested in.
In the future, Hanson would like to expand the business in ways that have not been done with the company. She wants to implement classes and seminars that educate the public on various types of henna, such as Moroccan or Polynesian styles. Hanson would even like to teach others how to apply henna art to their hair. She plans on creating YouTube tutorials that instruct viewers from a far.
Throughout taking over and working toward growing the business, Hanson has not lost her want to make people laugh. At the one henna appointment, a man requested the words “hamster blood” to be tattooed on his person. Having a great sense of humor herself and aiming to please, Hanson says, “Of course I did it.”
With owning her own business, holding down various jobs, and keeping up her school work, Hanson has various outlets that allow her to relieve her stress and maintain her sanity. Just like her work, she participates in a wide variety of hobbies and activities in her free time.
Hanson regularly exercises at Bozeman Aerial Fitness, attends pole dancing classes, hikes around the Bozeman area, plays Magic The Gathering and hangs out with her two feline companions, Whiskey and Absinthe. When she is not booking photo shoots, slinging burgers and filling henna appointments, her favorite activity is to shut herself in her spare bedroom and paint.
Although the opportunity to become owner of Zhashki Henna was unexpected, Hanson has taken the challenge and is excited for the future. Henna allows Hanson to express herself and she wants the same for other.
Hanson says, “I want to bring a breath of fresh culture to the Rocky Mountain States through henna tattoo art. So far it is going really well.”
– Edited by David Crawford