The teenage owner of a Queenstown piercing business – ‘Age is just a number’

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Kasey Bonn in her piercing studio in Queenstown. Photo/ODT

You could say that Kasey Bonn has nerves of steel.

The 18-year-old is probably one of New Zealand’s youngest business owners, starting a new chapter in the history of Queenstown-based Innersteel Body Piercing studio.

Skyline Arcade closed after the sudden death of 54-year-old owner David van der Camp in mid-March.

He was considered one of the best piercers in New Zealand.

Now his legacy continues with the reopening of Innersteel by his young stranger, who is the new owner and manager.

Bonn reopened last Saturday, with the holiday weekend and the Luma event combining to deliver the “perfect” busy week to open, with record numbers.

Raised in Queenstown, Bonn left school after graduating from NCEA Level 2, eager to start working.

Her mother told her she could leave if she found a full-time job.

She was working part-time in retail and she ran into van der Camp, recognizing him from a previous piercing.

Randomly, she asked him if he would ever teach someone how to drill. He told her that he had thought the same thing.

He invited her to lunch the next day for an interview and the pair “clicked” and quickly became good friends. He asked if she wanted to work full time for him.

When asked if she’d thought about becoming a drill, Bonn said she always knew she’d probably end up doing something “a little different.”

She always loved working with people and she was also passionate about music and quite creative.

Still, she didn’t expect to become a drill “that’s for sure – but hey, life has its ways,” she said.

Bonn admitted that embarking on her new career was rather daunting.

“I was really scared. You don’t want to hurt people, do you.” But, she said, what was “a bit of temporary pain for a lifetime of beauty.”

Her first piercing was a nipple from a friend of hers.

Doing it quickly and well was the key.

“If your technique is really correct, the pain will be minimal,” she said.

Van der Camp’s support was “incredible” and she was grateful to have been trained by one of the best piercers in New Zealand, if not the world.

Covid-19 meant he couldn’t afford to keep her on full time, so she worked for him on the weekends.

She had been away in a van for five weeks with her boyfriend and it was on the day she intended to see him when he returned that she heard the “absolutely devastating” news of his death.

She opened Innersteel for two days, selling jewelry and breaking into queues of people to raise money for her two sons who were her “pride and zest for life”.

Around $17,000 was raised between that and a Givealittle page.

Initially, Bonn was unsure what she was going to do as she processed what happened. But after a long talk with her parents, she decided she would keep the business — and van der Camp’s legacy — alive.

Since then, she has been overwhelmed with the support she has received, both from her family and from the community.

“Everyone is so happy that I accepted. People have a safe place to go for piercings.”

And that was important, she believed, because Innersteel was the only piercing shop in town.

If people chose to do piercings themselves, the results could be “a disaster”, she said.

The piercing was particularly fashionable at the present time; in his view, it was an impermanent form of self-expression.

She was learning “so much” about running a business – “what running a business really entails” – including ordering stock, something she had never had to do.

She had also transformed the studio into her space, adding many plants and a photo of her mentor so that her presence was always there.

When asked what van der Camp would have thought of her foray into business, she said she thought he would be “so proud” of her.

“He wouldn’t want anyone else to go on. We truly had the best relationship ever, we were literally best friends.

“Age is just a number,” she said.

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