Port Orchard Entrepreneur hopes to Serve Veterans
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Dan Horkey has a dream: launch a successful small business in Kitsap County, complete with its own facility and in-house staff, to manufacture orthotic “tattoos.”
Horkey’s well on his way, even if on a smaller scale — since last year, his business, Global Tattoo Orthotic Prosthetic Innovations (GTOPI), has seen a growing customer base. His service applies high-quality artwork to braces and prosthetics using a similar process to custom car painting. The result is a beautiful design of the client’s choosing, including custom work.
Horkey’s idea came from his own experience. An amputee for more than 20 years after a motorcycle accident, Horkey is a trained orthotic and prosthetic technician. About four years ago, he decided to personalize his prosthetic, so he created his own socket and applied art to it. Last year, he decided to turn his idea into a business.
“When I put the piece of art on my socket, I stood tall, and my self-esteem was higher,” he said. “I felt more confident, and I received compliments when I wore shorts in public… I want to help others booster their self-esteem — help them be themselves and open up.”
Horkey’s goal was to reach out to American veterans, and in the past months he reached that goal. He has provided his service to veterans through the Veterans Administration, and recently his product was accepted by a contractor at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“When they accepted my product, I feel I’ve received the seal of quality,” he said. “I’ve reached my goal in seven months to serve American vets. I’m very proud to be serving our veterans in a small way.”
The tattoo process is individualized to each customer, who can either choose a design on the original carbon-braded socket, or go with a background color instead. Horkey has various design choices and also offers custom work. The designs are hand-painted or airbrushed, and options include chrome finishes, candy colors, even sculptures and glow-in-the dark accents. The art is protected with a clear sealant, and the finishes are of durable quality, similar to those used for custom paint jobs for hot rods and motorcycles.
“There’s never been anything like this before,” Horkey said. “We’re creating a piece of art.”
Horkey uses contractors to create the designs, but he is dreaming big. He hopes to apply for SBA loans and grants, so he can build his own facility and create new jobs.
Horkey has found support from many people along the way, and says he is thankful for supporters like his Washington CASH mentors Bill Hoke and Stuart Walton.
Recently, he attended the annual Amputee Coalition of America conference as an exhibitor, and reached out via Twitter, Facebook and more conventional methods to find sponsors. One of the people who contacted him was a former classmate, and she told him her husband, who was getting ready for deployment in Afghanistan, offered Horkey his airline miles. The classmate wrote Horkey in an email: “It is clear that your heart is for the hurting and you want to be able to help them through your work.”
Horkey said that donation enabled him to attend an event that will help him to reach more people, and it’s just one example of the support he’s received.
“I’m finding that people are reaching out and trying to help,” he said.
For more information about GTOPI, go to www.gtopi.com or call (360) 895-1976.