You might expect the backstory behind a distributor to be... a little boring. Lots of investments, negotiations, contracts, and boxes full of peanuts. While there's been no shortage of investments and boxes over the years, we're happy to say the history behind PainfulPleasures is more personal and color-packed than one might think.
PainfulPleasures has the distinction of being family-owned. The CEO and founder Marc Gagnier has grown his business with the help of his two sisters: Michelle Gagnier, our Human Resources representative, and Melissa Gagnier-Solis, our COO. Their family values that inform the way they run this open-minded company come, in part, from their father, Mike Gagnier.
So, it's time for some family history and dadly influences. In honor of Father’s Day, check out what Melissa, Michelle, and Marc have to say about their father and his impact on the success of PainfulPleasures.
What are some lessons your father taught you that have tattooed themselves on your worldview, personal values, and beyond?
Melissa Gagnier-Solis (COO): My dad is an amazing man. He is a dermatopathologist who meets the demands of life with ease, happiness, and a positive-yet-realistic outlook. He is also a great husband, son, and father who raised eight kids.
My dad put himself through medical school by joining the Air Force in his early 20s. He met my mom through that experience, and subsequently came five kids over the next 10 years.
My dad worked his day job in the air force and a moonlight job to pay for raising a family! He taught me what it meant to work hard. He also taught me and all my brothers and sisters to be present in our lives, to value the time we have with each other, to be thoughtful about what we say, to be direct about what we want and need, and to love what we do. I recently read this quote (pasted below) and it really sums up what my dad has tattooed on me for life. I hope to be so lucky to engrain these same values on my three little boys:
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all. — Leo Rosten
Michelle Gagnier (HR): I will echo Melissa and say that our father is an amazing man! He has instilled the values of dedication, hard work, and loyalty in my life. These values are instrumental to success. He has taught all of his children to be awesome moms and dads to their own kids and fur babies.
Our dad had a two-week rule when we got injured or sick (of course he did — he’s a doctor). Melissa had a fractured wrist for two weeks, I had pneumonia for two weeks, and Marc was invincible from what I can remember. Our dad wanted us to be strong on our own. I have very much instilled this “two-week rule” for my own son: “Gagniers do not get sick.” Although we do, the point is exercising mind over body.
Marc Gagnier (CEO): What Melissa wrote pretty much sums it up perfectly. Being efficient and a hard worker really helped shape my outlook on things.
A shot of the whole "M" family. L to R: Mike Gagnier with Megan, Michael, Melissa, Madalyn (mother), Marc, Michelle
Mike Gagnier with Melissa
What are your father’s thoughts on tattoos and piercings?
Melissa: Let’s start with my introduction to the industry: I was 12 years old. My sister, Michelle, was a senior in high school and decided she was going to get a tattoo (this was back in the mid-90s).
We drove to this guy’s house in Bowie, Maryland with one of my sister’s friends. There was a tattoo chair set up in the middle of the kitchen… 22 years later, my sister has a beautiful sleeve covering up her 18-year-old decision made on that fine spring day. I had to keep my mouth shut for four years so our dad wouldn’t find out. He wasn’t fond of tattoos at the time. We managed to hide it along with my subsequent piercings.
Then, Marc was experimenting back in the late 90s and I let him have my ears. He poked a bunch of holes through them and I had plenty of blood randomly squirting out, partly because that’s just my body and partly (I think) because Marc was new to the industry.
Then came my introduction to the supplier side of the tattoo and piercing industry. I was in college and decided to live with Marc one summer. His townhouse was covered top to bottom in jewelry and supplies. I was interested and started selling everything Marc was offering as a side business.
I graduated, went into the Peace Corps, came home, and worked as a civil engineer for five years; all the while, I was working with Marc on the side, learning about supplies, the industry, and how everything worked together. One night in 2011, Marc gave me a call and asked, “Do you want to work for me?” Two minutes later, I called him back and said, “Okay.” I put in a two weeks notice at my job, told my dad, and he was devastated. I had two masters degrees in engineering, was thriving in my career, had great mentors, and I was quitting and going to work for a small tattoo & piercing supply company.
Little did I know that nine years later I would be working for PainfulPleasures as the COO. I wouldn’t have guessed we would have 55 employees, solid systems and processes in place, and strategies for growth. We’re always continuing to learn about and understand people, the industry, and our customers on the daily.
My dad is proud of what we’ve built. Through lots of conversations, growing pains, and understanding, he’s now happy with the two-minute decision I made — it feels like a lifetime ago now. I’m flourishing with the success and awesomeness of the company Marc started, and we grew together with a team of creative, determined, and hardworking people.
L to R: Michael, Mike Gagnier with baby Megan, Michelle Gagnier, Marc, Melissa
Michelle: HA! I can’t begin with our dad and how he was with tattoos and piercings. I think it may have been in 9th or 10th grade when he told the five of us he would not pay for college if we got a tattoo. Well, hello — AEROSMITH-CRAZY and Alicia Sliverstone getting her navel pierced was my introduction to the piercing world.
I was able to hide the tattoo I got in that kitchen at 17 from my father for four years while working toward my degree. Thanks, Melissa :)
I thought all was well until we happened upon Mark L., my father’s long-time friend. We were in Ocean City, Maryland, building sand castles, and Mark saw all of us with our mother. Mark was “thoughtful” enough to reveal to our father that I had a tattoo. Thankfully, I was almost finished with college. My dad was pretty upset, but still got me through school. Today, he is very proud of all his children and their success. He comes to the warehouse to bring us coffee every other week, which is super awesome. I have so much admiration for my dad and the thoughtful, loving, caring, hardworking man that he is.
Marc: He was not a fan of piercings or tattoos. I believe I pierced my own ear with an ice cube and sewing needle when I was maybe 15. I vaguely remember having to hide it from him but cannot remember how long I was able to keep it hidden.
He definitely wanted all of his kids to have a profession that was in demand and one could have a stable career with. I went to college thinking I was going to become a doctor. During the two weeks of tryouts for the men’s soccer team, I decided it wasn’t for me. I dropped the science classes that were needed and picked other more general classes. Dad insisted I find a career, so I started to take more business classes and focused on accounting. I never really wanted to be an accountant. I just went down that path because it was a safe choice.
I think for the first 5-8 years of PainfulPleasures, everyone in my family didn’t think this was going to become anything. Not until maybe we moved to our current location did it sink in that this was a legitimate career path. Now, everyone is happy for everything we have accomplished together.
L to R: Michelle, Melissa, Mike Gagnier, Michael, Marc
L to R: Marc, Michelle, Madalyn with baby Megan, Michael, Melissa
What are your Father’s Day plans? Do you have any traditions you’ve maintained over the years?
Melissa: No traditions, but I have spent many great Father’s Days with my father, his dad, and my husband. On those days, it’s really important to just let your father or father-like figure know that you care about them, that they are awesome, that you appreciate the support they provide (even though it may not always seem obvious) and to just write a nice card (or text) expressing your gratitude.
My dad is not very materialistic, so it’s always hard trying to buy him something. He has always expressed that words and actions mean so much more than that thing you may or may not treasure forever. I remember one Father’s Day, I was pregnant with my second or third son and he invited me to yoga… My dad doesn’t really do yoga, so it was fun, it was an experience, and it was a pleasure being with him on that special day.
What message would you like PainfulPleasures to send to all the dads out there?
Melissa: To all the dads out there, I would say it’s important to be kind, forgiving, and understanding of the decisions your children make. It may not seem obvious at that very moment why they are making them, but in the end if it does or doesn’t work out, they’ll learn, you’ll learn and you’ll hopefully both come out better people on the other side.
Be patient, be loving, and spread the values of worth, strength, compassion, and generosity to others around you. You have the chance to make an impact on your little ones or big ones and they then, in turn, can make the world a better place.