Mark Maciver is a true entrepreneur, he has grown his business from the ground up, from barbering to owning his own barbershop in East London. He has created multiple revenue streams and businesses. His clients include Anthony Joshua and Reggie Yates amongst other well-known celebrities. More recently, Mark also published a book ‘Shaping up Culture’ to inspire entrepreneurship and business growth. It was a privilege to get time with Mark for this interview which was packed full of inspiring stories and wisdom - enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about you and SliderCuts?
Firstly, thank you for considering me as someone who you want to be on your platform. I own the brand Slidercuts. SliderCuts essentially is a barbering business at its heart but from barbering I’ve stretched out into other fields. I’ve written a book and I’m a published author, I do public speaking, I teach on business growth. I mentor different business as well as young people, and various things in the community.
I started cutting hair at age 13, I was my own guinea pig. I’m 36 now. I became a professional barber at 18 and opened my first shop in Shoreditch on Hackney Road called SliderCuts Studio about 3 years ago. I’ve also done various campaigns with Nike, Facebook (UK wide billboard), I did an advert with Anthony Joshua with Under Armour. Reebok and the list goes on.
You have so many celebrity clients, but your mantra is everyone is important.
Every one of my customers is important, everyone gets treated with the service that they need and deserve. The service varies depending on the person’s need. We’ve had someone who had cancer and had to cut all their hair off and needed privacy for that, we gave her a room because that’s the service she needs. Someone comes in with a wheelchair and we move things around the shop to facilitate. If you’re getting married, you know you will get extra time.
So when we say we treat people the same it doesn’t mean that everyone is treated exactly the same but they get the service that they need.
Did you ever get nervous when you had to cut a famous person’s hair?
I haven’t been crazy nervous but I remember going to cut LeBron James’ hair, and feeling a little crazy nervous not to the point of shaking but nervous. I had to tell myself hair is hair, if you know how to cut hair, you know how to cut hair! Also realised that people have looked at my instagram page, they like the cuts that I do and when they come into the chair, the reason why they came is just to get the haircut that I do everyday.
Did you always have a sense that you would be an entrepreneur?
I didn’t have a sense of it but I realised I had the ingredients for something successful. I always say this analogy, it’s like baking a cake but not really knowing what it is you are making. I had all these ingredients to make something nice, fluffy and sweet. I didn’t necessary have the end goal in mind, I still don’t fully have an end goal but I was doing all the things that a good business would do. I was working hard, I was working long, I studied the craft, I listened to my elders, I treated myself as a business, I gave great customer service and suddenly my business was growing. I had a opening and finishing time, many barbers didn’t have this. Many barbers would start when they wanted and finish when they wanted and you had to guess when they would be open; you could turn up and it could just be closed. I had a website, I think I was one of the first solo barbers to have a website. I saw myself as a business, I thought “I’m a business, businesses have websites, I should get a website.” I actually started getting all these clients, I had clients from America, who said they googled “black London barber” I was the only one that came up!
When social media started, people were putting their personal information on there but I thought I would put my business on there. Slider was my nickname and Cuts came from my older brother and my wife and we put it together.
What put me ahead was this thing that I live by, whatever I’m in I do to the best of my ability. From ages 18-24 I was still pursuing other careers, I was studying to be a social worker, I got qualified as a personal trainer, I wanted to be a photographer, therapist, I wanted to work with youth somehow. But the way I was working as a barber you would think that was my career for life. It was this thing that I live for, “whatever I do I will do to the best of my ability”. Because I treated myself as a business. At 24 when I started my website no one could tell that I wanted to start the business, at that point no could see the difference, because I was already being professional and building up the brand.
You are showing us that you don’t have to be in a box, it’s important to know that the journey isn’t necessarily ABC?
You do not have to be in a box but I would tell you to have a focus. If I do public speaking, cooking, acting, and I want to give them all the same energy and time I’m reducing the time that I’m giving to the business which makes the money which is the main thing that is supporting everything. There has to be a strategy and logic. Some people say ‘just follow your passion, just do everything’, yes, you can do multiple things, but you still need to understand strategy. For me barbering is still the thing that makes the money, in the business realm you still need to focus on the thing that is making the money. Don’t feel bad if you have a full-time job as well as a side business or creative thing. I was speaking to someone about this today. When you are a entrepreneur you have to think about bills, family, feeding yourself, potentially you can start compromising the brand for the sake of getting money. It’s a luxury to support your side passion with a full-time job, which is a smart way to do it.
Raising funding is one the biggest barriers aspiring entrepreneurs face, can you talk a bit about how you managed to raise finances and even ongoing financial management?
I listened to people and always asked questions. I would ask businesses questions. For example, I owned an investment property, I bought that when I was 27 but I didn’t understand about mortgages before. I said to a customer I heard you speak about mortgages, I would ask questions and I did a lot of listening. I spoke to banks. I remember people telling me I had to remortgage and I didn’t understand it. I remember wanting to buy another property so I just walked into the bank and I asked questions. You should work out what you need before walking in to the bank. If I did not go into the bank and ask questions I would not have been able to buy another property soon after.
I think most successful people are people who understand their limitations and understand what they know and don’t know and they get a resolution from asking for help. Then I started teaching other people because a lot of people simply did not have this knowledge. I did not want other people to make the same mistakes that I made and that’s the reason why I’m working in the community.
How do you balance family life and business and taking time to re-energise?
I’m maybe not the best example because I sacrifice sleep [laughs]. I might be able to live on 4 hours sleep, but that doesn’t mean you can and function well. Ultimately you’ve got to know your own capacity. Your body talks to you, if your body is telling you you’re tired, you’re tired, it’s ok to be tired. If you’ve just run a marathon, your body will be tired, listen, you just need to sleep and its okay. I had a friend that had a stroke at a young age and he told me that he felt his body telling him something wasn’t right but he didn’t listen. And after the stroke, he says now he listens to his body. It’s not about just pushing through sometimes.
I always think about my priorities. My family are my priority which means my work is my priority because I need to provide for their needs, I have to provide and I have to be present. Also my wife works. I work 4 days a week and work 50 hours in those 4 days. Very long days. 5am - 7pm sometimes 8pm/9pm. I try get home to put my children to bed on some days. Saturday 5am - 12pm and Sunday and Monday are with my family. Lakwena works on Monday,Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. My children see me all the time. When I wrote a book I woke up a couple of hours earlier so I didn’t sacrifice time with my family. With my wife we’re a team, we’re a partnership. I’ll be looking to reduce my hours in the future. I’m working it out for my own situation there is a certain amount that I want to be making, my wife wants to work and I want to be with my children.
I always say I don’t want to neglect my family, when Lakwena needed to work, I would bring my oldest son to work with me, I’ve brought them to shoots with me. I remember one time I tied my son to my back whilst cutting hair. Another time when my son was crying I had to hold him in one hand and cut hair one handed.
What is your vision for you and your business in the next decade?
Hopefully its flowing, hopefully I add a few strings to the business like an academy. I’m not actually that ambitious. I just work hard. I try and do as much as I can. Ultimately my real ambition is to give my children two properties each so that they can have somewhere to live and an income and the freedom to do what they want to do. I want to live. The last 10 years I have been just working. I want to go on holidays, I want to go out for dinner, I want to see friends, I want to be able to provide for my family, I want to provide for their education and give them a step-up. It doesn’t take rocket science to run a rental property. These are more my ambitions rather than to have 20 SliderCuts, I don’t care about my name being everywhere. I’d rather set up my children and put things in their lives and hearts for them to have the mind for their community and not be selfish.
I would rather live a life, say for the 100 apples that I receive, I didn’t eat them all. But I shared them out with people and gave seeds out to people so that they could plant and feed themselves. You could say that’s where my why comes from.
What legacy are you building?
My biggest achievement is the 16 people that work for me, and those 16 people make the money, these people have been able to get married, buy cars, buy houses. Even my pay structure, I don’t try to pay people the smallest wage. And that for me is the achievement. People ask me why do you hire so many people, I just love being able to provide jobs. They are then able to provide for their partners, their children, those are the seeds that I am talking about. This is part of giving people apples and giving them seeds. This would be the main reason to open up more SliderCuts to be able to give people more opportunity to provide jobs.
How would you encourage our black owned economy entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of their businesses?
There is a new chapter in my book called The World Keeps Moving, I talk about the escalator of life. You might have good reason for stopping in life, perhaps mental capacity or a bereavement, but the world of business will not slow down. Those people on the escalator who kept moving might get ahead. This is the rule of business, if you want to be successful, you have to put the time in, put in effort, you have to study the industry, you have to put in investment. It will take time, effort, energy, investment in order for you to succeed. All successful businesses have all those elements in them. Wherever you are weak that’s were you should try to fill those positions with people you trust. The main thing when you start your business is to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. If you cannot be honest with yourself, the business will sink and crash. People don’t realise that the person who owns the business isn’t necessarily the smartest but they’ve learnt to hire the right people. Seek knowledge, seek help, ask questions. Don’t try to do it by yourself, get a team where you can.
We’re so grateful for our time with Mark as part of our Disruptive Entrepreneurs series. Be sure to check out Mark's website and instagram slidercuts.com I @slidercuts
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