Business management

Mark Maciver: A cut above

He was hiring a chair at a barber’s for years until the power of his SliderCuts brand convinced him to open his own shop. Mark Maciver explains how hard work and always asking questions helped him establish a successful business.

 “My mum used to make chin chin and plantain chips, and I used to take from her supply so I could sell them,” he recalls. " I planned events for my youth centre. It was something I was always interested in, even if I didn’t realise at the time it was business".

Maciver says a combination of hard work, seizing opportunities, building a personal brand (his MC name was Slider) and asking questions helped him grow his business over the past 20 years. “I always push to the max. Whatever you’re going to do, whether you’re going to be doing it for life or not, while you’re in it you have to put in 100%,” he says.

He now has his own shop in east London, which has been open for two years, with a stellar client list including musicians Stormzy, J. Cole and Tinie Tempah, and sportsmen LeBron James and Anthony Joshua. He’s also published a book, SliderCuts: Shaping-Up Culture; appeared in ad campaigns with Nike and Facebook (where he has more than 89,000 followers); and launched an apprenticeship scheme that empowers young people by giving them the opportunity to work with him and his team. 

Maciver says his first decisive business move was creating his own website – at the time, he explains, only the big names in hairdressing like Toni & Guy had a website, and he was a self-employed barber renting a chair at D&L Barbers in north London, where he started as an apprentice aged 18. But by his reckoning, if he wanted to be taken seriously, he needed to think like a business. 

“The first thing you’ve got to do is say it out loud: ‘I am a business,’” he explains. “When you start thinking like a business, you can start making business decisions. Even though I was in somebody else’s shop, I made those decisions, and the brand SliderCuts started to build. Whenever anybody typed ‘Black barber London’ in a search engine, I was the only one that came up.”

I do feel responsible. Knowing where I’ve come from, the struggle, seeing my mum struggle, then coming out of that and noticing some of the disadvantages that people from my community have, I think it’s my responsibility to give back as much as possible

Mark Maciver
Founder of SliderCuts

Maciver’s client list is enviable, but it didn’t come easy. It was his conscientious work ethic, doing overtime to make sure everybody in his queue got a cut, that led him to cut the hair of Los Angeles Lakers’ star player LeBron James, as well as the majority of the USA national basketball team. As he remembers it, despite a massive queue of appointments one day in 2008, he found time to cut a walk-in, who turned out to be Pops Mensah-Bonsu, then a rising star in the NFL who was back home in London to visit his family. Mensah-Bonsu became a regular client and recommended Maciver to the USA national team when they were in London for the 2012 Olympics. “I remember LeBron James coming in saying: ‘Which one of you is Pops’s barber? I’m cutting with you!’” recalls Maciver.

An inquisitive mind

Maciver is as much a role model to his local community these days as LeBron James is in the US. He didn’t really have any mentors himself but was inspired by the business lives of his clients. “I’d observe people and ask questions so I could learn,” he says. “How do you make it run? How do you make your moment last a year, 10 years? How does that support you for the rest of your life? What have you invested in? Because I’m interested in how business works, I’ll ask questions of anyone who’s in my chair.”

As the power of his personal brand attracted commercial success and media interest, Maciver decided to invest in his own space, although he admits to feeling some embarrassment that he didn’t have his own barbershop already. “The brand was bigger than where the business was at the time,” he says. “There were expectations about who I was supposed to be, what the brand was. I had gone way past where a business should open up.”

Trying to find a suitable location, pay the bills and open on time was “a massive hurdle”, says Maciver. Thankfully, his studio in Hackney is running smoothly, and his biggest challenge at the moment is learning to delegate and allow others to represent the brand he worked so hard to build. “I remember the first time I had a barber from SliderCuts at an event and I wasn’t there, it was scary! But that’s why I built the business, to get other people involved.”

Maciver feels a strong sense of duty not just towards his employees but also his community. “I do feel responsible. Knowing where I’ve come from, the struggle, seeing my mum struggle, then coming out of that and noticing some of the disadvantages that people from my community have, I think it’s my responsibility to give back as much as possible. It’s not everybody’s job to heal the world, but if you notice an issue in the world, it’s your responsibility to do something about it.”

Everything starts somewhere

Maciver observes that, since launching his own business, he’s seen Black entrepreneurship increase. He says it’s good for young people to see legitimate entrepreneurs making a success of business in their community. Black History Month helps, although he’d like to see more on the curriculum about how Black people play a positive part in UK society. 

“I’m a believer that everything starts somewhere. You don’t start off the race at the finish line. As long as someone is showing the steps to right their wrongs, to improve, to do the things that need to be done and pushing things forward, then I’m happy to see that. 

“Black History Month sheds light on Black people in this country, the positive contribution people have made to building it. Embrace it and ask: ‘What more can we do from here?’” 

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