Mark Maciver is the founder and owner of renowned Hackney based hair and beauty studio SliderCuts. Maciver, 36, opened the salon in 2018, but has been cutting hair since he was 14 years old- A long side attending school. Today SliderCuts provides a rang of services, including haircuts, braiding, dreadlocks, pedicure and manicures. Mark is also the author of ‘Shaping Up culture’, a collection of inspirational and practical how to guides.
Unlike most beauty studios, SliderCuts also offers a ‘runners’ scheme, which provides a positive environment and role models for 16 to 17year olds from the local area. He also offers an apprentice scheme, where aspiring barbers get to learn barbering and business skills from Maciver himself, whose clients include boxing champ Anthony Joshua and rapper Stormzy to name a few.
It’s 7:00am when I speak to Mark. He’s waiting for his first appointment of the day at 7:30am, but before then, Mark talks about his path to success, early determination and paving the way for others.
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How did you get started?
I started cutting hair as a hobby when I was 14years old. Although I was still in school, I’d get requests from friends, family members and friends of friends to cut their hair. This continued when I was at college where I was studying performing arts. Eventually, I got an internship in a barbershop when I was 18yrs old, which turned into a part-time job while I finished my college course.
After college I decided I didn’t want to pursue university to study drama, so I continued working as a barber. During that time, I took an online course in social work, which I passed but decided it wasn’t for me. I also qualified as a personal trainer but I didn’t pursue this either. The one thing that stayed consistent while I chased these other avenues was cutting hair. So, I guess my calling was right in front of me all the time. Once I realised that, I decided to stick with it.
What differentiates SliderCuts from other barbers?
There are a number of elements that differentiate the SliderCuts brand from other barbers. One of those is work ethic. I feel that here at SliderCuts we have great work ethic and have a huge focus on customer service, something that is often lacking in hair and beauty salons especially in our community. I take pride in the way we look after our customers at SliderCuts. For example, if a customer has a genuine complaint, it’s dealt with properly and a customer will be given a refund as well as compensation on top of that. Essentially, If we get it wrong, we try to make things right with our customers. This is something that I didn’t see or experience from similar establishments when I was growing up and therefore felt it was important to do things differently in my business.
My honesty also differentiates me from other barbers. I am very honest about my business and what stage it’s at, what I am good at and what I am not good at. I am always willing to invest in myself and others around me in order to excel and push forward.
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What surprised you the most about running a barbershop?
I was surprised at how difficult managing people in this environment is. I have always been able to manage people but it is slightly harder in this environment because barbershop tend to have a relaxed vibe, which is good for the clients but shouldn’t be the case for staff. I have had to be a lot more thorough in the way I structure the business to prevent staff from having the mindset that working at a barbershop is do as you like.
Working at SliderCuts is not do as you like, we have work rules and procedures and policies to ensure that we keep a professional work environment. Most of these policies and rules are part and parcel of any business and work environment. It’s just that these hadn’t been implemented in the barbershop environment within our community in the past. I found that some of my staff weren’t used to that way of working or the environment is not as they expected, so it was challenging at times.
what are some of the challenges that you faced when you first started?
Money. Having no money, opening up a business that was more than what I could afford and not taking investment capital that were offered to me.
I was offered a lot of investment prior to opening my shop but decided against taking it because I didn’t want other people to alter the vision that I had for my barbershop. I believed that the value of the business would increase once the shop was open. However, this did mean that I ended up doing things the hard way. For example, I had to sell one of my rental properties and took out a number of loans to finance the shop lease and fitout. For me, this was the cost I paid to own 100% of my business.
In hindsight maybe I could have done things differently because due to the lack of finance, I took some high interest loans, which lead to additional pressure and lead to me making bad decisions. I was rushing and desperate to get the shop up and running so I could service all the debt I had taken out. Not having a mentor to guide me through this process meant that I had to make all these mistakes, so now I mentor others on what not to do.
Outside of your barber shop business, you are also a speaker and an author. How did you start all of the different pivots that you’re into now?
I enjoy learning and trying new things – that’s one of my best personality traits. It’s a combination of this and the fact that I like getting things done. When I have an idea to do something, I don’t waste time, I strike while the iron is still hot. Granted this can be a bad thing – when an idea doesn’t work out, and a good thing – when it all works out. Either way, I always enjoy the journey and all the things I learn along the way.
I felt I had all this information and knowledge that I wanted to impart on to people, so I started vlogging and blogging. After doing this for a while, I felt all the information I was documenting could be in a book, so I spoke to a friend who works in a publishing company, to get some feedback on the book idea. I didn’t expect anything from her but a few days later, she informed me that she’d pitched my idea to her company and they loved it and wated to sign it. That’s how the book happened.
Whenever I have an idea (and I have always had lots of these), I always think about how to execute it and never think about the money because I believe that if you do something well, money will come from it. I never focus on the money side of things.
For example, when I started vlogging on YouTube, again, I just wanted to inform and educate people. Soon enough, my vlogs were picked up by various organisers, who subsequently invited me to speak at their events.
How do you handle running a business and raising a family?
It’s hard work and you have to sacrifice sleep if you want to be properly involved. I am very involved in my children’s lives and of course, business life. I wouldn’t say that I find it hard but a lot of time and energy goes into it. I think the things your care about, you make time for but it is important to have a healthy balanced life.
I work really long hours but I finish early on Saturdays, then I am off work from Saturday Afternoon until Tuesday. I spend that time with my children and my wife. If I do get a call out on the days that I am off, I will take my children with me. I also start work very early, which allows me to be back home in time to put my children to bed. This is what works for me and what allows me to achieve that balance.
How did you handle marketing when you first opened the barbershop?
Instagram was my main marketing tool. I constantly created and posted pictures and videos before I opened up the shop and have continued to use this tool today. I also ran some promotions in the area, posted flyers as well as handing them out on the street.
I also think the location of my shop helps a lot. It’s a busy road with a lot of attractions like Columbia Road Market, Premises Studios as well as other amenities, which creates a lot of passing trade and walk-in clients.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business in your industry?
Starting a business even a barbershop I not an easy task. Your staff will make your business.
I have seen a lot of people who open up a new barbershop, the place looks great, fully kitted out but then closes a year later. Why? – Because they didn’t have the right people working for them.
If you open a shop and you’re not going to physically be in there, you need to find someone who has the same vision as you to help run the shop before you start thinking about all the other things like leases and getting the shop fitted out.
People often get ahead of themselves thinking about the outcome and how much they can make, without thinking about the process and what they need to do to get to that.
What does the future of SliderCuts look like?
I am expanding the shop to include women’s hairdressing, so, I will be starting a runner scheme for young girls aged 13 – 16yrs old next year to go with that next year, when things hopefully get back to some level of normality.
One of the things I’d like to do with SliderCuts is open up a barbering academy or even partner existing academy to provide courses with an emphasis on business. I find that there is a lack of business knowledge from the barbers that graduate from barbering academy. For example, a lot of the people who are either on the course or have completely it recently don’t know what their next move/step is.
What I want to teach them are the different types of barber set ups you can have, expected rate of payment and how they can negotiate these things, building your own brand. It sounds obvious, but I find that a lot of barbers lack this key knowledge.
Book your next hair cut with SliderCuts here: SliderCuts website.