Why I closed the successful business I built

Marc Belle
3 min readFeb 20, 2024
Me, on holiday

8 years ago, I asked a question “What about me?” which led me to inadvertently start a business that went on to be one that I like to think helped change the face of men’s cosmetics in the UK, Mr Blackman’s. Then last year, I closed it.

At the time I could probably count on one hand how many brands there were making beard care for black men and all of those were small businesses. This was at a time when having a beard was on trend, yet in all the adverts, in all the Instagram posts, for the many cosmetics companies out there, how come there were no black men in any of these? I mean there were black men with beards out there, so where were we?

And that’s when I asked myself — “Why?”

“Me. He. Dem. We. Beard & Skincare for all of We.”

I didn’t know much about cosmetics but I’m the type of person who needs answers and in April 2016 Mr Blackman’s was born. We said “Change goin’ come!” and set out to build a brand that catered for Afro beards and celebrated our culture, which for me was Barbados and the Caribbean, but being UK-based, encompassed the diverse African and British culture that existed here too.

We wanted to show us in the same light as the men in all the other men’s grooming ads, but we also wanted to highlight a big problem in our community about mental health and a culture of not talking by overtly talking and breaking down those barriers. We made a point of saying you need to look after and make time for yourself.

“Live Yuh Best Life” brand video.

Very quickly 7 or so years passed and we’d moved from beard care into skincare, won multiple awards and collaborated with one of the biggest Bajan-born brands in the world. New brands had arrived with all the venture capital behind them and some of the big players seemed to have woken up to the fact that maybe they should be doing something too. Meanwhile, I found myself always ‘on’. Always needing to ‘do something’. Even family holidays had time carved out of them to handle photoshoots. And I asked myself again “What about me?”

The question I had at the beginning had been answered and the change we said would come had indeed come. But for everything we spoke about making time for yourself, I wasn’t doing — and I couldn’t. There wasn’t anyone else to do it, we were small and self-funded. We had made a point of not seeking big investment to prove our point that if we could do it then those with the capital should be able to do it. And to be honest I have no interest in being a CEO.

“Make Time For You” was one of the main slogans Mr Blackman’s promoted

The time had come. I could feel it. Part of me didn’t want to let go. For 7 years Mr Blackman’s had been a part of me, helped me reconnect with myself and here I was about to walk away. But I needed to. I needed to focus on other things — me.

I’ve loved every minute of it but if there is one thing I have learnt from everything Mr Blackman’s has done is that it’s important to remember to ask yourself “What about me?”

You can read more and listen to interviews about Mr Blackman’s and building the brand on marcbelle.com



Marc Belle

I am a Creative Director, Design Lead, Mentor & Problem Solver based in the UK. Product and Service Design lead for GOV.UK orgs