In this installment of On The Grind, we spoke to skincare entrepreneur Blake Rascoe.
After graduating from Morehouse College where he earned a double major in Political Science and Spanish, Rascoe worked in the entertainment business as a TV producer and day to day manager to recording star John Legend.
Realizing there was a void in the market for skincare products for men of color, Rascoe broke off on his own and launched Ceylon from Anim Labs with friend and partner Patrick Boateng II.
Blake draws his inspiration from his love of creating content and storytelling, studying social trends, and learning about new cultures through travel.
Rascoe spoke to us about his time working with John Legend, the mistakes he’s made on his entrepreneurial journey, how he manages his day-to-day and learning to trust the process.
Tell us about your background (education, where you grew up, type of upbringing)
I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, which is a big military town.
The shipping business is also really big there, which my dad was involved in. I witnessed him a lot of hardworking people get up early and work long hours to provide for their families.
So that mindset was a part of my upbringing and is what still inspires me today.
In college, I was a double major in Political Science and Spanish.
Initially, I thought I was going to law school, but through internships, I realized my real passion was to work in the entertainment business.
I sat down with my parents over coffee right before graduation and told them my plan and they were supportive. I didn’t have a job lined up at the time, but something in LA was calling my name.
I just packed up my car moved out and found my way.
Ultimately it came down to realizing there was a void in the market.
My co-founder (Patrick Boateng II) and I realized there wasn’t a brand out there creating products that specifically addressed the skin concerns that men of color disproportionately face. That includes acne scarring, eczema, razor bumps/burns, hyperpigmentation, and products that contain bleaching agents.
As men of color ourselves we couldn’t find anything specifically tailored to our skin. From the beginning knew we wanted to build something that spoke directly to our personal experiences.
For (Patrick) that was when he lived in China and had difficulty keeping his skin clear/healthy because of pollution and other elements. He was experiencing daily breakouts and routine acne scarring. Despite trying hundreds of products, nothing seemed to help clear up his skin.
For me it started in high school, I was a three-sport athlete. The crazy schedule and constant sweating made it difficult to keep my skin clear. I started using an over-the-counter skin care product recommended by my dermatologist and it ended up bleaching my skin.
We thought about how to create products that we would have liked to have when we started learning more about how to take care of our skin and knew that if Ceylon could be the answer for us, it could be the answer for many others.
Do you have a background in beauty products?
Neither of us had a background in chemistry or beauty. We just saw something we thought we could create and follow the steps we saw necessary to get it done.
We learned a lot along the way through trial and error. Once we had a clear concept, a manufacturer, and understanding of what we wanted our product to do, we worked to build and test prototypes.
We consulted with our advisor who’s a Harvard trained dermatologist, Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, on our formulations to ensure that we followed best practices in treating some of the basic needs for skin of color.
Afterward, we tested those prototype formulations with a sizeable sample group of people across genders, skin tones, and skin types.
How did working for John Legend help you on your entrepreneurial journey?
While working with John I got to see how building a strong team around you is so important. He had a really strong team that was like a well-oiled machine.
I was also able to see a few notable brands built from the ground up that he invested in, which showed me the process of building a company. From product quality, branding, marketing, and go to market strategy.
I took a lot away from that experience.
What’s the most important tool you’ve found to help you with your day-to-day?
We just keep in mind that we can’t do everything at once. We see a lot of people getting ahead of themselves and trying to attack a million things.
Day-to-day we just start off with prioritizing what’s in front of us and execute task by task. It’s like building a house you just start at the foundation and you go up.
What is the biggest mistake that you’ve made during your journey that can serve as a warning to other entrepreneurs?
I think my biggest mistake has been not always trusting the process. There’s a level of patience you have to have when creating a company. We see so many companies become or appear to be successful overnight.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be conscious of the development process and the roadblocks you will face.
It’s just a part of the process.
Once I started to understand that my path got clearer and I was able to approach business more objectively.