Swiss-born, Martina Schwarz is the founder of Blackmarket, a refillable and non-single use plastic packaged liquid handwash for the home. Prior to Blackmarket, Martina worked at Proctor & Gamble in Geneva, first as a Packaging Designer and later heading up their creative studio. She then moved to Unilever, where she worked primarily on their beauty and personal care brands.
Martina had often wondered why no one was looking into ways to create more sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging. “I remember one of the last projects I worked on was a Dove handwash in a refill pouch. I said it should be possible to do things better and not create all this unnecessary plastic”
Realising there was a gap in the market and that she had the industry know-how to create the products to fill this need, Martina left full-time employment to start Blackmarket in 2020.
Blackmarket manufactures personal hygiene products that are environmentally friendly, sustainable, and avoids the use of single-use plastic. Their flagship product is an environmentally friendly waterless soap concentrate packaged in a safe material, which dissolves when it comes into contact with warm water and acts as a thickener for the soap.
Because the refills are waterless, they weigh 95% less than traditional brands, reducing carbon emissions from transport and providing an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional liquid soaps.
While Martina has the advantage of having a master’s degree in business and ten years of experience in the beauty and personal care industry, she admits that starting her own business was one of the most challenging things she has attempted. “Everything takes longer, it costs more, and your revenue is, you know, not even close to what you’re hoping for.”
There is so much to consider as a start-up, it is pretty hard to know where to begin and what to focus on. Unlike working in a corporate organisation, where Martina had access to a team of people and many support services, being an entrepreneur means doing everything yourself.
Martina counts herself lucky to have stumbled across the London Business Hub right at the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. She was excited and inspired by the variety and support available to her. “I joined every single webinar that was offered to me, and I actually found I gained the most from the ones I had no clue about.”
The one-to-one support provided by her business adviser Raj was of particular assistance to Martina. “I think one of the great things about Raj is that he is an actual entrepreneur. The level of experience Raj gave really helped me personally and my business.” Martina realised that Raj understood the challenges faced by the fledgling business in a way that someone who was not a business owner might not, and his advice was invaluable in establishing Blackmarket’s offering.
“I think one of the key points is that it has given me confidence and helped me see a little bit clearer in the long term”, she continues by adding, the uncertainty of entrepreneurship can feel scary in the beginning and the help and guidance provide by Raj went a long way to assuage her doubts.
Her newfound confidence also prompted her to enter Blackmarket into The University of the Arts, London’s Creative Enterprise Awards, ultimately winning an Innovation award for her product as well as applying for Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation award for 2022/23
Martina successfully raised finance through crowdfunding, launched the business, has seen good traction and a steady increase in sales. Inspired by this validation, Martina is now working with Raj at Innovate UK Edge to help her grow and develop a mass-market refillable liquid hand wash brand aimed at major retailers and supermarkets.
inspired by working with Raj, Martina has been invited to speak about entrepreneurship and her journey with Blackmarket at various universities and other institutions. Martina hopes to get more involved in mentoring and coaching, to share her experience with other young entrepreneurs and advise that support is out there.
“I think one of the great things about Raj is that he is an actual entrepreneur. The level of experience Raj gave really helped me personally and my business. I think one of the key points is that it has given me confidence and helped me see a little bit clearer in the long term”.