Forbes Under 30:  Mad Rabbit tattoo balm born after a hunch and an itch

The founders conceived their idea in a Miami University dorm room.

Most successful businesses are the products of experience, market research and venture capital. Mad Rabbit tattoo balm was born after a hunch and an itch — and took off running into the arms of an ink-soaked audience.

Founded in 2019, the tattoo skincare products company has experienced speedy growth — 138 percent year over year — and it keeps on accelerating, even amid a sluggish economy. 

“A recession can really hit companies, but so far we’re not seeing any slowdown with the tattoo business,” says co-founder Oliver Zak, who along with his partner, Selom Agbitor, has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2023.

“A lot of people get tattoos for traumatic reasons, so in some way you could say the tattoo business recession proof, like alcohol,” adds Zak. “We keep on growing.”

The Los Angeles-based Mad Rabbit has attracted a steady line of outside investors, including Mark Cuban, and has raced toward a market valuation of $56 million. It sells one tattoo balm every 90 seconds and it has been applied to three million tattoos so far. It’s available through a variety of online sellers and in 1,200 GNC and 350 Urban Outfitters stores.

Mad Rabbit numbing balm.
Mad Rabbit numbing balm. (All photos courtesy of Mad Rabbit.)

Not bad for an idea tossed around in a dorm room, while Zak and Selom were sophomores studying finance at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“Miami isn’t a big tattoo school and there wasn’t much information on campus about after-care — what to do after you get a tattoo,” says Zak, a Chagrin Falls native and University School grad who now resides in Philadelphia. “I was going to get a tattoo and I asked the tattoo artist what I should get to care for the tattoo, and he said what every tattoo artist was saying at the time.”

Yup, petroleum jelly.

“Well, it’s great if you’re covering a scab,” says “Zak. “But not a tattoo.”

You see, petroleum jelly can trap moisture and even bacteria, which prevents the tattoo from getting the air needed to heal. Answering such a problem — i.e., creating a product that meets a need in a growing market – has propelled some of America’s fastest growing companies.

The search for that product led Zak and Agbitor to aloe-based solutions, and into Zak’s mother’s kitchen.

“Luckily, my mom has some apothecary skills,” says Zak. “We ended up putting together an all-natural moisturizing solution and cooking it up in a crock pot.”

“We started small,” he adds with a laugh.

Ah, but even the littlest of newbie entrepreneurs can sell a few glasses on lemonade on the street corner on a sunny day. It’s much harder turning a whim and a dream into a job and a business.

Enter Mark Cuban. 

The brash billionaire, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and host of “Shark Tank,” pulled the Mad Rabbit out the hat and decided to have Zak and Agbitor make a funding pitch.

“We felt that we had a good business idea, but we needed to take it to another level to really make it work,” says Zak. “The cast grilled us about everything for an hour. The people watching the episode on TV only saw five minutes of that.”

Viewers did get to see the most crucial moment: when the Rabbits secured the financial backing and the stamp of legitimacy from Cuban.

Mad Rabbit balm

The company managed to expand and develop its product line. It also expanded its reach, by creating a moat around it and potential competitors looking to jump into a growing, uncharted field.

“It was interesting that there wasn’t a product for sale and, for that reason, tattoo artists had nothing they could really recommend except for petroleum jelly.”


Mad Rabbit has become the product they recommend – at least in the 500 tattoo parlors where its products are for sale.

That’s a small fraction of the 25,000 tattoo parlors around the country. But Zak points to the strong growth trends in the industry and the possibility that Mad Rabbit will dominate the after-care market and get its products into those other parlors.

“We’ve been focused on digital sales early on, but getting into tattoo parlors and having the artists that do the work vouch for Mad Rabbit goes a long way toward making our products the industry standard,” says Zak.

Of course, a digital army of fans and followers totaling one million goes a long way toward achieving that aim.

“Ours is one the few skin treatment products that people like showing off on Instagram,” says Zak. “I mean, you’re not going to see many people posting pictures of themselves with acne cream. But just everyone loves to show off their new tattoos.”

Read More

Tattoo Aftercare Products | Tattoo Lotion & More | Mad Rabbit Tattoo

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