Interview Conducted by : Deonna McGary, M.B.A.
The natural hair movement over the past few years has transitioned into a worldwide trend due to the impact of social media, blog influencers, and the wave of African-American protective hairstyles. You cannot scroll through Instagram or view videos on YouTube without seeing individual’s transition, best hairstyle techniques, and preferred natural hair products. However, when you walk down the hair supply aisle of any major store, the small selection of hair care products for women of color leaves us to wonder where is the diversity in mainstream hair care? I had the honor to catch up with Wendi Levy and Kim Etheredge; the owners of Mixed Chicks, a national hair and beauty brand for women of all ethnicities to explore this topic further and get their perspective on the subject at hand and how their company is contributing to the culture shift in hair and beauty care for women from all diverse backgrounds.
What’s the story behind the creation of Mixed Chicks and what were you doing before you started the brand?
Wendi: I was teaching physical education at a local high school.
Kim: I was working in Public Relations for a television station and working closely with athletes.
Wendi: We came from multi-cultural families with both our parents being African American and Caucasian.
Both: Growing up in the 70s, we struggled to find hair care products that could maintain and protect our natural curls. During that time, there was a huge void in minority hair care. So even though, neither of us had experience in the hair and beauty industry, we felt it was our responsibility to create a hair care solution for women and young girls with different hair textures like ours.
With the name Mixed Chicks, how are you ensuring your brand appeals to all markets and educating consumers on how they can also use your products?
Wendi: Some consumers still steer away from our brand based off the name and customer interaction but I put it like this “Is Dark and Lovely only for dark people?” It took us years to say Mixed Chicks with confidence for our brand but we have worked diligently over the years to ensure that all of our products provide information that explains how we appeal to all regardless of ethnicity.
Kim: We pride ourselves on being the forerunners of the natural hair care industry and breaking down the walls of segregation in beauty. Look how many brands are promoting mixed and multi-cultural products today and we know this momentum was created from the success of Mixed Chicks.
Wendi: Our demographics demand attention and we create products that we can use and honor. Our brand is authentic and our products are not created in a lab based off a formula but are created, tested, and tried out based on personal need and what is lacking in our industry. Before all the new brands and companies, we were creating those conversations with mainstream hair care decision-makers to push natural hair care products where there were no conversations at all. We work hard to express that Mixed Chicks is not divided by race. We are the pioneers in the multi-cultural lane for natural hair for all ethnicities.
Do you feel that there is a gap in the minority hair care market from mainstream products?
Wendi: There are two separate buyers and buying seasons for minority and mainstream companies within mass retail. If you noticed, the main hair care aisles at your local stores have primarily all white owned products with all sorts of information for their consumers but then you look at the ethnic aisle or section and it consist primarily of relaxers and some new natural hair products but none of them educate their consumers on how their products work with the different hair types. At the retail level, there is little to no education for consumers, as salespeople are not trained on product knowledge. It is unfortunate that the industry lumps black owners together by race and not by textures.
What is Mixed Chicks doing to get the word out about hair care products and information to minorities?
Kim: So many people resort to social media so we try to work with social influencers to educate our consumers with information about Mixed Chicks, as a company and our products. There is so much education online like on YouTube, where viewers can learn, research, and view the journeys of other women. We encourage and depend on social influencers to help promote our products through their hair experiences because they can connect with other women with similar hair textures.
Wendi: We also do a lot of trade shows both natural and mainstream, where we host class sessions throughout the nation and bring our hair educator Tory Hawkins, who travels with us and teaches our guests (to include salon owners, hairstylists, and cosmetology students) on how they can use our products effectively with their own hair and their clients. We also promote our Mixed Chicks Pop-Up Suites; where we partner with salons, hairstylist, and bloggers to sponsor hair events for their clients and fellow hair community to promote their business and our products. We sponsor product samples, instructional DVDs, informational handouts, and any other promotional material to assist with the success of each event. We feel these one-on-one interactions allow us to connect with our targeted audience and provide them with as much information as possible to feel confident about using Mixed Chicks.
Our social media outlets:
Website- visit www.mixedchicks.com for videos and tutorials
For someone who is going through the transition of becoming natural, where do you recommend they start?
Wendi: Often when transitioning, you try not to shampoo your hair a lot because you want to maintain the natural oils in your hair, so I would avoid having to shampoo your hair all the time, we recommend our deep conditioner. It softens and helps detangle your hair. You rinse it out and apply our leave-in throughout your hair; the amount is based on your hair texture and thickness. It’s important that the distribution of leave-in is the same from root to ends. Another great start is our Morning After Mousse, which revitalizes your curls for women or families on the go. It is great for next day fixes especially for kids and you do not need to apply a lot or back to back as it holds your curls.
Kim: The leave-in has been our best seller! It’s our curl definer that does not need to be cocktailed. We find most women who are natural mix and match different products to find the right one for their hair but our leave-in conditioner is an all-in-one combination. We pride ourselves on the fact that our leave-in is still impressing new and current customers and our deep conditioner is still used amongst people with all different textures of hair.
I see you’ve branched out into beauty products and promote diverse kid dolls, what are hoping to get out from expanding your product line?
Kim: As a brand, there is more to Mixed Chicks than just hair. Growing up, we did not have makeup or dolls tailored to minorities and today; we still don’t see anything that best represent minorities.
Wendi: My Aunt made my dolls so that they would represent me. Fortunately, I had a creative family to showcase my diverse background. I had mixed dolls my entire life. Kim did not have that opportunity growing up.
Kim: You see companies trying to blend Barbie.
Wendi: We’ve had our dolls for 8 years and we place them in all our kid gift baskets. We use mainly for promotion or donate to less fortunate kids during the holidays or to rehab centers where families can’t help their kids. They are not for mass retail but promoted as a reflection of the line and who we are as diverse women and children.
Kim: We launched our make up line; 5 shades of In the Mix. It your on-the-go makeup to help shorten the time women do their make-up whether everyday or special occasions. We are in a testing stage and are getting the customer feedback to guide the direction of make up line. This is our newest step into the industry.
What do you hope others can takeaway from understanding diversity in hair care?
Wendi: To Love Yourself! We all come from different cultural backgrounds and have different hair textures but you can use our products and feel confident about yourself, love yourself and love your type of hair.
Kim: I want all women to understand that though we are all different, we can use the same products.
Both: Our goal in establishing Mixed Chicks was not to become successful although as a business owner you hope to do but as women with different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, hair, skin color, eye color, we are working