Mixed Chicks Founders Face Copycat Dilemma

58 comments
January 24, 2012 ‐ By Charlotte Young

Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy

Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy were making hair history for multicultural women across the US with their “Mixed Chicks” hair products. They had put in eight years of hard work to develop and market their product, and were earning an annual revenue of $5 million. But then, Inc.com reports, they discovered the alarmingly similar “Mixed Silk” brand. The Sally Beauty Supply product line for mixed race women came in packages that looked all too familiar. And with its cheaper price tag, the imitation brand threatened to ruin everything the entrepreneurs had  built.

In 2004, Etheredge and Levy debuted “Mixed-Chicks,” a hair solution to the struggles the two dealt with as women of mixed race that they hoped would also help women with similar hair textures. Their product line, which includes shampoo and conditioner, began to sell in salons and beauty-supply stores across the US. In 2009 it even caught the eye of celebrity actress Halle Berry, who named the brand one of the “must-have products” in three national beauty magazines.

That same year, a representative from Sally Beauty Supply approached the two entrepreneurs at a trade show. The woman liked their product and invited the two to speak further about a partnership with Sally Beauty Supply. At first, the opportunity to have Sally Beauty Supply carry their products seemed incredible. But the two did their research and decided that the corporation’s strict return policies weren’t for them.

The duo’s dismissal wasn’t enough to deter Sally’s Beauty Supply. The chain went on to create “Mixed Silk,” and with Sallys’ clerks claiming it was practically the same thing as “Mixed Chicks” except cheaper, the two soon realized that their business was at stake.

Etheredge and Levy found themselves in a difficult situation. If they sued the billion-dollar company, they faced paying $250-500,000 a year in a legal battle that could last for years. In addition if they lost their case, the two risked having to pay Sally’s for lost revenue.

Then again if they won their case, it was a chance to possibility get rid of “Mixed Silk” and collect damages for lost sales and reputation.

“Kim and I felt the same way,” Levy tells Inc.com. “There was no way we could just sit there.”

In March 2011, “Mixed Chicks” formally filed a lawsuit against Sally Beauty Supply for trademark infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition claiming that the chain was selling and advertising an imitation of their product.

The co-founders are still locked in a legal battle, and await their May 15 trial date. The lawsuit has cost them big. Although they won’t disclose how much, they’ve had to postpone their plans to take the business international for now. The business has continued to grow in the US, and last year added seven new products and increased its distribution to 3,000 stores.

At the end of the day, the women have no regrets about their decision to sue. As Etheredge says to Inc.com, “You can’t just bully little companies.”

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  • Mariah LA

    I have hair prone to frizz that’s been chemically treated and over-ironed for years. I iron my hair 2 times or more a week, and when I attempt to wear it curly it’s always unruly. After trying It’s a Ten, Mixed Chicks, and countless other conditioners, I’ve finally found what works: Shielo Hydration Condtioner. I’ve also tried Shielo Hydration Shampoo, which honestly was not as effective. Just the conditoner works VERY well. When I straighten my hair after using this product it feels silky and healthy; when I wear it curly the frizz is minimal. I’m also half African-American, and even though Shielo doesn’t usually market their products for black hair, I encourage women of color to try it!

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  • G_l_o_86

    Mix Chicks a complete bullshit product. It does not work, and I’m mixed.

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  • Charissehill

    I wished I wouldve known about these products when my children were younger. They are not immediately mixed however, they both have that kind of hair that really shouldve been nurtured by not so strong products.

  • Charissehill

    I wished I wouldve known about these products when my children were younger. They are not immediately mixed however, they both have that kind of hair that really shouldve been nurtured by not so strong products.

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  • Dionerobertson

    Praying for your success with your lawsuit; Mixed Chicks!!
     

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  • http://executees.net/ Executees

    Wow, I hope The Mixed Chicks win their lawsuit.

  • Nay Hottamale Howard

    I am of mixed race also, ( half black and half mexican) and for a few years I had read about the Mixed Chicks products and always wanted to try it. When I saw a similar product at Sally’s I thought why not give it a try? Personally the products worked well on my hair and the price was affordable. Anytime I decide to wear my hair natural I use these products and have not been disappointed. I don’t see anything wrong with Sally’s marketing a similar brand for any consumers who may not be able to afford the original Mixed Chicks brand- there’s nothing wrong w/that in my opinion.

  • Nay Hottamale Howard

    I am of mixed race also, ( half black and half mexican) and for a few years I had read about the Mixed Chicks products and always wanted to try it. When I saw a similar product at Sally’s I thought why not give it a try? Personally the products worked well on my hair and the price was affordable. Anytime I decide to wear my hair natural I use these products and have not been disappointed. I don’t see anything wrong with Sally’s marketing a similar brand for any consumers who may not be able to afford the original Mixed Chicks brand- there’s nothing wrong w/that in my opinion.

  • Julie3

    All the best Kim and Wendi…you were right for going forward. Sally’s is wrong as two left shoes. Highway robbery.

  • Jg5501

    I made the mistake of buying Sally brand and after using it one time, it is still sitting in the shower. I have tried to give it away, but why give someone something that is not good for their hair. Don’t waste your money on Sally’s brand.

  • Too Damned High!

    No one was trying to bully them. It’s  called capitalism. That sounds fair to me.

    Yeah, the Mixed Chicks brand is too high. So, another company saw a market, an opportunity, and followed suit. It happens all the time, especially in the hair care industry. The Koreans have been doing this to black owned/founded beauty companies for years.  That’s the nature of capitalism.

    Additionally, Mixed Silk is a brand exclusive to, and only sold in, Sally Beauty Supply Stores. It is not widely distributed.  Their product positioning doesn’t compete with Mixed Chicks at all. Even the packaging doesn’t look all THAT similar. Sally’s actually did a better job branding their product, and their bottle is more streamline. The color of their product  is darker.

    I’m not sure how the two sets of ingredients compare, but they appear to be two uniquely branded, packaged and marketed products.

    Sally’s markets to their already loyal customer-base, only; and not via national advertisement. Mixed Chicks’ target market is broader than that. 

     IMO, they’re going to loose.

    • Too Damned High!

      Also, if people are loyal to, and can afford, Mixed Chicks, they won’t settle for Mixed Silk, anyway.  IMO, they could have better invested their money in marketing research, instead of filing a lawsuit.

    • Too Damned High!

      *Correction in regards to Sally’s not marketing via national advertisement. Basically, I haven’t seen where Sally’s has purchased ad space in national channels specifically targeting ethnic women. The only place you’ll see their product advertised is in their Sally’s regional sales promotion inserts. That’s not on the same level as purchasing print ad space in, say, Essence Magazine.

    • Too Damned High!

      *Correction in regards to Sally’s not marketing via national advertisement. Basically, I haven’t seen where Sally’s has purchased ad space in national channels specifically targeting ethnic women. The only place you’ll see their product advertised is in their Sally’s regional sales promotion inserts. That’s not on the same level as purchasing print ad space in, say, Essence Magazine.

      Again, no one is trying to bully them. Sally’s simply addressed the consumers who liked the Mixed Chicks product, but could not afford it – since, their requests fell on deaf ears with Mixed Chicks.

  • Gmarie

    That’s what sally’s does. there is a knock off for every major salon brand product at sally’s at a more reasonable price-with equal or near equal quality. Yes, I’ve bought some of these products. I have a budget to maintain too lol.  would it be different if they changed the logo on the packaging? They have obviously found a niche market with their products, so they should expect the industry to follow. my advice to them is to stay innovative and continue delivering the quality and customer care that made their brand popular. dog eat dog

  • Msmykimoto2u

    Thats just terrible. These women have worked so hard only to get this un-needed set back. Sally’s should be ashamed of themselves

  • Msmykimoto2u

    Thats just terrible. These women have worked so hard only to get this un-needed set back. Sally’s should be ashamed of themselves

  • Caramel

    They should tell people to boycott Mixed Silk and why, the people will understand!!! I don’t care for Sally’s anyway!!!  Good luck to you, I hope you win!!!!!!

  • Caramel

    They should tell people to boycott Mixed Silk and why, the people will understand!!! I don’t care for Sally’s anyway!!!  Good luck to you, I hope you win!!!!!!

  • Mz_chocolatina

    Personally, I HAVE TRIED both PRODUCTS AND WILL BE GOING WITH THE Mixed Silk product. . Much cheaper, I€ am tired of seeing my money go down the drain (literally) and always feel like I had to use it sparingly because of the price. . BOTH of the products seemed to work the same on my mixed (half mexican and half black ) hair. .  . . .Ill be saving my money for my shoe addiction. . lol. .

    • raggamuffin

      I’ve tried both and I prefer Mixed Silk too. Coincidentally I just bought it this weekend. It’s cheaper and I prefer the way it feels in my hair; it feels a lot lighter. I support small businesses but unfortunately I just prefer the product. If Mixed Silk had a different name I would’ve still bought it since its clearly labeled as a leave-in for curls which is so hard to find. They really didn’t have to swagga jack.

  • BlkPunk311

    Are Mixed Chicks products better than Kinky-curly or Miss Jessies??  We don’t have a seller for Mixed Chicks here (sadly, too bad they didn’t let sally’s sell it)…

    • Kel

      I hear a lot of people love kinky curly. I have a friend who has amazing talent with braiding but her daughter’s hair was a 4a or maybe 4b she had problems doing her curls that way until she got kinky curly. Her daughter’s hair looks amazing.

    • Kel

      I hear a lot of people love kinky curly. I have a friend who has amazing talent with braiding but her daughter’s hair was a 4a or maybe 4b she had problems doing her curls that way until she got kinky curly. Her daughter’s hair looks amazing.

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  • ZZ ok okie

    I have tried both Mixed Chicks products and Mixed Silk from Sally’s. Mixed Silk does not hold a candle on my biracial children’s hair. Mixed Chicks products are the only way to go for us. Go ladies, to save your business and continue with your products in the future. We are loyal customers of yours.

    • lol

      Mixed chicks STAY going to the popular non-black trade shows- they only show
      bronner brothers love and they advertise and market to white audience. Now they see that
      those whites who they run to will RUN over you-if you don’t do business with THEM. 
      This is a free market and I believe if they stayed rooted to the real people who buy their products- the loyalty would be so deep- it would be like Mcdowells from coming to america movie going up against the real Mcdonalds. BUT they are just as fake and sell out as sally.
      Sally will win.

      • Mary

        Oh is that right? I don’t do sell outs and why do they market to a white audience. Even white women with mixed children don’t do their kids hair. A girl at my gym who is white said she helps her sister do her niece’s hair because her sister can’t so it. She said her niece has “black people’s hair” in the front and “white people hair” in the back. I could just imagine how that little girls head looks. 

        • Gmarie

           probably because there is a huge number of White parents with biracial children looking for a prayer and a clue as to what to do with their hair. I have had white women approach me randomly in stores (target, rite aid, etc.) asking what they can do for their children and grand children’s hair because they’re LOST and don’t know how to style or care for it.

          I am not saying this is an excuse not to target black hair trade shows or black customers, I’m just saying I see the market they are hoping to capture.

          • Kel

            Well, at least you didn’t generalize thank you for that

          • Kel

            Well, at least you didn’t generalize thank you for that

        • Kel

          Well funny considering I am a white woman who does her biracial children’s hair and nobody else has ever touched their hair but me. My daughter’s hair is just like the woman’s hair on the right of the pic actually a wee bit more thicker, and my son’s hair whose is shoulder length looks like the woman’s hair on the left. And no matter what non chemical product I use on their hair, it always comes out looking like both of theirs. Don’t make assumptions based on some people who can’t do hair because that doesn’t go for all white woman. And if you didn’t mean it for all white women you should have stated that and not generalized what you have stated above. And if one day you see a white woman out in the store with her biracial child and her hair looks so called unkept don’t think the mom can’t do her hair, she might of had to rush out the house for a quick errand and her child being a child messed up her hair through out the day and she didn’t have any time to do it. Or she could have a very impatient husband who didn’t want to sit around and wait for her to do it, and not care how ignorant other people might be towards that white mother. My child has a perfect curl every time we leave the house but she is 6 in order for her not to mess it up she has to be uncomfortable the whole day. I have to tell her baby don’t sit back in the car you will mess up your hair, baby don’t put your hood up because you will mess up your hair, etc.etc. etc.. Honestly because of how other people come and try to tell me something if she does mess it up like I can’t do it, it make me furious and why shouldn’t I be, you don’t know if I can’t do it or not you just assume oh look another white mother can’t do her child’s hair. Instead of seeing the fact she is a young child the last thing she is thinking about oh no I am going to mess up my hair and stupid ignorant people are going to put their 2 cents in to my mother. So wait a minute does that mean if my daughter has perfect hair that day and no one says anything that must have met my in laws did her hair ridiculous. I have had both white and black mother’s ask me also for advice on their hair when it looks like their best, and yes I was flattered. But those people who might see me once and never before and never again, and my child’s hair is looking like who did it ran lol that is when I get stupid comments and have to take out my pics to prove to them look I can do their hair they just messed it up through out the day. But I shouldn’t have to do that it is sad and pathetic. Sorry I am not trying to be stupid but you shouldn’t have generalized that statement and I guess it gave me a chance to vent at all people who think that way. But this article had nothing to do with white mother’s who can do hair or not it had to with someone stealing their product. You guy’s are the one who brought this up.

        • Kel

          Well funny considering I am a white woman who does her biracial children’s hair and nobody else has ever touched their hair but me. My daughter’s hair is just like the woman’s hair on the right of the pic actually a wee bit more thicker, and my son’s hair whose is shoulder length looks like the woman’s hair on the left. And no matter what non chemical product I use on their hair, it always comes out looking like both of theirs. Don’t make assumptions based on some people who can’t do hair because that doesn’t go for all white woman. And if you didn’t mean it for all white women you should have stated that and not generalized what you have stated above. And if one day you see a white woman out in the store with her biracial child and her hair looks so called unkept don’t think the mom can’t do her hair, she might of had to rush out the house for a quick errand and her child being a child messed up her hair through out the day and she didn’t have any time to do it. Or she could have a very impatient husband who didn’t want to sit around and wait for her to do it, and not care how ignorant other people might be towards that white mother. My child has a perfect curl every time we leave the house but she is 6 in order for her not to mess it up she has to be uncomfortable the whole day. I have to tell her baby don’t sit back in the car you will mess up your hair, baby don’t put your hood up because you will mess up your hair, etc.etc. etc.. Honestly because of how other people come and try to tell me something if she does mess it up like I can’t do it, it make me furious and why shouldn’t I be, you don’t know if I can’t do it or not you just assume oh look another white mother can’t do her child’s hair. Instead of seeing the fact she is a young child the last thing she is thinking about oh no I am going to mess up my hair and stupid ignorant people are going to put their 2 cents in to my mother. So wait a minute does that mean if my daughter has perfect hair that day and no one says anything that must have met my in laws did her hair ridiculous. I have had both white and black mother’s ask me also for advice on their hair when it looks like their best, and yes I was flattered. But those people who might see me once and never before and never again, and my child’s hair is looking like who did it ran lol that is when I get stupid comments and have to take out my pics to prove to them look I can do their hair they just messed it up through out the day. But I shouldn’t have to do that it is sad and pathetic. Sorry I am not trying to be stupid but you shouldn’t have generalized that statement and I guess it gave me a chance to vent at all people who think that way. But this article had nothing to do with white mother’s who can do hair or not it had to with someone stealing their product. You guy’s are the one who brought this up.

          • kmgi

            Will you please go on with that mess.  Always bringing your mess where it shouldn’t be.

      • Kel

        Well, they should sell to both a white and black audience being that both groups of parents could have mixed children

      • Kel

        Well, they should sell to both a white and black audience being that both groups of parents could have mixed children

      • Kel

        Well, they should sell to both a white and black audience being that both groups of parents could have mixed children

      • Kel

        Well, they should sell to both a white and black audience being that both groups of parents could have mixed children

  • Irene

    I have a hard time buying beauty products for my hair. My mother has that thick curly kind of Jewish hair and my  dad has kinky hair but it’s not that tightly curled so you can imagine what my hair looks like after a wash. My black grandmother use to comb and style my hair when I was little and she always did a better job than my mom did. In high school I use to get perms now I just wear it naturally curly like Kim in the picture above but I do have problems with split ends. I hope they prevail in the lawsuit because I have a feeling that if the product becomes under the control of white business people the quality will slip.

  • Carmelcup

    I Pray they win this lawsuit! Many times large companies, and powerful celebrities take advantage of small companies trying to make their mark in business. These underhanded practices should not go unpunished. Salute to the small businesses (you do matter!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kayla.esbjorn Kayla Ancrum

    Interracial women have some of the hardest  hair types to create product for.These sisters provided a service where there was once none to be had. It is disgraceful that this is happening to them.

  • Cricket

    I’m not mixed, but have wavy hair..(blessing and a curse) and until these particular products, it was very difficult to find a product that made my hair manageble and stylish at the same time. I will continue to support them. Besides how well do fakey imitation products made by people who have no idea what we need for our really work..Like fake infusium..too watery..or fake cholesteral…I know Sally’s is a huge corporation, but I go to “hood” beauty supply stores to find the products that really work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001461225654 Noneya Biz-ness

    I wish them all the best as I hate when big companies try to ‘screw’ smaller ones. It takes a lot to set up a company off your back so good luck them.

  • OnionSoup

    They should’ve the initial partnership…they would’ve been huge by now

  • JN31

    The truth is, most people are very loyal to a brand that they like and works for them- even if a competitor came along and offered it for a lower price. I’ve tried Mixed Chicks products and find them to be “ok”. I didn’t regret my purchase, but I once it was done it was done and I had no intentions on purchasing it again. Hopefully it will all work out

  • LovelyCurls

    support black owned hair care products!!! most of the products made for black people in the beauty supply stores are created by white people and most of them don’t include the ingredients we need for our drier hair types. #supportblack

    • mdeborah827

      Preach!  We have to keep pushing that agenda and tell the story of how Asians took over the market.  It’s an economic attack against the Black community. 

  • MissK

    I just can’t get past the bad press these ladies received for endorsing that “light skin” vs. “dark skin” nonsense a while back.

  • Rain206

    i am not of mixed race but a hair care product for interracial women is a good niche. Hope all works out for the best

  • Kelly

    Yay I  mixed 

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