Rolling Out

CurlMix founders share how their brand has evolved over the years

Their former bestselling home kit is now the main product they sell today
CurlMix founders share how their brand has evolved over the years
Photo credit: Randy Fling for rolling out

CurlMix founders Kim and Tim Lewis participated in a panel for rolling out‘s Paperwork Project in Chicago sponsored by  U.S. Bank. The panel was hosted by U.S. Bank’s Micae Brown, who probed deeper into how they built their brand.

The Chicago-based company brought the manufacturing of Black hair care products back to the South Side of Chicago. Their vertically integrated business model allows them to make the product, source the ingredients, market the product, manufacture them and also ship the product using mostly e-commerce.

Brown asked the business owners how they have evolved as a brand and what helps them continue to grow as a company.

How has CurlMix evolved over the years? 

Kim Lewis: CurlMix started as a home-based LLC, for somebody out there who said it. We were basically Blue Apron for hair. So, we would send you everything you need to mix up your own hair products at home, and with the instructions, a nice little YouTube video, and an influencer; you would buy the box for $30 bucks, mix it up at home and then use it whenever you got ready to do your hair. A few problems with that type of business, the margins were terrible. So for the same $30 bottle, you would buy in the store, the margins might be like 70 or 80 percent. Some of the margins on our boxes were like 30 percent, so even if I could scale this business, you know, I shouldn’t. But our customers kept buying one box over and over again and it was our flax seed gel. We ended up pivoting to that gel, adding the moisturizer, and then we went on “Shark Tank.”

Tim Lewis: You are skipping something huge. The highest point is that Kim was the creator of one of the world’s first shelf-stable flax seed gels. She spent a month in our house, seven months pregnant, coming up with 60 different batches of flax seed gel before she finally got it right and that’s because we went to a ton of manufacturers and no one would make it for us. Our adviser told us to never stop selling our bestselling box and to figure it out, and she did.

How have you pivoted and kept your company thriving? 

TL: Our first business failed, but that’s not even a pivot that’s us restarting. With CurlMix, we shifted from making DIY boxes to becoming a full-fledged product company. So we decided that essentially we weren’t growing in the way that we wanted to grow. Our first year in business doing the boxes was like $130K, the next year was $140K, and we were like this is not growing fast enough. So we talked to a lot of advisers because it wasn’t a decision we could have made on our own, because we were so involved with it. You have to get people who are wiser than you outside of your business to give an objective look at [everything]. If you’re not growing, that’s the first indication to get someone to corroborate that and then you have to start looking at how you are going to change. If you pivot without a plan, you’re just going to fail again.

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