- Mindy McKnight is a popular YouTube creator behind the hair tutorial and vlog channel Cute Girls Hairstyles (5.6 million subscribers).
- McKnight and her family run several other YouTube channels, like her twin daughters' wildly successful channel Brooklyn and Bailey (6.9 million subscribers).
- Since launching her YouTube channel in 2008, Mindy and her family have expanded their business with several long-term brand partnerships, a book, and a haircare line in partnership with Walmart.
- She took Business Insider inside developing her haircare line, Hairitage by Mindy, and shared the process behind developing a consumer product with an online audience in mind.
- Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.
This article was originally published on March 4 and has been updated to reflect new sales projections for McKnight's line, Hairitage.
The McKnight family has been on YouTube for over a decade and has seen every new trend in monetization, from changes in YouTube's algorithm to the rise of brand sponsorships.
But in January, the family expanded its digital business with Mindy McKnight's latest major venture, a haircare line sold both in store and online through Walmart, Hairitage by Mindy.
Developing consumer products to sell directly to followers, or in partnership with a larger company, has become one of the top new ways influencers are profiting off their digital brands.
Consumer products can range from perfume launches, like YouTube stars Ethan and Grayson Dolan's fragrance line Wakeheart, to clothing lines like Julia Engel's Gal Meets Glam collection, which she launched independently and later opened to other wholesale buyers.
Mindy developed Hairitage alongside the cosmetics company Maesa, and the line is sold exclusively at Walmart. The haircare brand is currently on track to do $30 million in retail sales this year since launching in January, according to Maesa. The company plans to expand the line internationally in 2021.
Mindy isn't the only influencer with a Walmart deal. YouTube creators like child pop star JoJo Siwa (10 million subscribers), kids education and entertainment character Blippi (7 million subscribers), and Ryan Kaji of the popular kids unboxing channel Ryan's World (24 million subscribers) also sell products in partnership with Walmart.
In March, Mindy took us inside the process behind developing a consumer product with her followers in mind, how she got her start on YouTube, and why she's diversified her digital business.
How Mindy McKnight got her start on YouTube
Mindy McKnight started as a blogger in 2008, sharing hairstyling tips online and using her two daughters Brooklyn and Bailey as her models.
Mindy would illustrate the different hairstyles with step-by-step photos and written descriptions, until one day when she hit a hairstyle that didn't translate well in pictures. Her husband Shaun suggested she film the tutorial and upload it to this new website called YouTube.
"We decided to film a video on our fancy-pants camera, the flip cam," Mindy told Business Insider. "It blew up, and did really well."
Shortly after posting that video, a messy bun tutorial now with 1.6 million views, Mindy began posting videos consistently to the platform, and she soon learned that her channel could start earning money through Google's AdSense Program. She switched her blog over to YouTube and since then hasn't looked back. Cute Girls Hairstyles now has 5.6 million YouTube subscribers.
"I think it just really resonated with moms everywhere," she said. "They wanted fast, easy, and simple hairstyles."
Mindy has now been creating content on YouTube for over 10 years.
She's built long-term partnerships with companies like Disney and Walmart, and has worked for several other companies in brand integrations across the popular YouTube channels her family owns — like her twin daughters' wildly successful YouTube channel, Brooklyn and Bailey (6.6 million subscribers), or her daughter Kamri Noel's channel (1.9 million subscribers). Mindy and her husband Shaun have six children, and her family is known today for their vlogs and hair tutorials.
Around six years ago, the McKnight family began to diversify their revenue streams off of YouTube, with equity partnerships (the family has equity ownership in the bedding company, Beddys), a book deal, and developing joint ventures with a few companies, Mindy said.
Inside the process of creating a hair-care line for Walmart
Since launching the YouTube channel, Mindy always knew she wanted to release her own hair products, but throughout the years just hadn't found the right opportunity, she said.
"We've been approached by brands to kind of do more of a private label or slap my name on their bottle type of situation," she said. "We just never could feel completely comfortable with that or the line of formulation they wanted to use."
On the Cute Girls Hairstyles YouTube channel, Mindy has rarely sponsored a hair care company, because she is so particular about what products she uses and endorses, she said.
About two years ago, the cosmetics company Maesa was going through Select Management Group's talent roster (Mindy's management team) looking for influencers for a different project, she said. Walmart recently expressed interest in a new haircare line to Maesa, she said, and when the company saw Mindy's talent sheet they immediately pitched Select the idea.
Mindy met with Maesa shortly after, and about six months later, they pitched the brand to Walmart. Once Walmart agreed to the partnership they kicked the project into high-gear, she said.
From that point on, the project took about a year and a half from development to launch, Mindy said. In that time, Mindy has split her days between working on the CGH YouTube channel and working on the brand.
Why Mindy wanted to work with a larger brand, rather than develop the products independently
The McKnight family's first experience with developing a consumer product was two years ago, for Brooklyn and Bailey's direct-to-consumer mascara line, Lash Next Door. The family does everything for the brand in-house, from fulfillment to customer service to purchase orders, she said.
"That was our first venture into our own products," Mindy said. "And now it's morphed into an ecommerce site that sells clothing and accessories, as well as the mascara."
With Hairitage, Mindy knew she wanted to work with a larger brand, rather than develop the products completely on her own, she said.
Mindy said she utilizes her access to over 1.4 million people on Instagram by constantly crowd sourcing and asking her followers about their frustrations with haircare and shopping in store. She said she likes to use the Instagram Stories feature to ask questions and gather data.
"We are already getting hundreds and hundreds of people DMing and messaging us and we are utilizing all of that to create our FAQ page," she said, and added that Instagram is like having moment-by-moment feedback. "If I have a question on anything I get instant feedback."
She teased the project on Instagram as a way to built anticipation, and when the preorder link went live she shared it immediately with her followers.
A brand for every hair type and texture
Mindy has two adopted black children, and throughout the formula development process, she said she was focused on creating a product that could work for her entire family.
"One of the things that I started experiencing as I was styling hair was the frustration of going into the store and not being able to buy everything for all the types of hair in my family, all in one place," she said.
The Hairitage line includes 16 products advertised for every hair type and texture — two shampoos, three conditioners, two leave-in conditioners, six styling products, and a hair mask, a hair rinse, and a hair oil. Each bottle costs $7.94, and the products are sold both in store and online through Walmart.
Mindy encourages people, not just YouTubers or social media influencers, to diversify
Mindy has continued to expand her brand this year and in August launched a toy partnership with toymaker JAKKS Pacific, which features styling heads, wigs, hair styling tools, and hair accessories ranging from $9.99 to $39.99.
Today her team has around seven full-time employees, from editors, videographers, and graphic designers to employees who work in day-to-day operations for her digital company, she said.
"I would always encourage people, not just YouTubers or social-media people, to diversify," she said. "The YouTube algorithm changes every year, and from one year to the next it may favor you and then it may not favor you."
For more on the business of influencers, according to YouTube stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
An Instagram star who has sold $35 million of her own products explains how she built her fashion line and turned followers into customers
5 Instagram 'micro' influencers explain how much money they charge brands for sponsorships
YouTube stars Ethan and Grayson Dolan took us inside their fragrance company Wakeheart, which is launching a new line after selling more than 20,000 units in its first drop
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