Haircare Brand Many Ethnicities Grows Distribution As Its Multicultural Customer Base Grows Nationally
When Ena Hennegan was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s as a biracial kid in Philadelphia, her mom was baffled by which products to put on her hair.
“My mom was Caucasian, and she had straight red hair. She had no idea what to do with my hair and, back then, she had no resources,” says Hennegan, today a 49-year-old physician and mom of three daughters living in the Chicago suburbs. “Certainly, there are more resources now, but still nothing had really been designed for multicultural, multiracial folks like myself, and nothing for a family like ours.”
One day in 2013 during the polar vortex, she stared at the 80 or so haircare bottles that crowded her bathroom and decided she’d had enough. If no one was going to develop products specifically for her hair and her children’s hair, she was going to develop them herself. In 2014, Hennegan established the company Three Daughters of the Doctor and, in 2017, the haircare brand Many Ethnicities launched.
“I didn’t just want to rebrand products and call them something innovative. I really wanted to make sure the products were exactly right before I took them to market,” says Hennegan. “It was three years of R&D and tweaking the formulas. I tested them at home, and I did blind testing with the manufacturing company.”
Nearly two years after its launch, Many Ethnicities’ products have landed on Sally Beauty’s website, and are headed soon to jet.com and walmart.com. The brand’s assortment spans three kids’ products priced at $19.99 each—Gentle Shampoo, Light Conditioner and Leave-In Conditioner—and three adult products priced at $20.99 each: Invigorating Shampoo, Moisturizing Conditioner and Leave-In Conditioning Cream. Gentle Shampoo and Leave-In Conditioning Cream are the bestsellers. Two styling products are scheduled to roll out later this year.
“Nothing had really been designed for multicultural, multiracial folks like myself, and nothing for a family like ours.”
In its shampoos, Many Ethnicities relies on sodium lauroyl lactylate as a foaming agent. Hennegan explains she chose the ingredient because it cleanses hair without stripping it. The brand’s products also contain hydrolyzed pea protein, an amino acid compound with a composition resembling hair keratin, shea butter, and oils such as argan, sweet almond, avocado and jojoba to hydrate hair. Many Ethnicities dials up the scent in the adult products, although it’s still light, and mildness in the kids’ products.
“A lot of indie beauty brands start with an adult line and, then, add a children’s line. We uniquely started with both,” says Hennegan. “I thought it was important for multicultural kids to have the same good, healthy products as adults do, and I wanted to speak to moms like me and my mom who weren’t sure what to do.”
Many Ethnicities initially began selling online on its own website, and quickly entered Amazon, naturallycurly.com and Beauty Bridge. Hennegan believes the brand is a perfect fit for textured hair product selections at beauty stores, although she acknowledges it’s occasionally been challenging for retailers to figure out the best spot on the floor to locate its offerings.
“We should be talking about hair in terms of texture. That’s what they do in other countries. They don’t have an ethnic aisle. I’m seeing more and more retail stores focusing on texture, and that’s really where we should be going,” says Hennegan. “I was never in the beauty industry before. I came in with naiveté. I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this, and the outcome is going to be terrific.’”
“This was my passion. I really wasn’t looking for a second career. My first one was going pretty well. I want to see us succeed and be a real contender in indie beauty and spur other multicultural brands. We are a powerful consumer and should be taken notice of and appreciated.”
The digital entrances into Sally Beauty, Walmart and jet.com are expected to increase Many Ethnicities’ sales 50% in 2019, and Hennegan projects the brand will generate a small profit this year. Speaking of retailers, she says, “Because we are new, they are a little bit hesitant to take a chance, but the dot-coms have been more willing, and that’s where you can test yourself out. If you can sell on the dot-com, it’s time to put you on the retail shelf.”
No matter its location on a site or in a store, the brand’s name clearly articulates its target customers. The name was highly intentional. “There’s a huge market out there that’s not being talked to,” says Hennegan. “This was my passion. I really wasn’t looking for a second career. My first one was going pretty well. I want to see us succeed and be a real contender in indie beauty and spur other multicultural brands. We are a powerful consumer and should be taken notice of and appreciated.”
If her mom had been able to apply Many Ethnicities’ products to Hennegan’s hair in her formative years, she might have been a lot less baffled by haircare. Hennegan says, “She would have had less frustrations and been a lot more comfortable taking care of my hair. She didn’t want to hurt me or spend a lot of time with tears. She wanted happy, joyous time, and I think we would have had more of that.”