×

The McKnights: Family’s YouTube Hair Tutorials Grow Into Major Media Business

The McKnight family is one of our 2016 Famechanger honorees. For more, click here

Meet the family that’s built a small lifestyle media empire out of showcasing adorable braids and other fetching ’dos. In 2008, Utah mom Mindy McKnight started a blog, Cute Girls Hairstyles, to share tips and tricks for how to whip up perfect braids and other coifs for her three young daughters. The following year, she launched a YouTube channel with hairstyle video tutorials — and she instantly found a red-hot niche.

“There’s no manual to being a YouTuber — especially a YouTuber with kids,” says Mindy. “When I started, I was like a grandma; it’s been fun to see how YouTube has aged into my world.”

After Cute Girls Hairstyles took off on YouTube, Mindy’s husband, Shaun, quit his job as director of business development at the nutraceutical company Nature’s Sunshine Products, and the family formed M-Star Media Inc., which today has two part-time employees and a network of 36 contributors and external providers.

In 2013, the couple’s twin daughters, Brooklyn and Bailey (now 16) rolled out their own YouTube vlog focused on fashion and beauty, and the McKnights last year launched two more channels: Millennial Moms, with lifestyle programming created by a team of six creators who get a cut of the channel’s ad revenue; and Squared2, an entertainment channel dedicated to all things twins.

“We call ourselves the first FMN — the ‘family multichannel network,’” says Shaun, 42.

They’re not completely alone in the category; other familial YouTubers include the Bratayleys, whose 13-year-old son, Caleb, died unexpectedly last year, and the seven-member Family Fun Pack.

All told, the McKnights have about 7.5 million subscribers across their four YouTube channels, with Cute Girls Hairstyles still the flagship channel (with 4.4 million). The company also has more than 3 million followers on both Instagram and Facebook.

The Mormon clan — which now has six kids — has been approached by TV networks with opportunities to create a show based on their lives. Not that the McKnights are actually interested in following in the footsteps of, say, “19 Kids and Counting” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

“Our end game isn’t to end up on television,” says Mindy, 37. “It would have to be part of a larger strategy, if we found something that worked.”

The McKnights’ most immediate opportunity is continuing to grow the audience for Millennial Moms. “The motherhood vertical,” says Adam Wescott, partner and cofounder of Select Management Group, which manages the McKnights, “satisfies a huge advertiser need and opens up endless opportunities for original [intellectual property], branded entertainment, and more.” The channel has more than 200,000 subscribers less than a year after launching, and YouTube featured Mindy and Millennial Moms this spring at its Brandcast event for advertisers in NYC.

The McKnights relocated to the Dallas area about three years ago, in no small part because Texas does not levy a business income tax. Shaun says that the family now earns “significantly more” from their digital-media company than he did in his previous job. But “it wasn’t a super-easy decision to leave something so secure for something that could have disappeared in two years,” he says.

How 2016’s top digital stars are transforming entertainment

The next initiative for M-Star is to cut licensing deals for Cute Girls Hairstyles-branded merch and products. And the family’s 13-year-old daughter, Kamri, now wants to start her own YouTube channel. The McKnights’ three other children are Rylan, 11; Daxton, 7; and Paisley, 5.

“The best part of what we do is working as a family together — and the worst part is working as a family,” says Mindy, “You have to know when you are a mom, and when are you a clock-puncher.”

More Digital

  • How Baobab Studios Made 'Bonfire,' Its

    Baobab’s New VR Film ‘Bonfire’ Puts the Viewer at the Center of the Story

    Baobab Studios, the VR studio known for Pixar-quality animated virtual reality short films like “Invasion!” and “Crow: The Legend,” is back at Tribeca Film Festival this week with a new VR short that puts you at the center of the story — and lets you experience bonding around a campfire a million miles from home. [...]

  • NFL-Sunday-Ticket-DIRECTV

    AT&T CEO Expects DirecTV to Keep NFL Sunday Ticket Exclusively

    AT&T believes it will hang on to DirecTV’s exclusive rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket, even as the league has said it’s considering ending the satellite operator’s exclusivity to extend the out-of-home games package to streaming platforms. “The exclusivity [of Sunday Ticket] should remain as we go forward on DirecTV,” AT&T CEO and chairman Randall [...]

  • Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter

    Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter Profits

    SiriusXM today announced first quarter 2019 operating and financial results — the first since the company completed its acquisition of Pandora Media on Feb. 1 — and its quarterly profit was down 44% from the previous year. It attributed that drop to approximately $76 million of acquisition and other costs related to the Pandora deal, a $31 million one-time benefit [...]

  • Movistar+ Announces Ambitious Original Series ‘La

    Movistar+ Announces Ambitious Original Series ‘La Unidad’

    MELILLA, Spain — Spain’s pay TV leader Movistar+ has announced its newest original series, the anti-terrorist police drama-thriller series “La Unidad,” which started filming last week in the small autonomous Spanish community of Melilla, located on the Moroccan coast. One of the biggest international plays to date for Movistar +, the pay TV/SVOD unit of [...]

  • Vice Media

    APOS: Tencent Video, Vice Media Hatch Premium Youth Series for China

    China’s Tencent Video and global studio Vice Media have joined forces to create a premium youth series exploring hype culture. The eight-part series, with episodes of 25 minutes each, will explore a generation obsessed with finding the next big thing. The series, to be produced by Vice Studios, is earmarked for a late 2019 release [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Co-Editor-In-Chief of Variety, Andrew Wallenstein and

    10 Things We Learned at Variety’s Silicon Valleywood Summit

    Variety’s first-ever Silicon Valley conference, presented by PwC, didn’t just bring together the worlds of technology and entertainment, it also provided plenty of insights into the strategies of market leaders, creators and senior executives in this space. Here are 10 key lessons from the event, which was held at the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content