We’ve written before about the CWK Straight Plates, a very promising invention that claimed to straighten natural hair without heat. A Kickstarter was started to fund the project and raised $24,000, far more than its initial $8,000 goal. However, the inventor, Kelechi Brand, has confirmed that she is refunding all project backers and that the CWK Straight Plates will not go into production. Jc has been following this incident and provides an update, re-posted from The Natural Haven Bloom.
Some of you have written to me about the CWK plates latest email. I am also a backer of the project so I did receive it too. In short Kelechi Bradley (the inventor) has confirmed that she will be refunding all backers and production and sale of the plates is not happening. This is related to someone contacting her advising that they have patented a similar product earlier.
I have read your concerns about the CWK Straight Plates. Specific questions that you asked included
1. Why were contradictory details being given out?
In CWK update 17 on July 16 2014, the moulds (molds) were reported as done and sample plates were produced. However, a few weeks later in CWK Update 21 on August 23 2014, the information was that the prototype mould needed to be modified and further testing would be necessary
|Images of CWK Straight Plates – from Update 17/18|
2. Why were shipping details requested if the plates were not fully tested, made and ready for shipping?
Shipping details for investors to claim their rewards were requested by CWK on August 6 2014, and remained even after the August 23 update where information about the mould issues was given. Why ask for shipping details if the plates were not ready for shipping?
3. Why was the CWK shop still operational as late as Oct 22 2014 with the ability for potential customers to purchase items?
CWK Update 24 on Oct 22 stated that due to someone else claiming to have a patent on a device similar to the CWK straight plates, the production would be stopped. However the website CWKgirls.com had a live shop with the ability to purchase items.
I have tried my level best to get Kelechi Bradley, the inventor of the CWK straight plates, on record to answer these questions but she has not responded to any of my requests for an interview. She did however respond to the email where I told her that the shop was still operational and that she needed to urgently close it. Her email stated that it would be closed over the weekend (ending Sunday Oct 26). I was then alerted to the fact that the shop was still operational on Tuesday the 28th by a blog reader and I wrote again to Kelechi about her shop remaining open when there was no chance of anyone getting a product. At that point I felt obligated to inform my readers that she may be running a scam after all. After this email, the shop was finally disabled with Kelechi giving me assurances that she is processing refunds and over 150 have been done (there are 529 backers in total for the Kickstarter, plus others on her own website).
So was it a scam?
I am on the fence. I can see why certain decisions and lack of action can give it the appearance of a scam but I really do want to give Kelechi the benefit of the doubt as she has promised full refunds for every backer. Indeed if we all get refunds, it cannot be a scam as we all got our money back!
I think the project has suffered badly reputation wise because of a lack of experience in manufacturing, business, law and PR e.g
1. In manufacturing, it is common to have a working prototype that does not do well as a finished product. The updates should have clearly indicated that the products were in a test phase rather than reflect excitement that a product is near completion.
2. Shipping details should never have been requested until products were in hand. For a customer, requesting shipping details means that the product is ready to be sent. It was not the case in this instance as mould testing was not complete and it is just bad business to dangle carrots in the form of ‘Give us your address, we are ready to ship.’
3. Backers were never made aware of patent issues until the final email. If you are not a backer, the information is that someone else has produced a patent application number which was filed two or so months before Kelechi’s own application. This patent is said to relate to:
‘a device for the treatment of a tress of hair including two plates containing multiple apertures, joined on one side by a spine and secured by plurality of interlocking tines containing grooves with the function of providing an adjustable hold on a tress of hair, so as to allow wet hair to dry in an elongated state when held between two plates’
I think there is reasonable cause for the CWK team to want to see this patent in full. It is not clear if this has been done. A search of the US patents office does not bring up this patent (you can search by patent application date or wording) and therefore there is reason to doubt whether the patent exists. The terms and date of filing of Kelechi’s own patent have not been made public so once more, nothing more to go on.
4. Nothing has been done to stem the bad PR- there are active discussions about how the idea was stolen (here) or indeed how the whole project was a scam (LHCF, Lipstick Alley). Right now, a great idea would be start conducting interviews and answering questions frankly so that the team at CWK Straight Plates put out their side of the story instead of letting wild statements run free and unabated.
I do truly hope that Kelechi and her team begin to take action as I maintain that this innovation has great potential. I certainly would like to see it get to market. I don’t want this to be another hair product / tool scam. I want the lessons to be learned and for the whole team to just do better! I’ll let you know when I get my refund!
What is your view – scam or no scam?